Gracious and godly, if I recall correctly,
you sat stocky at the table and told us
your passions for paintings and pretty
things and how you’d fallen often, of late,
on bended knee over a foreign body
to worship the whole beauty of his being.
I was shy of 20 at the time, new to dating
and dinner decorum and you- new to me
in this costume of finicky dinner guest.
I recalled you instantly from years earlier
in your work clothes, but said nothing
of how I myself had come to bow
on bended knee before you, confessing
my dirty poor boy childhood secrets
of curses and disrespecting my elders,
in that parish you described over pre-
dinner drinks as devoid of any delights.
I remembered you most as angry man,
sharp like a stick that knew how to smack-
clearly chocked by the confines of that collar,
cursing from the pulpit when babies cried
during your long, slow moving soliloquy’s
of the suffering saint stripped on the cross
and all us sinners, all smelly in their seats.
I wondered, in between the forgotten entree
and the main course of stuffed pheasant,
what it took to be a man of the cloth
in a modern age while I was listening
to your collarless sermon at that table,
after you’d turned to be someone else’s
parish priest, the night you regaled us with tales
of the ring you wore on a recent Vatican visit-
pierced in pride of place beneath that very cloth.
All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly