“Tabernacles” by Graziano Marchesi

It happened fast.

A feeble-brained innocent,

refugee from half-way spaces, moving at the wrong time:

the Bread raised high,

the Cup engaged in mystery,

and he chooses this time to change his seat

from one church side to the other.

For a moment his head blocks the view

of bread yielding to miracle.

For a moment his face and the bread are one.

The words spoken over both.

Then hands shake, extending proper peace;

cheeks meet,

words wish a peace the world has never tasted.

He stares, like a dog offered too many bones at once,

and accepts only one hand’s greeting.

Next comes procession to his first meal of the day

as faces clearly wonder if he understands what this is all about.

He takes the proffered piece of pita

in this most post-Vatican assembly

and stops.

Momentarily thrown by this bread with pockets,

he’s oh-so-gently reassured that it’s quite all right to eat.

He takes

and green teeth masticate the Body of Christ.

Then he reaches for the syrupped goodness of the cup

(Just three sips after him I debate the wisdom of changing lines.)

His puffed-cheek mouthful nearly drains the cup.

(I almost wish he had so I wouldn’t need to tell myself I won’t catch

some disease.)

And then

(I knew it!)

he coughs

and sends forth a rosy mist

that sprays Divinity onto the floor.

A rainbow comes and goes in that unexpected spray

as gasps are quelled in forty throats.

He clamps his mouth with leaky hands

looking like a child

trying to keep a pricked balloon from bursting.

Unslackened, the line moves on

and Divinity is trampled by shod feet

till pure white linen,

–bleached and starched–

in fervent hands that won’t permit impiety,

drinks the pink God from the floor.

In a corner he sits alone

in rapt humiliation.

When someone asks, “Are you O.K.?”

he quickly shows his palms and says,

“I didn’t wipe them on my dirty pants, I didn’t.

I rubbed them hard together, see?”

and he demonstrates, with insect frenzy, how he used friction

to evaporate the spilled God from his hands.

Oh, what a cunning God who tests our faith

by hiding in green-teethed


to see how truly we believe

in the miracle of real presence.[i]

[i] Graziano Marchesi, “Tabernacles,” in Dawn Nothwehr,  The Franciscan View of the Human Person, vol 3, The Franciscan Heritage Series, ed. Elise Saggau (St. Bonaventure, NY:  Franciscan Inst. Publ, 2005), 67-8.

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