520 Readings

Pessimist’s Guide to Miracles

A donkey in Siena brays the name
of Catherine, his saint, but no one hears—
no Balaam to be spared the angel’s flame.

How many miracles pass by this same
irreverent way? We’re sleeping off our beers
some Sunday while a donkey prays the name

of some Italian saint. We watch the game,
the infomercials’ half-time racketeers,
flipping past the preachers’ sulfur, wrath, and flame,

all while the donkey’s keeper, in bed with shame—
with someone else’s wife—gondoliers
his way to hell, moaning the vessel’s name.

The donkey’s voice is sweet as aspartame
and Catherine leans down to rub his ears.
We’re blind to her, we Balaams, blind to flame,

but hey: we die. We all do. Life is lame.
Miracles can’t save us from our fears—
a whirlwind singing its next victim’s name,
a storm-split oak, a farmhouse wreathed in flame.

Posted 08/28/12
"Pessimist's Guide to Miracles" was originally published in Relief: A Christian Literary Expression, vol 6., no. 1.
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