War

Some centuries ago

Powerful clerics

In order to attain

A perfect orthodoxy

Banished the very Lord of Charity

And sent their soldiers out

To bind and burn

Some stubborn scholar

Or visionary farmer

Or some outspoken country girl

As honest as the angels

 

Later there were the virtuous

Church-going slave-ship owners

Who thought that since they prospered

The Lord Himself was blessing

Their cruel enterprise

 

In our own time

There were the prison guards

Who starved and killed

Innocent prisoners

Yet still received

The Body of the Lord

At Mass on Sunday

 

Are we so different from them?

 

Year after year

We chant the Psalms

And sing the carols

Of the Nativity

The hymns of Easter

And in that music is a cry

For justice and for mercy

 

We barely hear it

 

And we accept

The falling of our bombs

On foreign villages

And on the women men

And children in them

 

As we accept

The falling of the rain.

—Anne Porter

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About the Author

Anne Porter (1911–2011) was a longtime contributor to Commonweal, and the author of Living Things: Collected Poems (2006) and An Altogether Different Language (1994), which was nominated for a National Book Award. She died on October 10, shortly before her hundredth birthday.Requiescat in pace.

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