Leave of Absence (Summer, 1974)

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Contributor: John P. Tretbar

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The donkey brays the morning sun at dawn.
The rest of us soon follow suit, in thrall.
The "hees" are always followed by the "haw,"
which then repeats a dozen times in all.

There's nothing left for us to do but wait
for bells of Mass however small and poor,
as Sister Mary Margret pulls the chain
and greets the local church mice at the door.

The sermon on the mysteries of God,
through patience, prayer, belief, and sacrifice,
seems lost upon the flock in this synod,
for they, each day, must pay an awful price.

With donkeys for alarm clocks, dirt for floors,
their lives forever guessing what's in store.

The mission in St. Lucia near Vieux Fort
still follows the church dictums and decrees.
But in jungle lurks another morte
as death-by-flatworm brings them to their knees.

The microscope reveals the tiny mutts,
the schistosoma living in the blood.
It eats their meals and then inflates their guts,
because of walking, shoeless, in the mud.

The scourge of poverty the enemy,
our gift of Praziquantel will be used
to kill the worms in their anatomy.
But what they really needed was some shoes.

The donkey brays another day at dawn.
The humans rise to get their prayers on.

Our education, first, to learn patois,
the Pidgin French of settlers long ago,
as early generations break the laws
of grammar, usage, style, and vertigo.

Then comes commitment to the chosen one,
a summer program born at Notre Dame.
It looks like a vacation in the sun,
but changes students as they change their names...

...to Sister Mary, soon to take their vows:
to chastity, and poverty, and God.
We sing a song of charity to you
as we return to study on the quad.

The donkey knows the score and brays its tune
each summer in St. Lucia late in June.

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Retired journalist, musician, actor, age 63. Live in St. Joseph, Missouri, with my wife. Host poetry gathering at her coffee shop once a month. Self-publish work of fellow poets and anthologies from the best of the gatherings.


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