Ghetto Sunrise

Brendan A. McGrath

Steal off into your crumbling church
in the gloaming of a doubtful dawn
and cross the abandoned trolley tracks
of a God-forgetting world…

You try to update what you are
revise, rethink, demystify;
but I see the cassock ’round your soul;
it blesses brushing with its hem
a tire stranded filthy in the street,
and I know I’m made for more.

Mount the curb besieged with trash
like knelt communicants of old,
unlatch the chain-link gate of rust,
and down a weed-cracked alley sneak
up stone-cut steps
to a silken cobweb sacristy.

Go and vest in green for hope,
and tread into the sacred dread
to see the nave where no one waits
except for saints that you can’t see
and souls and angels you can’t hear.

You go to a side-altar decades spurned
and snatch a flame from holy gloom,
wakening wicks of candlelight
before a Virgin Mother shunned
by innovative self-hate shame.

Speak a silent Introibo
and go unto the altar of God,
to God who gives joy to your agèd youth,
then let my cry come unto thee,
and whisper softly Kyrie, O Kyrie, O Kyrie Eleison!

O Kyrie, Kyrie, Kyrie Eleison…

Spill the cruet on your palms
and cleanse the sleaze hands can’t forget;
iniquity washed away with sin;
walk ’round thy altar incense-blessed
and love, love, love, oh love,
and love the beauty of thy house.

Sanctus, sancta, sanctissimus sancta…

Then lift up God for none to see
and give the world its rising sun:
hold it up and dangle down,
dangle hanging dangling down,
hanging by anointed hands,
above the altar of the world
hang to dangling dearest Life.

Then bear it down upon the earth,
the blaze of morning summer sun;
reflect it off the paten till it shines a million shafts,
the morning mists suffused with light,
with holy light,
with silent chords of sacred light,
with summer’s warm and holy light,
to Christify the world…

For curbside trash is never lost,
and cobwebs catch the window gust,
the alley weeds crack through with life,
the chain-link gate swings out its rust,
and the trolley tracks glare golden veins
through clouds of sacred sun-shot dust…

Brendan A. McGrath is from the Philadelphia area, where he attended Waldron Mercy Academy and St. Joseph’s Prep. He graduated from Georgetown University in 2005, and is currently at the Univeristy of Notre Dame for a Masters of Theological Studies.

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