Magazine | November 25, 2019, Issue

A Fragment of a Sermon in St. Patrick’s

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, April 18, 2019 (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.
It was a sermon about man’s despair,
About a rational soul at a loss
For a reason even to stay alive,
And another with one that lasted him
Through ten years of unbroken darkness.
The priest in prison, his friend in the pulpit
Suggested, had his simple faith, and hope,
Which meant that no Brooklyn Bridge could tempt him,
Whatever form it took, and no Daily News
Forget him, as it would, as surely as
The tide rolls over the place where Paul landed.

Lawrence Dugan's poetry has appeared recently in Arion, National Review, The Spectator and The Threepenny Review.

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