Maundy Thursday on St. Mary’s Ridge

…et tenebrae eam non comprehenderunt.

Tonight, they stripped the altars out.
The silence, collected, staged,
Insinuated an awkward sense
Of harrowed curiosity
That led the flock to scatter.
This rural April, weather turned cold
Across the ridge.
The true believers file
Through the stony arches
Into the triumphant night.
When I step outside
I smoke a half a cigarette
(The other half soon offered
To gods of empty spaces).
The coulees stretch their distance;
The valleys deepen.
From sporadic farms
Outposts of orange yard lights
Confirm an endless darkness.
Vast sky, vast earth, nothing wasted.

The mind in prayer falters at
Any absence of grace
But does not forget
How it crosses a desert
Of its own making.
Like rising incense
I watch the smoke ascend,
Rehearsing for an empty tomb
By practicing
The fluid motions of time.
This hour, abandoned
To the stars, inhales
The cherry glow –
Surrendered and consumed
By slow degrees, dying
Away until the dawn
Will scatter clouds like ashes,
And galaxies of dust motes
Suspend the morning light
To fill an empty upper room.


  1. Jonathan Potter says

    Thanks JOB. I love this, every last line. (You’re stealing my juju, though, you bastard.)

  2. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says


  3. Jonathan Webb says

    Great poem.

  4. Churchill says

    Good poem, thanks.

  5. Lansing Priest says


    Am I missing it completely, or did you just compare your cigarette to Christ’s Paschal Mystery?

  6. Thanks all. guilty pleasures need baptizing too…


  7. Quin Finnegan says

    Nice. My favorite lines: How it crosses a desert/ Of its own making. The one about coulees made no sense to me until I looked it up. Before that, I thought you were referring to workers brought over from China for the Wisconsin & Southern, doing their t’ai chi exercises or some such. Didn’t seem to fit. But then it doesn’t refer to 19th century Chinese laborers after all, but rather “a kind of valley or drainage zone” … thank God.

    Whew! He is risen!

    Going to bed now.

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