Cibola 27

This entry is part 27 of 119 in the series Cibola


Marcos (1) (cont’d)

He prays.

Breathe into me, Holy Spirit,
that all my thoughts may be holy.

Move in me, Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.

Attract my heart, Holy Spirit,
that I may love only what is holy.

Strengthen me, Holy Spirit,
that I may defend all that is holy.

Protect me, Holy Spirit,
that I may always be holy.

Holy. Sanctus. Such a gentle
coolness in that word!
A sweetness–
so testified our Seraphic Father,
whom God had taught through lepers
to love this pestilent world.
As in the famous riddle, impossible
to solve without inspiration:
Out of the eater came something to eat;
out of the strong came something sweet.

Though at the moment Marcos identifies
less with Samson than with
the dead lion, his braincage abuzz,

recalling how that other Francisco–
this one, nipping at his heels–used
to grin. Sycophantic, he’d thought
at first, & later as the sickness
culled by twos and threes the entire
rest of his flock, the two of them
reduced to digging communal graves
& saying masses for seven souls at a time,
he watched Francisco’s smile harden,
turn brittle. Just shy of a smirk–
more like the canine-baring grimace
of a shepherd’s dog facing down
some famished predator.


Breathe into me . . . holy. Throughout the poem, I reproduce the modern, Vatican-approved English versions of Marcos’ prayers, rather than attempting my own translations (or simply reproducing the Latin).

our Seraphic Father: St. Francis. His experience in a leper colony was pivotal to his conversion.

the famous riddle: See Judges 14:14 and preceding. (The answer was, “the corpse of a lion taken over by honeybees for a hive.”)

the dead lion: Cf. Ecclesiastes 9:4.

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