Bernardo Wade


Manresa House of Retreats in Covenant, Louisiana

Beneath the long arm
of the Mississippi,
an ivory estate gleams
amongst verdant acres,
receding to the swamp.

Dewy jasmine ascends
its walls, not wild, but
manicured, like the rector
who, I see, narrow in
on a flower & lip himself

a prayer; a rosary sways
from his grip. Nothing
questions the silence, until,
by the Corinthian column,
I take a handful of soil,

and ask, do you know whose
hands once toiled this land?

I’d like him to consider
how the same hands were
forced to build his house

of God; how those hands
were forced to build their
own boundaries. I think
to grab a brick, pretend
as if its maker was my God:

a sable craftsman who left
tearful prayers on its clay,
engraving, Lord have mercy
on these men
, as he laid it
near the library window.

Inside he’d notice a class
full of boys pray, their voices
echoing ‘the word was made
flesh,’ while all the while
toiling in the torrid field,

black flesh is left to reap.
Maybe he’d follow the path
he laid to the lush courtyard
where the towering effigy
of God’s son stood erect.

Meeting there, man to man,
god to god, I wonder who
remained holding their breath.
The rector asks, Son, do you pray?
and I think, To whom?

As I watch the plaster white
eyes of his Messiah gaze away,
I notice the wrought hands reach
for the dark of an oak tree.
Then I hear voices pressing

down on my chest, asking me
how I could retreat to a God
they say, will remain silent.