Good works

Issue 121 of Island magazine is out. Among the essays, stories and poetry is my poem, ‘Good Works’:

Sometimes her fingers close a nail’s breadth
Or tiny cross’s height below her necklace.
Awoken by an owl, begins a prayer
Then stops, abashed. No one’s there to hear.

A friend suggests she meditate. But it’s
Too lonely. Gaudy surrogates (I-ching
Or yoga) cannot help. The dethroned fraud
Had majesty court jesters can’t replace.

She writes long letters, puzzling bureaucrats
In Lhasa—Myanmar—Stare Kiejkuty
To try to soften bars and iron minds
With nothing but a hopeful curve of script.

St Vincent de Paul’s Sunday morning shift
Is always hers; she lingers when the others
Walk in with the smell of grace on them.
She sniffs and exhales like a reformed smoker.

Today, black-laced, farewells an old friend
An awkward goat among the flock. She mourns
The warmth of knowing that no effort goes
Unseen. All she has is cold good works.

Island 121 ›