Winner of America Magazine’s 2019 Foley Poetry Prize and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published 11 collections of poetry—including Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); True, False, None of the Above (Illumination Book Award Medalist); Local News from Someplace Else; Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite); four children’s and YA books—including Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises and A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry, Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems, I’m Feeling Blue, Too! (2021 NCTE Notable Poetry Book)—Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor); Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry (assistant editor); and over 650 stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. She is the great grandniece of Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball. The recipient of numerous awards, she gives readings and workshops around the country. Forthcoming in 2022 are her books Begin with a Question (Paraclete Press), as well as her ekphrastic collaboration with photographer Karen Elias, Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For (Shanti Arts). Please see www.marjoriemaddox.com.
The Five Sorrowful Mysteries
Watch and pray but they are soon dead
asleep, the garden’s glory withering beneath
the woes they’ve closed their ears to. Behold
how their eyes refuse to see the body’s betrayals—
the hour is at hand—the mind’s murky memory
of belief loosened like the scattered silver
of dew upon that very morning’s branches
the Son of Man is... and they stretch,
yawn, Rise, let us be going.
Skin continues the lament:
torso and limbs now twisted tissue
beneath the blood-cloaked Divine. Still,
He bows not to Pilate but that Other’s will,
some soldier’s purple robe heavy
on his wounded shoulders. Even now,
the chief priests’ screams are crows
pecking at the Light.
Brow tattered by crown,
arms battered, He holds tight
our sins wound about that reedy scepter.
All hail the King they jeer,
then kneel in mock tribute.
Beneath the darkening skies,
they spit, then strip Him.
What does the world weigh
slit this way, infused with sorrow?
The bones of betrayal are wood
nailed with pain. When the stranger
lifts the tree, the God-man stumbles,
falls, half-blind rises again,
staggers foot after foot
toward the foretold.
In the collapse of sky:
hyssop and vinegar lifted;
tunic and spirit torn asunder.
What is left is dark pit,
the mutilated body,
the Mother’s devastated heart.
His cracked It is finished
echoes all the way
to the cave soon emptied
of doubt and what we
once were before Mercy
overtook the Garden.
—after the painting “Jonah”
by James Patrick Reid
Ready to swallow the fallen, the sea swells.
“The waters want me,” Jonah cries,
running, running, always running away. Called
to Nineveh, he fled the other way. Holed
up on a ship with his tempest of lies,
the fallen one is ready to be swallowed. The sea swells.
O great whale arise, each tooth a sword
aimed at the deserter. City and ship compromised,
the man’s running, running, always running away. Called
by the God we’re fleeing, like Jonah, we’re swallowed whole.
A mercy, this digestion of grace. Internalized,
we’re readied to swallow our fallenness. See how guilt swells
to epiphany and penance, here in the beast’s belly.
In the foul cavern of ribs, Spirit swims in to evangelize
the one running, running, always running away; He calls
and claims His own for three dark days, until captor expels
its captive, resurrection prophesized for the capsized,
the ready. Here, the fallen swallowed, mercy swells
always, the savior still running, running, running toward. Calling.
when He breathed
into you—sleek bone chalice
where spirit un-caged choice—
and His wind swirled up and out
of you, Mother of All Living,
to her, Mother of All Who Truly Live,
to him, Second Adam, the same
naming of breath, chest, lips as the one
sleeping so still beside you,
First Adam’s eyes (and yours)
not yet seeing/tasting/knowing
that sweet breeze of Holy, tempered tsunami
that whirls and weaves the world together.
O sacred heritage:
this creator/descendant resurrecting
your dust into twin already cleansed
and choosing birth of the swaddled son,
the one who breathed pure into her,
Mother Mary, but first life into you,
"Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush....
in the home begins the disruption of peace in the world."
—Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Mother Teresa keeps
strumming and singing
Chapin’s “Cat’s in the
Cradle” in my hustle-
replay dream where I
never get to where I’m
trying to go, that universal
workaholic nightmare, don’t-
step-on-the-cracks reality is
reality, the everyday kind
of power-walking the turn
around the corner that’s one
big square of Tantalus-tempting
glaring future that hasn’t started
yet, never will, those damned
cracks thinking we have time
for fear, which, of course, is
all our time, these constant
blocks building apprehension
after apprehension, until sure
enough, there’s no room left
for cracks, our one way to hear
Mother T’s needed song.
Full of Grace
and that one-true Good,
your Magnificat soothes
cradles a world sad
with its own un-doing.
hold our earth-stained hands;
let us crawl on the lap
that held Him.
No longer strangers and foreigners,
we’re fellow citizens with the saints—
native and naturalized jointly
inhabitants of the ethereal,
mercy in perpetuity—
a claim so strange it rewrites
all requirements of residency,
every psyche’s by-laws.
No longer partitioned off
by sin, by regret, by self-righteousness;
on reservations, on street corners;
behind walls; behind barbed wire;
behind preconceived Hallelujahs & Amens;
flat blessings and fat curses
of who, what, where, when, why
we are; behind and for all, yes
we sing acapella & instrumental,
harmony & melody;
we sing citizenship & pledge;
throughout the holy household,
with our off-key, shrill, and wobbly
human notes, by God we sing!
—Ephesians 1:2; 3:7, 8, 13-15, 20
Paul’s less than
the least of all saints,
I full-swoon tribulations,
melodramatically tumble off
the pedestals of grace,
arrive sprawled and spread-eagled
in the Victorian-style parlor
of “Peace be with you.”
Cut off at my once-bowed knees,
I’ve lost sight of any inner woman
in need of strengthening what once
was Sabbath-strong by the effectual power
of His working but now in need
of stones and less than
his less than
the least of all saints
full swoon tumbling
Paul’s less than
unable to do exceeding abundantly
Peace be with
all the less than’s,
grace fainting daily
into above all
that we ask,
grace be to you the less-than’s, the
broken, and daily pieces of peace.
"Overboard" was a finalist for the Catholic Literary Arts 2021 Sacred Arts Contest.
"Genealogy" was a finalist for the Catholic Literary Arts 2020 Advent Contest Celebration: Waiting with Mary the Mother of God During Advent. The poem
appeared on their website in December 2020.
"Cracks" and "Full of Grace" were previously published in US Catholic.
"Voices Raised" was previously published in Poems for Ephesians.
"Hierarchy" was previously published in Mockingbird.
Rose Adams is a visual artist and poet living in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She teaches at NSCAD University. As a poet, she has published in numerous literary journals including The Antigonish Review, Grain, and Prism. She has two chapbooks, published by Bitterzoet Press (Chicago) and the QEII Hospital (Halifax). She often writes poetry that “dialogues” with her paintings. She has two children and lives with her dog and parrot.
Sunrise in the Basement of the Atlantic Christian Training Centre
At the piano, dark forgotten varnish and yellow ivory keys
I open a book to Granny’s hymns. In my mind,
I’m back in the corner of my mother’s house
in the tidy grey and pink upstairs room
where the pump organ was lodged
after it was saved
when furniture was thrown on the fire,
the spinning wheel a blazing circle
when granny “broke-up” housekeeping
with a vengeance.
Granny would sit on her organ throne
pumping away with her heron thin translucent legs
her voice holding to the last note of “God Save My Soul”
or “Nearer My God To Thee”,
notes wavering in the air.
Playing and singing these hymns in institutional silence
my voice is a wake for the white straw hat ribbons trailing
as I walked to Sunday School summer mornings.
Closeted in a dark cement basement, dirty yellow walls
on wooden benches six inches off the floor,
a print of Jesus placed up high at the ceiling
where brown sienna clouded his head
and tiny red and yellow warblers
fluttered by his glowing halo.
I sat patiently, ribbons lying flat on my back,
patent shoes trying to stay unmarked
waiting for Junior Choir when I would put on the flowing white robe,
sing those high clear notes, and my wings would let me fly
to the top of the ceiling to hover with the birds
in the picture while feeling
the warmth of the halo on my wings.