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Wash Day at Le Carmel, Lisieux, circa 1895

  • 28 January 2020
  Selected poems





find kiss of Yahweh's

breath blasts dandelion doubts

to Milky Way. Heaven!



wait for faith. Some days

the daisy's petals whisper —

believe! Some days not.



worship evidence —

big bangs, fossils, fission, pea

flower genes — purple, white.





Saint Lei Feng*

(or faith revisited)


I have known you

Lei Feng

have knelt

before your shrine

lips quivering

eyes aglow

with candlelight.


You are John Bosco

schooling orphan boys,

the blessed Damien

nursing lepers,

Martin de Porres

sharing a cloak with beggars,

Francis of Assisi

hymning the selfless life,

the children of Fatima

poor, illiterate,


ignorance and misery.


I have worshipped you

Lei Feng

followed your image,

your bones and blood,

in sacred vials

carried high

in crowded streets.

I have seen you

ascend to heaven.


I have known you

Lei Feng

have seen you step out

on Chang'an Avenue

halt the tanks

speak to soldiers as brothers;

glimpsed you

on trucks that pause

at country crossroads

carrying women and men

to execution.

*Lei Feng, a young cadre at the time of the Cultural Revolution, was renowned for his selfless deeds. Following an accidental death, he was promoted as a role model for young and old. The cult of Lei Feng was revived after 4 June 1989 and features again in Chinese public life as part of Xi Jinping's anti-corruption drive.



Wash Day at Le Carmel, Lisieux, circa 1895

There you are Thérèse Martin (now Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus), in the cloister wash house with your sixteen Carmelite soeurs, your sisters in Christ, lined up around the stone lavatoio, each soeur's image wavering in the glassy water, their half-washed linen (wimple, tunic, vest, underskirt, menstrual rags) splayed on the stone slab; each soeur pausing from the soap and scrub, from washing away the stains — yours, ours, the world's —

You're second from left, Thérèse, between white-veiled postulants, hands on a wooden washboard, sleeves folded back. Your apron's smudged bib is pinned below the shoulders, a brown veil and white toque frames your face, hairline dark at temples. You've a wet cloth between left thumb and forefinger and a wooden paddle in right hand; ready to strike away temptations, beat out the stains — yours, ours, the world's —

You're next to Céline, your blood sister, whose camera is out front to capture your toil. Céline is laughing and almost clambering on to the lavatoio's rim, right hand thrust out to grab the garment dangling above the water on a pole. An older soeur leans on your shoulder, but Céline is next to you. Her laughter wimples through you, soothing the aches of solitude, penance and prayer — yours, ours, the world's —

It's definitely the flesh and blood you, Thérèse,