Pope Saint John Paul II

Matthew Nickel

(On Saturday, 2 April 2005, at approximately 15:30 CEST, John Paul II spoke his final words in Polish, “Pozwólcie mi odejść do domu Ojca”—“Allow me to depart to the house of the Father”)


I try not to be afraid, but I’m afraid most days
it does not come that easy, nor does the modern
lyric solve the mystical paradox of the soul
yearning toward the door we are unable to open;

yet the lyric revisits, like a wheel, the departing
moment when an image and sentiment lift
from the page into metamorphosis: meaning
seasoned with romantic gestures of truth and beauty

but the value of meaning depends, a butterfly
does not always fly with grace, a soul sometimes
falls into darkness: the truth is rarely beautiful
for the fanatics, and beauty is hardly truthful

in the mouths of the modern world. What we
thought we knew is not even written on the stones
for the scribes died a long time ago and with them
knowledge that accumulates, the palimpsest.


In the South of France in the ancient church
of Les Saintes-Maries, they have washed the stones
scrubbed candle-soot, saliva staining the floor
from frantic prayers of millions of pilgrims,

all now smells sterile, the most fertile magic in France
purged, eliminated with installed lights so bright
the darkest soul cannot hope to fear the unknown,
in this light even demons become tangible:

I am not ready to depart to the house of the Father
but I think of you John Paul, as my wife holds my hand
prays in aseptic light from the chapel, whispering
so low not even the dead can hear: be not afraid.


Shawangunk Review Volume XXIX Copyright © 2018 by Matthew Nickel. All Rights Reserved.

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