Being young, I knew I’d never die

Time is just the fast before the feast

Matthew Lickona has been a staff writer for the Reader since 1995.
  • Matthew Lickona has been a staff writer for the Reader since 1995.

On Receiving a Death’s Head Rosary

  • Some twenty years ago, I was eighteen
  • And being young, I knew I’d never die
  • And came to Rome, the oldest place I’d seen
  • And in St. Mary’s church, an altar caught my eye
  • “The slab is purest lapis,” the tour guide declared,
  • “More precious than the gold it rests upon.”
  • And being young, it seemed enough that I had stared
  • And marveled at the stone, and then moved on.
  • Some twenty years have passed now since I beheld that blue
  • I’m older now, and know that I will die
  • And now I know that altars are for giving God his due:
  • And bloody business saved the world, adorn them how we try.
  • But if duty built the altar, still love procured the lamb
  • And a woman gave her blood to Him who bled
  • If death must play the butler to meet the great I Am
  • Then wire-bind the lapis beside a fleshless head.
  • Then I’ll take up the mysteries, and beg the woman see
  • Her child cling to life — and so to prayer
  • Each blue bead is an Ave; each Ave is a plea
  • That when my life runs out, she will be there
  • The lapis beads an altar, my spotted will the sheep
  • And the bone-man with the scythe becomes a priest
  • Crying, “All flesh is corruption, it’s only love will keep,
  • And time is just the fast before the feast.
  • And time is just the fast before the feast.”

Leaving

  • — for Olivia
  • Wendy knew she couldn’t stay
  • No matter what the Pan decreed
  • She saw the work behind the play,
  • Was wiser to the world’s need
  • If boys are lost, they must be found
  • And someone has to gather wood
  • And love still makes the world go ’round
  • And fun’s not quite the same as good
  • She heard the ticking of the clock
  • That warned old Hook of stealthy time
  • She read the smile of the croc
  • She watched Hook weep and flail and climb
  • But oh, those days in Neverland
  • Where even gravity gave way
  • She had the grace to understand
  • How precious is the passing day

Matthew Lickona has been a staff writer, critic, and sometime editor, cartoonist, and poet for the San Diego Reader since 1995. He lives with his wife and children in La Mesa.

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