Friday, October 17, 2008

Forgiveness any way you can get it

I love this poem, and I hope you will, too. The photo is of the cell door where Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) lived and listened to people pour out their souls and it seems fitting for the tone here (the chambers were destroyed by German bombs in WWII and rebuilt).


by Terence Winch

from Boy Drinkers


Father Cahir kept us holy.

He smoked cigars in the confessional.

He had a distracted air about him,

as though he wasn't sure what

he was supposed to do next.


I don't remember what he taught.

History, probably. It was his

liberal attitude as a confessor

that made him a legend.


No matter what you confessed to,

he always barked out the same penance:

“Three Hail Marys and a Good Act

of Contrition. Next!”

So we tested

this leniency, confessing

to rape, murder, burglary.


Cahir paid no attention.

He knew we were a bunch

of high school punks.

Puffing his cigar,

he'd issue his standard

penance and absolve all sins,

real or imagined,

with godlike aloofness,

his vast indifference to

or total acceptance of the darkness

within the human soul

exactly how I hope the deity

regards us. Take forgiveness

any way you can get it.


Peter Carey said...


Thanks for sharing this poem, I am only beginning to digest the full meaning of it.

Also, thanks for sharing this picture - did you take it? I had visualized something far different when I visualize Julian and her cell. Very interesting.

Hope you're well, and I hope you've been able to get out to hike in the mtns of VA! (though not my beloved home state of VT, these mountains are still quite beautiful.)

Have a wonderful weekend!

Peter Carey+

Jim Richardson said...

Yes, I took the photo of the cell in 2003. Inside is a shrine to Julian. In all candor, there is some dispute about whether the cell was rebuilt and embellished over the centuries; the cell and the church in which in sits was completely destroyed in WWII and rebuilt, and probably nowhere close to the original. But it is on the same site as Julian's cell.