Orlando R. Menes

Contributor Biography

An NEA Fellow and a winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, Orlando Ricardo Menes is the author of seven poetry collections, most recently Memoria from LSU Press and the forthcoming The Gospel of Wildflowers & Weeds. His poetry has appeared in numerous magazines, most recently in PoetryThe Yale Review, and the Hudson Review. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Notre Dame where he is Professor of English.

St. Lapsia, Patroness for Catholics Lapsed & Re-Lapsed

Bored with Santiago & Fatima on those lazy days

of Lent? Does the psychedelia of Hieronymus Bosch

entice you? Come stroll in St. Lapsia’s garden

by a violet shore where wrought-iron willows give shade

to ponds of liquid lead & red-beryl cherubim dive

for chrysocolla crabs. Feed blue poppies to pink sheep

in the purple pastures of Galilee. Hike her fields

where the cacti of Christ prickle novices to giddiness,

then join her acolytes—pubescents all in Gloria Dei—

to shoot scree of votive glass, chip stones to sacred hearts.

Your destiny, your joie de vivre? St. Lapsia agrees

that simple play is a sacrament. Let adulthood wilt away

& dance the fandango when her toadstones of rain

drum the earth to mammee-apple song. St. Lapsia looks on

from the campanile of her convent on Naseberry Hill,

so make her your confidant, your mediatrix, this first-

born of sibyls among all Hieronymites, bon vivant

of penitents, dead-raiser, tongue-twister, whose hands

grow stigmatic orchids every spring, the most incorruptible

of saints with BO of jasmine & frangipani warts. 

St. Lapsia will give you an apotheosis of sugar & molasses,

every cloud a coconut bon-bon to give you warmth

in Christ’s Troposphere, & you will rocket piggyback

to his throne on the pinnacle of a baobab bigger

than a ziggurat & be his beloved for a minute or two

(but don’t grouse—aren’t you luckier than those spinsters,

male or female or both, who whittle crosses all day),

& you will take your sweet time smooching chirimoya lips,

tweaking cashew lobes, teasing mahogany locks,

& know at last, at last the love of the man called God. 

Turuqueira

Sister Yara, square-jawed, hairless Carmelite

of the Caribbean rule, trods the talcum sands

of Turuqueira to her convent on a coral swale,

singing the rosary in chirps, churrs, and trills—

 

avian Taíno, tongue of the first martyrs,

who saw Mother Atabey rise from the east

in a canoe of blue fire and trouble the swells

to wreck the Spaniards’ ships on Easter Day.  

 

It is early morning, time for the first Mass. 

Gusts toll the barnacled bells of sunken galleons. 

Conger eels flail from mainmasts crowned

with the jaws of requiem shark, stingray barbs. 

 

Stopping at every twelve yards to sign the cross,

Sister Yara balances a wheelbarrow of infants,

mostly bald boys diapered with jute, their moles

like black beans, lips of ackee, cashew lobes.  

 

“Priests are useless as a sixth toe on a bad foot,” 

so she will baptize them herself at sunset

in her chapel of quarried bones, using seawater

and gourd, canticles of conch, as the Taínos

 

once did on the leeward side of Turuqueira

with its coconut coves, sweetsop copses,

and soft cacao soils where the ancestors’ faith

flourishes free of the rigors of Church and prelate.  

 

In her island Vatican, holy empire of ceiba,

seagrape, and jagüey fig, she will catechize

their mothers—pickers, weavers, water carriers—  

to the creed of Mother Earth, Father sky,

 

sing hosannas to the hurricane and cassava root,

red-papaya benedictions—108 black seeds— 

and they will birth more sons of the earth,

twice blessed by the steaming sun, swarming rain, 

 

and their daughters too will become sirenas

at twelve years old, sprouting gills, fins, air bladders

to dive into mercuric eddies, swim the littorals

of Mother Atabey, when they will dream

 

the Paradisum, back to that time when only the sea

had life, and we will then be free to shed

this mammalian guise to return as creatures

of the tidepool, shoal, ria, lagoon, coral reef,

 

and only then will the requiem shark, O Tiburón,

be ascendant once again, Selachian Seraphim

who prays for prey in the atolls of Our Lord—

deepwater hierophant, apostle of blood and brine. 

Felix Deng

Contributor Biography

Felix Deng isn’t actually a poet; that is why he has neither a proper biography nor a long list of publications and achievements after his name. But he does, in his free time, write what he considers to be poetry. Through this medium, he hopes to share with others tiny fragments of the way he views the world. Felix is proud to be part of the Singaporean writing collective ZeroSleep.

Eden

For Thomas

The firmament of worlds exceeds minute
design; though man may claim of what we find
as law or fact, this arrogance will blind
us to the wonder that fills every fruit
of tree or womb—indeed, life holds a vow
of something more than science defines it as;
the spark of consciousness each being has
contains a greater truth than we allow.

A mustard seed has all the faith we ought
to have—that even if our bodies die
or souls had never been. It matters not
if what we know of heaven or hell is flawed.
For I have looked into the boundless sky,
and seen the face of God.



 

Confession

No man has found this place who has not sinned:
an airless room. To leave would be to wind
the clocks before the bell; the penance signed
in wine then swiftly taken by the wind—

before those acts demand the lamb to sound
the horn. No simple spear of fate could wound
his side, nor soured wine sate him had he swooned:
the thorns of guilt by truth alone unwound.

But on the other side of the door, bowed
in prayer for sins committed long ago,
another wallows in desires that plough
the furthest reaches of his hallowed soul.
The flesh is willing and the spirit weak
the holy man himself redemption seeks.

Pharisee

do these self-anointed men of God speak
for you? their tongues are made of silvery
falsehoods, to sway the foolish and the meek
from their inheritance. blessed is he
who guides my people from this den of thieves
and charlatans.

i tell you solemnly: let those who pray
inside glass churches cast the foremost stone
my Father's house is not a place of trade
to barter for thy salvation with coin
so render unto them what price they claim
and let them by their own words be undone.

                            to my brothers who seek
to buy into their harvest, answer this—
how few of them have turned the other cheek?