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Selected poetry



To the caregivers, in a time of pandemic

... believers ... brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that, at the least, the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.
                               — The Acts of the Apostles (5:12-14)


1. 'St. Peter Healing the Sick with His Shadow' by Masaccio 

Only Masaccio,
the painter who first used light
to sculpt the human form,
portrayed this story.

The disciple, Peter,
walks through a Florentine street
past three afflicted men,
'the halt and the lame',

his shadow touching each in turn —
so that one man has already
raised himself, stands straight,
his hands in prayer-clasp,

the next, an old man
sparsely clothed as an eremite,
is halfway up,
his arms crossed on his breast,

the third,
who has lived an impossible life,
leans forward over his stick-like legs,
ready, with an awestruck look

to rise, any moment now,
to his full, unknown height.
Peter, his eyes bright with trance,
feet bare on the stones, moves on.

Masaccio, a fierce, benign,
wondrously gifted
unlocker of sacred secrets,
created this fresco, lit by

the Brancacci Chapel's great window
as he laboured, all-giving.
Three years later, aged twenty-six,
he would die in Rome. No details known.



2. Intensive care: COVID-19

In the sealed unit,
among a paraphernalia of tubes
thick as aortas or thin as veins,
are those who tend minutely,

minute by minute,
the laceratingly ill —
in each bed, a human awareness
pulsing inside a racked body

until the turning that signals
recovery or death —
a sheet stretched upward
or, feet brought slowly down to earth.

The carers, the medical warriors,
have no time, no strength to fight
neglect by powerful others:
the tragic lack of ventilators,

and of masks, visors, gowns
for the nurses, the doctors —
some fated to lie in beds
left by those they tended.

The shadows within this room,
watery grey or tinged with blue,
mere shadows of themselves,
cling to walls, floor, ceiling,

but shift, quicken
when carers draw near to read,
as they can, the charts and screens,
their patients' faces, vital signs.

If only, oh if only, such shadows
could do the work of healing for us,
transmit the manna of our care,
reaching like an arm to comfort

or, in balance with the light,
in company with it, create
a deepened luminance —
as of a starred twilight

offering its presence
before darkness falls,
or a midwinter dawn
seeding itself from night —

liminal still,
while slowly lifting toward
a new day's flowering;
the whole room held in peace.

Easter, 2020




Diane FaheyDiane Fahey is the author of thirteen poetry collections, has won major poetry awards and been represented in over seventy anthologies. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from UWS.


Topic tags: Diane Fahey, poetry



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Existing comments

‘the manna of our care’ Why does unused manna rot, but not the buried talent? Perhaps there is a difference between grace as a medium of transportation and grace as the asset that is transported. Both manna and talent are assets of the divine spoken word fluidly deposited where they are needed. The buried talent retains its quality because it is meant to be re-used. It was never a futile gift, only a delayed one. It bears the name of the intended recipient, as well as that of the previous dishonoured recipient, who still owes the interest he could have received, because everything has to be recorded and nothing can be forgotten if justice is to exist. Care, like manna, cannot be hoarded. Grace sets the time of care’s explosion towards another. In doing so, the other receives a right to the explosion at the due time and place. An opportunity which passes becomes an execrescence because, among other things, it was a violation of that right. There must be dozens of these, call them micro-rights, around us of which we are oblivious. Mercy towards an oblivious Peter, in an era of public squalor, is a healing shadow.

roy chen yee | 03 March 2021  

Art appreciation is rarely poetic, so a poem shedding light on this marvelous piece is especially poignant, alluding to insights beyond the merely technical, historical and descriptive. Masaccio, as an Early Renaissance painter, specialised in introducing humanism to his repertoire. Although he died at the tragically young age of 26, he was primarily responsible for the high renaissance lens through which to revisit and renew the 'other-worldly' portrayals of religious ideas from the 'gloomy Goths' that preceded him. Great Thanks, Diane Fahey!

Michael Furtado | 03 March 2021  

Healed by a baby eclipse. Baby of the Great Eclipse of Calvary.

roy chen yee | 05 March 2021  

A wonderfully poetic line, El Roy!

Michael Furtado | 06 March 2021  

Both poems are abundant manna for meditation on grace, its bearers, and recipients. Thank you, Diane.

John RD | 07 March 2021  

And another from you, Johnard!

Michael Furtado | 08 March 2021  

Perchance we Catholics should coin a new liturgical word for this and call it 'Pachamanna'?

Michael Furtado | 13 March 2021  

I found 'St Peter Healing the Sick with His Shadow' by Masaccio deeply moving, Diane. It had the same effect on me as some Haiku: it was pithy and to the point. There is some dreadful rubbish put out as 'poetry' today. Yours is the opposite of that!

Edward Fido | 14 March 2021  

I am definitely approaching dotage! I can follow the poetry with its conceptual word play but the comments have me completely stumped!

john frawley | 14 March 2021  

To each his/her own John Frawley. Arts appreciation is an individual response. You can't be 'taught'. Some may find T S Eliot 'rubbish'. I don't and say so.

Edward Fido | 15 March 2021  

By way of explanation, and for my part, John Frawley, I was seeking to congratulate both John RD and Le Roy for resisting - for once - any reference to their Pachamania!

Michael Furtado | 15 March 2021  

John Frawley: ‘completely stumped!’ I’d volunteer to help but I risk irking Edward Fido who, recently, has become eminently irkable.

roy chen yee | 15 March 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘a new liturgical word for this and call it 'Pachamanna'?’ Or Paschamanna as the shadow saved as it passed over, depositing a faith like the tamarisk, a tree planted by Abraham which produces a gum also called manna, with a deep and wide root system that keeps it alive in very dry land, much as faith ought to be.

roy chen yee | 16 March 2021  

The parable of the vineyard must have left out the worker like Masaccio who received his one talent in the morning, turned it into ten by morning tea, and was paid off and told to go home by the owner who could do whatever he liked because he was the owner.

roy chen yee | 16 March 2021  

‘such shadows…in balance with the light, in company with it, create a deepened luminance…’ Eventually, that surely would have happened because complete innocence is a form of ignorance and not worthy of a mind created in the image and likeness of God, but Eve either could not or did not think to wait until God was ready to accompany her to the tree of knowledge.

roy chen yee | 16 March 2021  

This must be great poetry!!! In all the years I have been reading ES I can't recall any poetry which has elicited this number of responses.

john frawley | 17 March 2021  

Roy, after some of your utterances and the fact that you have a set of four uninterrupted consecutive posts on these simple, lovely poems, I am beginning to be seriously worried about your state of mind. I apologise to Diane and all the other readers here but I am genuinely concerned about you and feel that you may need help. There is no other way I could bring this to your attention.

Edward Fido | 17 March 2021  

Edward Fido: ‘ four uninterrupted consecutive posts on these simple, lovely poems’ Why are they ‘simple’? You don’t think, like the Bible or Shakespeare, the number of words of commentary, interpretation and application derived from these poems might exceed the number of words in the poems themselves? You have some paranormal insight into the future? Anyway, Uninterrupted Consecutive Post Number 4 is a dig at, I mean, a dedication to, Dr. Michael Furtado who doesn’t believe in Eve.

roy chen yee | 18 March 2021  

I am really beginning to appreciate Michael Furtado's sense of humour, Roy. You appear to have none. To be declared a saint in the Catholic Church you must have hilaritas. You remind me of some of the duller Schoolmen of the Middle Ages: the Angels on Pinheads boys. BTW I have no expectation of sainthood. Nourish the feeling side of your religion, not just the cerebral part. Go to a glorious Sung Mass at St Mary's Cathedral or similar. Let your focus soar heavenward. The pages of ES are no substitute for that!

Edward Fido | 19 March 2021  

Edward Fido: ‘I am really beginning to appreciate Michael Furtado's sense of humour’. Good. You’re also picking up on his penchant for avoiding answering the question. 93 words and no answer to the question of why the poems are ‘simple’. But thanks for raising another question. Why are the pages of ES no substitute for the feeling side? Are you bagging Diane and the other poets now? Do you proofread your posts before submitting them?

roy chen yee | 20 March 2021  

Such a lively and availing correspondence, Mr Editor, and thanks to Diane Fahey and you for publishing it on ES's Arts & Culture flagship! As for his many posts, I'm tempted to suggest 'Pachamania' as a new item in Roy's compendium of politically-incorrect theology. And in regard to poor Eve, I have the deepest sympathy for her as our first biblical female pro-genitor and mythical Judeo-Christian birth-mother, although Lilith may give her a run for her money. Indeed, I kind of sympathise with the poetic view that Eve was tempted by the serpent to reject her allocation to prehensile status (as I once read on the Australian Poetry Library website) in the following terms: 'With nothing to do but walk naked in the sun/ make love and talk/ Eve showed she was the bright one/ Bored witless by Adam/ she wasn't kicked out/ She walked out.' (Author unknown)

Michael Furtado | 20 March 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Bored witless by Adam/she wasn't kicked out/ She walked out.’ Bored witless by her husband’s job, her daughters have been trying to catch up since on STEM.

roy chen yee | 21 March 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Bored witless by Adam/she wasn't kicked out/ She walked out.’ She being bored witless by her husband’s job, her daughters have been trying since to catch up at STEM.

roy chen yee | 22 March 2021  

STEM bridges major gaps in conventional maths and science teaching, that formerly involved formularised modes of delivery but rarely included problem-solving. STEM is designed to cater for the needs of those who were excluded from these subjects. Decisions made by STEM learners use methods that actively engage the implications of their learning. STEM creates programs that integrate all four disciplines in a way that forces learners to use cross-disciplinary knowledge to solve problems. This essentially means that the traditional learning style learners are used to (typically some form of memorisation and recitation of information) is abandoned because it rarely offers explicit solutions to a problem. Instead, STEM learners are required to use what they already know to figure out the right answer for themselves. This requires a significant amount of creativity and flexible thinking, which is a good way to engage with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This approach to education is often why those learners who are extremely analytical, but not especially creative, tend to struggle with STEM. Successful students quickly learn how to think for themselves and abandon their expectations of being told what to think. Understandably, STEM's breach of gender roles poses an immense threat to Roy.

Michael Furtado | 22 March 2021  

Brilliance of riposte aside, I beg to inquire if ES now adopts a policy of withholding comment on STEM and such like on the basis that he who twice submits is hoist with his own petard.

Michael Furtado | 24 March 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Brilliance of riposte aside, I beg to inquire if ES now adopts a policy of withholding comment on STEM and such like on the basis that he who twice submits is hoist with his own petard.’ You can’t make this up, no, you really can’t. Having, several times, had posts appear several days after they were submitted, an experience other posters have undergone, I’ve come to expect that moderators have their own schedules which may prevent a post from being published within a day or two of submission. Michael was obviously chomping at the bit to see his cleverness in print, decided to roar his chagrin at the moderators, and found both his cleverness and his roar bound into a single petard (like a Roman fasces) with him as the hoistee. No, you just can’t make this up.

roy chen yee | 25 March 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘breach of gender roles’ Walking away from helping Adam supervise the Garden confirmed the gender role. Of course, the poet who coined ‘She walked out’ had another agenda than exploring an historical consequence of the Fall, which was to remove woman from stewardship of the potentialities outside the home to confine her to stewardship of the domesticities within the home.

roy chen yee | 25 March 2021  

I have the utmost regard for our moderators, Roy, and wondered, after your brilliant outpourings seemed to run out of steam, especially evident in your STEM remark, whether they had decided to unravel the very long rope you require to do yourself a lasting but hopefully not painful favour and employ your tub-thumping oratory, especially in French, to keep us all entertained, hopefully for a very long time to come, such is the predictability of the imprecations you hurl about with gay abandon, about the dire consequences for all of us of the Fall. As to Eve, that mythological Judeo-Christian progenitor of all women, including Mary, permanently consigning herself to domesticity because of her fondness for Cox's Orange Pippins, I'd dare you to put that proposition to Sr Joan Chittister OSB when she addresses our Online Forum in Australia shortly en route to assisting us with our discernment about the forthcoming Australian Synod. Your proposition to my mind is no better nor worse than someone suggesting that I stick to my favourite pastime of cooking a sizzling pork vindaloo or speculating that you, for that matter, would be better at concentrating your skills on turning out a mouth-watering Peking Duck.

Michael Furtado | 26 March 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘predictability’ That’s why we have a Magisterium, to reflect in some small way to the people who matter, the strugglers of the Church Militant, that God has no shadow of change and that the punishable sins of the past remain the punishable sins of the present and future. ‘STEM remark’: A consequence of the Fall was the loss of status of woman in relation to man underpinned by economic dependence until only recently, and there is still an inequality between boys and girls in studying STEM subjects. ‘progenitor’: all humans are descended from two perfect progenitors who fell. Otherwise, sin cannot be punished or God would have to punish himself.

roy chen yee | 27 March 2021  

Desperately sad, Roy, that you so relentlessly plough the depths of the Church Militant's limitless store of Gothic horrors with which to advance the Gospel and Church's message of a loving and liberating Christ. Would that Hieronymus Bosch were still alive to portray on canvas your incessant project to reinstate a hell of irredeemable, unending, interminable pain and punishment! Sadly the horrors of boiling oil as well as hanging/drawing/quartering, defenestration from very tall cathedral campaniles, and being decorticated for the purposes of making exotic lampshade reminders of the depths of depravity that the dark side that all of us carry, can trick us into virtuous behaviour, have all apparently failed as part of the dungeon of negative reinforcements of doomsayers of old. Thus, its tired maledictions that you resurrect in order to scare your readers, who have switched instead to science-fiction as a means of entertainment by those who have better handles on the market. Given your brain-power, why not invest it in lifting us up, as Jesus did, and bringing a bit of peace and persuasion to your bleak vocabulary? 'What other dungeon is so dark as one's own heart! What jailer so inexorable as one's self!' (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

Michael Furtado | 28 March 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘a hell of irredeemable, unending, interminable pain and punishment!‘ You should keep track of what you write. On March 17, you agreed that it is reasonable to agree with C. S. Lewis that Hell is unending because those within are unendingly obdurate.

roy chen yee | 06 April 2021  

St Ignatius Loyola does not shy away from highly visceral depictions of hell in his Spiritual Exercises in order to impress upon the exercitant the gravity of sin, the depth of God's saving love, the availability and power of grace, the gratitude we owe Christ for the sacrifice he made on our behalf, and our response. A world where hellish sins, crimes and injustices blaze in media headlines every day requires more than escapist fantasy. And Roy deserves more than repeated misrepresentations of his understanding of the last Things.

John RD | 07 April 2021  

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