The Fifty-Storey Mountain

For J.W.

When you were a kid your brother knocked you around
While your parents dozed and your sister found
Reasons to believe you were all heaven bound.

You rented reality month to month for more
Nickels than you could find next door
Or earn doing the occasional unpleasant chore.

So you accrued a debt that weighed a couple of tons
And hid it under the bed with your play guns
And went for walks that turned into runs.

You ran to the east, you ran to the west, you ran
To the top of reality’s garbage can
Where you found the outline of a plan.

The message was garbled but the gist of the message was clear–
Your eyes could see and your ears could hear
And your blood could feel the strange weight of fear.

You traveled the circles of your own private hell
With your ear to the mouth of an empty shell
And your eyes on a distant unringing bell.

Baptized by lunatics on their way to disaster,
You painted your walls with images of the master,
And escaped through a door that you hammered through plaster.

Because you were tired, you slept on the train that rolled
Up the coast and stopped in the rain on a cold
Dank night that glistened with fragments of neon and gold.

You picked up your suitcase, stepped outside, and saw
A drunkard carrying a fatal flaw
In a hand that held it like a claw.

Just about then a German-speaking stranger
Hailed you in words that conjured up danger
And hinted at changes in the house of the changer.

Believing, you stopped and worked while you waited for signs
That seemed to be hidden between the lines
Of the gospel of Christ like forgotten mines.

The crucified savior exploded like a hydrogen warhead
Buried under your broken bed,
Obliterating the past and the life that you’d led.

Somehow you woke up in the arms of Mary, the mother
Who carried you to the door of the Other
And let you touch the wounds of your brother.

Married by miracle, you tasted the body and blood,
Receiving the same thing you lost in the flood,
Rising up and walking like a fish from the mud.

Your own new Eve followed you to the tree
of life, its branching mystery,
With buds sprouting and blooming suddenly.

A parade of children leads you now across
Deserts and oceans of gain and loss
Towards a magnificent fire that burns the dross
Of everything that you must toss
At the foot of the holy Roman cross.


  1. Jonathan Webb says

    Magnificent as usual. Thanks Rufus.

    Call me word monger now. Thanks to you and Mrs McCain for those too.

  2. Rufus McCain says

    Sorry our trip over fell through, but we'll be over before long.

    Many happy returns of the day!

  3. Rufus McCain says

    You're rooting for the Saints, right?

  4. I read it intently, trying to understand you, Rufus, but couldn't figure out what it meant.

  5. Jonathan Webb says

    Initially, yes. Then I got sick of all the Katrina-phoenix-from-the-ruins hype and switched preferences. I'm on an anti-sentimentality binge. But, for what it's worth I'm glad they won.

  6. Rufus McCain says

    I thought as a Catholic website, it was our duty to support the Saints.

    Can't wait to see your OED. Have you seen that book, "Reading the OED"? It looks good.

  7. Rufus McCain says

    Sorry Anonymous, it's meant to be a bit hallucinatory. My main objective was to get to fifty lines, one for each of Mr. Webb's years.

  8. Sounds like he was happier before he found God.

  9. Big Jon, Bully says

    Anonymous, I want to hug you and never let go.

  10. Big Jon, Bully says

    I don't know what your plans are today, but could you call in sick?

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