Lilacs, always lilacs in the classrooms, aged
fragrance, ill-matched to youthful May, they
smelled of penance awaiting remorse.
Her chosen name was Sister Crescence;
can that be right? Memory obscures.
What martyr inspired such a saintly name and
who was she, when a young postulant,
to choose it? Did she dream of a love
so deep to die for it
would be gift?
We were sophomores, more fools than wise,
crushing kindness underfoot
in the clumsy rush
to rise among the favored few,
to cut first, the sharpest wit
the most admired.
We called her Toad,
above the wimple, within the coif
her nose and lips so fleshy, sausage-like
her short old fingers, Germanically fat, her stomach
protruding beneath her habit, stuffed,
We christened her chair
the lily pad. And buzzed
like flies in the heated May classroom,
sly laughs behind
our drudgy books.
In stickiness of sweat and spring,
all our yearning leaned
toward summer. Freedom. Beyond.
Sister Crescence was not
admired, or even
considered; I recall an intellect
wasted on our insolence.
Large amphibious eyes
winced behind rimless lenses.
We did not give her
the chance to be human, to love,
she loved words
poetry and perhaps
the song of birds in spring?
Then as old as I am now, she
sat in pain, suffering
from the tumor
that fed our jests
that took her life, this woman
we never knew, we, being young
fools, reveling in salty pride, so full
of ourselves she
but to amuse.
In her silence and her suffering
Sr. Crescence offered lessons
other teachers overlooked:
cruelty most wounds the wielder.
I don’t know if any goodness
I have tendered since
has dimmed the image of
the sadness in her eyes.
And every spring I lean more
toward my own old age and
the wisdom of remorse.
I drink the chorus
of the waking world,
I kiss the songs of blackbirds
of orioles and grosbeaks, the trilling up of life,
the growing through to green,
but the homely hum of toadsong,
and the penance of lilacs
I was cruel, I was cruel and I cannot
take it back.
And every spring I kneel
on the river’s muddy bank
conjuring her spirit,
asking yet again
for the privilege
to be kind.
12 thoughts on “Confiteor”
This was so so moving Kitty. I love your work..Thank you so much for sharing it with us all.
Thank you, Anne; that’s so kind of you. It’s lovely to hear from readers and I appreciate your time and presence so much! Stay safe and well. Gentle peace, Kitty
Your moving words, are deeply treasured and inspiring.
May our cruelty be transformed by forgiveness and kindness.
Thank you Mary. Among other things, this has been a valuable time for life review and considering moments and engagements where I made or broke connections with grace and compassion…I’m so grateful for the opportunities we are given to try again. 🙂 Forgiveness is a great transformer; I agree. I hope you are safe and well, Mary. Gentle peace, Kitty
Yes, I too was cruel … I find it easier to forgive your youthful self and others, but harder to forgive myself … I am working on that …
That is good to hear, Antionette! I had a wise teacher who often laughed and said, “Oh, well, another opportunity to forgive myself!” He reminded us of the ways we can gift ourselves with grace, recognize our humanity, and try again. I believe it is what Love wants for us.Joy and gentle peace. Antionette. Be safe and well.
Thanks Kitty, this is beautiful. It acknowledges our humanity and grace.
I am enjoying your Daily Round’ and your thought-provoking words.
What a lovely way to begin my day, Colleen! Thank you so much for your kindness. I appreciate your visits and the time you’ve taken to share. Be well and safe, Colleen. Gentle peace.
I hope you are well?
I am trying to contact you regarding your poem on the pandemic “And the people stayed home” . I work for a not-for-profit Catholic Charity in the UK and we would very much like to re-print your poem as part of our June Newsletter which is shared with members of our religious congregation and a few other friends.
Could we kindly have your permission to do so, please?
I look forward to your response.
With very many thanks
Dear Catherine M. O’Meara,
First of all, we want to congratulate you on your wonderful words. They really became a meeting point in those stranges days we are living.
We addressed to you from Bilbao Symphony Orchestra (Basque Country) http://www.bilbaorkestra.eus . Since it is impossible for us to offer concerts on those times, we are keeping the communication with the community through our social network. In this sense, some of our musicians have performed from home the Adagio from String Quintet op. 163 by Schubert and we would like to include on the video the spanish translation of your poetry “In hte Time of Pandemic”.
We kindly request for your permission. Obviously we would include your name as author of the text, beside our gratitude to you.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Best wishes of health,
Oh goodness, this moved me too tears! Stunning!xxx
Thank you for your kindness and sweet heart. You are gift. Be well and safe, my dear friend.