To Understand the Meek

A poem and an excerpt from an essay by Mary Karr from Sinners Welcome:

Who the Meek are Not

          Not the bristle-bearded Igors bent

under burlap sacks, not peasants knee-deep

          in the rice paddy muck,

not the serfs whose quarter-moon sickles

          make the wheat fall in waves

they don’t get to eat. My friend the Franciscan

          nun says we misread

the word meek in the Bible verse that blesses them.

          To understand the meek

(she says) picture a great stallion at full gallop

          in a meadow, who—

at his master’s voice—seizes up to a stunned

          but instant halt.

So with the strain of holding that great power

          in check, the muscles

along the arched neck eddying,

          and only the velvet ears

prick forward, awaiting the next order.

Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer 

To confess my unlikely Catholicism in Poetry—the journal that first published some of the godless twentieth-century disillusionaries of J. Alfred Prufrock and his pals—feels like an act of perversion kinkier than any dildo-wielding dominatrix could manage on HBO’s Real Sex Extra. I can’t even blame it on my being a cradle Catholic, some brainwashed escapee of the pleated skirt and communion veil who—after a misspent youth and facing an Eleanor Rigby-like dotage—plodded back into the confession booth some rainy Saturday.

Not victim but volunteer, I converted in 1996 after a lifetime of undiluted agnosticism. Hearing about my baptism, a friend sent me a postcard that read, “Not you on the Pope’s team. Say it ain’t so!” Well, while probably not the late Pope’s favorite Catholic (nor he my favorite Pope), I took the blessing and ate the broken bread. And just as I continue to live in America and vote despite my revulsion for many U.S. policies, I continue to take the sacraments despite my fervent aversion to certain doctrines. Call me a cafeteria Catholic if you like, but to that I’d say, Who isn’t?