Magazine November 25, 2019, Issue

A Fragment of a Sermon in St. Patrick’s

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)

Something distracted me; and then I heard
The old monsignor describe one headline
That he would never forget: Goodbye, Paul . . .
The entire text of a suicide note,
Taped to the Brooklyn Bridge by a young man
Just before he leaped into the East River,
And printed on front pages the next day.
Then there was a slight pause in the sermon
Just before his harsh voice rang out over
The cathedral: You missed the boat, Paul
As if the dead young man could hear him speak.
Then the old priest told of a Chinese friend
Who spent years in a Communist prison,
And was released with half his fingers gone.

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