How puzzle the prayer                                                                                     —Patrick T. Reardon

Walking seminary fields,
silent-hour recollection days,
calloused caress of color and blaze,
sharp tender bright air slicing wet morning grass.

Filled with wide light.

How steel my legs?
How blade the grip lack?
How bell the jerk and jag of breath?

How pipe the foreign?
How altar the yearn?
How street the knowledge of death?

How ocean the benediction?
How rosary the examination?
How sculpture the confession?

I confess. I crucify. I abjure. I sacrifice.

Prophet’s blood off rawed skin to splat road dust,
paste for blind eyes and full stomachs.
Blessed are the lost.

Lauds. Compline.
Psalm of David.
Psalm of the great empty white.

My God, my God, why?

How architecture the touch?

I will go to the table of the Lord.
Break my bread. Spill my wine. Wash my sins.
White my garments. Angel my innocent’s neck.
Good news, good news.
Call me blessed.

How ghost the surrender?


The lost tribes

for Haki Madhubuti

I found the lost tribes
in America, eating fries with city workers
at the McDonald’s on Western Avenue.

I found them
sport-shopping at Gurnee Mills.

I found them
in the bleak hours
on Ecclesiastes Road,
in the cathedral’s unused confessionals,
in the self-help section at the public library,
after the wait,
under the weight,
over the rainbow,
up the street,
dedicated to the proposition,
under the gun
during the workshop on neighborhood crime.

I found them
with Colonel Mustard
in the library
with the rope.

I found the lost tribes
in that river bend where garbage
collects, amid the splayed newspapers
and dead fish and truck tires and
basketballs and plastic bags and
condom snakeskins and lost souls
and bitter winners and empty milk
cartons and broken rosaries and
gasoline sheen and abandoned virgins
and abandoned promises and a single
shopping cart loaded with rusted chicken
wire, sodden stuffed animals and my sins.

I found them
hiding behind the talking heads
with the sound off.

I found them
in the purple noise of the laugh track,
hellbent for distraction.

I found them
staring off into space from their courtroom pew.

I found them
in Executive Order footnotes.

I found them
with sad sack Job, whining,
“I shall not know happiness again.”

I found the lost tribes
in the waters of the deep,
in the waters of March,
in the waters of Baptism,
in the waters of Mormon,
in the waters of oblivion,
in the Father of Waters,
in the rivers of Babylon,
in the Slough of Despond.

I found them
bleeding to death in Charlottesville
beneath a Dodge Challenger.

I found them
baked onto Hiroshima walls.

I found them
in the contorted body
of Big Foot frozen at Wounded Knee.

I found them
beheaded on television.

I found them
on an off-ramp of the Crosstown Expressway
where Whitman and Ginsberg were lurking
and Ferlinghetti waiting
and Zimmerman jesting
and Lennon disbelieving.

I found them
enrolled in Arnold’s ignorant armies.

I found them
amid the ashes, bones and earrings
inside Bigger’s Kenwood furnace.

I found them
leaning against the memory of the Wall of Respect,
gathering strength.

I found them,
sleeping with their heads on tables
in the chapel of the Lawrence Avenue Burger King.

I found them
in the shadows under the el
amid the stars of broken glass
—red, green, brown, clear—
in slanting morning sun,
epiphany grit.

I found them
under the Judas tree in Garfield Park.

I found them
ducking into the shadows for a quick one
during the Valentine’s Day circuit party
at the Uptown Theater.

I found them
in the depths of flooded freight tunnels under the Loop.

I found them
sleeping in a tent on a Clark Street sidewalk
as mist coated the concrete with ice.

I found them
in the act,
in the art,
in the thick roots of Nebraska prairie grass,
in the flooded New Orleans parishes
with the boys in the band,
when needed,
in the safety-razor pool in Calabasas at Gillette’s mansion,
in the vapor rising from Lake Superior at winter dawn,
in the fruit of the womb.

I found the lost tribes
in America,
loitering against a Boys Town wall,
in the pool at the Austin Town Hall,
walking laps at the Lincolnwood Town Center,
in the mosque in the ex-church on Granville.

I found them
cuddled with bubble-wrap,
pleasuring their cell phones.

I found them
here, there and everywhere.

I found them
singing Jingle Bells during hotel sex — hahahaha.

I found the lost tribes
afraid of bad smells,
afraid of darkness,
afraid of migrant workers,
afraid of Mohammed,
the Trumps,
afraid of travel,
afraid of fear,
of hope,
of touch,
of tax hikes,
tax breaks,
brass tacks
and taxidermy,
afraid of data,
afraid of faith,
afraid of a hole in the ozone,
the hole in the sidewalk,
the hole at the center of all things,
afraid to breathe.

I found the lost tribes
in my frail brother’s phone words
ten hours before his gun dance.

I found them
in my mother decorating her new bassinette
with my strapped-down body
before leaving the room.

I found them
in the oranges my stunned sister threw
against the wall
knowing the body on a Michigan morgue gurney
would never taste them.

I found them
in the Decalogue shalts,
in the Doxology glory,
in the plainsong Book of Common Prayer,
at Elijah’s blood-framed door,
during the Ramadan yearning,
at the Great Amen,
inside the kernel of the Alleluia,
around the salvific word,
as the world turns,
as it was and ever will be,
as an afterthought,
at the moment of transubstantiation,
of insubordination,
of indoctrination,
in the hollow heart of the bully.

I found them
dumb and dumber.

I found them
taking their ease.

I found them
doing the pick and roll,
doing the Watusi,
doing time.

I found them
like Nora’s dove,
like Abbot & Costello,
like the tinny echoes in Teddy Roosevelt’s heart,
like a rich man’s hunger,
like the last in the firing-squad line,
like sorrow’s child.

I found them
broken down on the highway to nowhere,
at the end of the road not taken,
in the cracks of the Yellow Brick Road,
left in the mud of Tobacco Road,
rocking at the roadhouse,
on the long and wound-up road,
doing it in the road,
following the rules of the road,
on the road again.

I found them
on the line between Water Works and Marvin Gardens,
past Baltic,
on the way to jail,
passing Go
on the B&O Railroad,
taking a Chance,
paying the Luxury Tax,
parking for free,
just visiting.

I found them
as the Requiem was sung.

I found them
taking an extra base.

I found them
under the viaduct, taking a shit.

I found the lost tribes
in America,
blooming within the Brooks whirlwind,
standing next to Uriah, front-line dying for David’s lust,
inside the Finzi Eclogue,
line by line in Urrea’s Border Patrol logs,
in the silent scream of John’s verses
about the echoing crack of the sledgehammer
breaking the legs
of the thieves
on the other crosses.

I found them
thirsty in the Great American Desert,
in the waste land,
in the warpland,
in the warp of wood,
in the waste of time,
outside in the distance,
on a Memphis balcony,
at Appomattox,
on the day of infamy,
on the eighth day of creation,
in the empty spot on a Gardner Museum wall,
at a Texas Book Depository window,
in an off-track betting parlor,
in Clark Kent’s phone booth,
in the lies George Washington told himself,
in the slave cabins,
at the gelid bottom of a Great Lake,
in Swanee River,
in Old Man River,
on the banks of the Sangamon River,
undergoing gentrification,
in nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror,
under construction.

I found them
on a South Water Market loading dock,
in the urinal troughs at Comiskey Park,
on Grand Boulevard,
at the Haymarket,
during the Battle of Fort Dearborn,
in the belly of the beast,
mired in Mud Lake,
riding a Reuben Street trolley,
gazing out from the Prudential Skydeck,
in Hell’s Kitchen,
on an upper floor of Cabrini-Green,
at 135 N. Leamington Ave.,
at 7943 S. California Ave.,
in the sacristy at St. Thomas Aquinas Church,
on the Crawford Avenue bus,
in the Marshall Field bargain basement,
in what remains of the Great Fire.

I found the lost tribes
in America,
lighting zipless firecrackers in my alley
on Independence Day.

I found them
a day late and a dollar short
tied to a runaway horse.

I found the lost tribes
after a long journey,
left at the Shell station,
inside the scream,
beyond the blue horizon,
in the beginning.

I found them
among the demons in my mind’s corners.

I found them
in two plots in section 17 of Rose Hill Cemetery
by the Prockovic headstone.

I found them
at the Colony Theatre,
at the Admiral Theatre,
at the Admiral at the Lake,
among the smoke-killed at Wincrest Nursing Home,
in the lockup at 26th and California,
in the lockup at 11th and State,
under the scum of Bubbly Creek,
on the fifth floor at City Hall,
in the Grand Army of the Republic rotunda,
watching a 5-11 blaze on 43rd,
waiting for the Red Line el at Jarvis,
despairing on a back stair
at 3 a.m. in Oak Lawn,
soundlessly screaming in rain-snow,
giving up/taking away the ghost in the bullet moment
in early Saturday darkness.

I found the lost tribes
in America
under arrest.

I found them
processing on their knees on mercantile sidewalks
on Good Friday.

I found them
living in the parents’ basement.

I found them
late for therapy.

I found the lost tribes
on the road to ruin,
on the road to Emmaus,
the road to Morocco,
to Mandalay,
to El Dorado,
beside the Street of Dreams,
down the street of sinners,
inside the mean streets,
on Broadway,
on 52nd,
in an alley off Main Street,
after the Wall Street car bomb,
at State and Madison,
on both sides of the tracks,
inside adrenaline Pacific Coast Highway,
in Mississippi at the devil’s crossroads,
out on Highway 61.

I found them

I found them
in prison.

I found them
in a stable, swaddled.

I found them
under cover of darkness.

I found them

I found them
with malice toward none.

I found them
on vacation.

I found them
running through the halls of heaven.

I found them
chanting the Exsultet.

I found them

I found them
vomiting behind the Impala.

I found the lost tribes
in the land of milk and honey,
in the barber shop mirror,
in the electric hours before dawn,
in all that is seen and unseen,
in the Greyhound bus terminal,
in the name of the father,
in the nick of time,
in the land that time forgot,
In lieu of flowers.

I found the lost tribes
in America,
and they told me to leave them alone.


Patrick T. Reardon

Patrick T. Reardon is the author of eight books, including Requiem for David, a poetry collection from Silver Birch Press, and Faith Stripped to Its Essence, a literary-religious analysis of Shusaku Endo's novel Silence. Reardon, a former Chicago Tribune reporter, has had poetry published by Silver Birch Press, Cold Noon, Eclectica, The Esthetic Apostle, Ground Fresh Thursday, Literary Orphans, Rhino, Spank the Carp, Time for Singing, Tipton Poetry Journal, and The Write City.

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