Sunday, September 11, 2011


From my online friend Tobias Haller, a poem he wrote in 2008:

September Midday Mass

The tall old priest entered the half-lit sacristy,
fresh from his usual Tuesday morning studies.
The fair-haired acolyte with the bad complexion
was ready, vested, standing in the dimness quietly.
The old priest noticed he was sniffing
and his eyes were red. A failed romance,
he thought; but keeping his own rule on chit-chat
in the sacristy, vested silently.
The old familiar motions and the prayers
displaced whatever thoughts he might have had;
the only dialogue to break the stillness was
the rote exchange of formal preparation.

Then, in one motion as he slipped his hand
beneath the pale green veil, the other hand
upon the burse, he lifted vested vessels,
turned and followed in the sniffing server’s
wake. Eyes lowered to the holy burden
in his hand, he failed to notice that
the chapel for this midday feria —
on other days like this with one or two
at most — was full of worshippers; until
he raised his eyes, and saw the pews were filled —
but undeterred began the liturgy:
the lessons and the gospel from last Sunday,
his sermon brief, but pointed, on the texts.

It wasn’t till the acolyte began
the people’s prayers, and choked out words of planes
that brought a city’s towers down, and crashed
into the Pentagon, and plowed a field
in Pennsylvania, that the old priest knew
this was no ordinary Tuesday in September —
not ordinary time at all,
that day he missed the towers’ fall.

Unfortunately, few will take the time to remember that other September 11 - September 11, 1973, when the Chilean military, with the backing of the CIA, overthrew the democratically elected government of the oldest constitutional democracy in Latin America.

Perhaps as we consider both catastrophes, we would do well to ponder this:

1 comment:

Anita said...

Wow, that's an amazing poem. The perils of rigidity and legalism