Last Word*


Over Riesling and langustas

the crusty red-clad warriors

jousted systematics after hours


yielding the final platform

to the wizened exegetes whose sabers

chopped the Hebrew text to death


until the words of Jesus

were shredded to confetti

and the Good News gone.


Then a seminarian awkwardly

burst through the kitchen door

and grasped the podium to speak


startling the prelates’ palates

with a sacred seam of sweetness—

a silver cadence freshening


the stale, dank dining hall

sprung in perfect metric time—

how the father on the hill


could never doubt his son’s return,

and how the valley prodigal

knew absolutely nothing


of the fathoms of the father.

The mystic poet exited as usual

with apron and glassware in customary disarray


leaving the soporific cardinals’ tongues

agape, and sparkle in their eyes

that what was lost in the wars


might be found again.


Jerome L. McElroy


            *Accepted in The Penwood Review (Spring 2012).