That Lent, most days, the plows
were out in force. Fridays, the nuns
would count heads, lead us—mittened,
booted, bent against the wind
like cowled penitents—in a single-file plod

across the yard from school to church
for stations of the cross. There,
in the half-gloom, thick with God’s musk
of damp wool and wood polish,
again I’d rate my aching knees

against His agony, the stone reliefs
of that fish-bone body
shivering in the votives’ light
as fourteen times we were impressed
with the meaning of this barter

of His torture for our sin: thou hast
redeemed the world.
This was the winter
my father was arrested and the bomb
first corkscrewed through my dreams.
Nights before the protest, he tucked me in

with tales of biblical rebels: Shadrach,
Meshach and Abednego, cucumber-cool
in the furnace blast; Daniel lounging
among charmed lions; St. Peter
sprung from Herod’s cell to amble

past his jailors. Behind each happy ending,
an 11th hour angel towered, deadpan
and aerial as any caped crusader. Still
I’d lay awake, listening to all St. Catherine’s
high stone arches echo unto dust

thou shalt return as they had that afternoon
I filed back to class and bus and home
across an earth moonscaped by snow
afraid to touch the ritual smudge
I wore like a dark third eye.

David O'Connell received an M.F.A. in creative writing at Ohio State University. His poems have previously appeared or are forthcoming in Fugue, Poet Lore, Drunken Boat, and Bryant Literary Review, among other journals. He was recently awarded a poetry fellowship from the Rhode Island Council on the Arts.

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761