This Poem Stunned Me When We Read It Aloud in Class Last Week

BEFORE THE AIR BECAME THE JOURNEY

It is Good Friday
and I am seven.
I don’t understand the priest
who speaks in Latin
or in Polish,
but I like the hopeful smell of
candles burning.

Inching forward
on our knees,
we sway and shuffle towards
the giant crucifix
propped at the railing.
The men’s heads are bare.
The women wear bubushkas.
Everywhere I look
there are soles of shoes.

My turn. I stand
and stretch to reach
the bleeding instep.
An altar boy
wipes away my kiss
with a white handkerchief.

I bow my head
to imitate the old man
who on Sundays stays
for all the Masses,
locked in place
at the altar rail, face
buried in his hands,
hunched over and sad
as if, like me,
he’d done everything wrong.

Someone like him, I think,
could stop the nails
from going in.

Elisabeth Murawski

A little discussion.

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