Saturday, October 10, 2009

Poem: "St. Thomas Preaching in Hell's Kitchen"

St. Thomas Preaching in Hell’s Kitchen

Now at the end of her life she is all hair—
A cataract flowing and freezing—and a voice
--Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, “St. Mary Magdalene Preaching at Marseilles”

Near the end of his life, his face is all eyes
and his hands two blisters.
Still he demands to see in order to believe,
to hold a joint as it burns.

In the restaurants the servers think
they are actors in disguise. They practice
their voice while reciting the specials in French.
They reappear at the right moment.

The tourists hope they are enjoying themselves.
They watch a play, they stroll the park,
they visit the museum
in the movie they play every Thanksgiving.

The bars are crowded with loneliness, that buzz
between drink and drunk.
Men grow old here,
without giving each other more than a glance.

Thomas knows them all, the servers and the lovers.
They hurry past him preaching on the street
or laugh at his owlish face.
When they curse him,

he knows, they will soon bless him, and ask him
to lay his blisters on their heads.
Not the tourists. They see his swollen eyes
and drop a coin in his tin.

*

1 comment:

Shropshirelad said...

This is excellent, Jee. I think my favorite in this series so far.

Vivid. Very specific, very accurate in atmosphere and detail. The tone reminds me a bit of Auden's poem "Casino," from 1936.