Kate Bernadette Benedict 

 

Waiting for Elevation

“We are living now in an age of inventions, and we no longer have to  take the trouble of climbing stairs for . . the elevator has replaced these very successfully . . . I desire an elevator to raise me to Jesus.”—Ste. Thérèse de Lisieux

 

This typical morning
as I loiter
with a gang of coworkers
laden with papers
and dribbly take-out coffee,
I too desire an elevator.
Let it lift me
to my cluttered cube,
where I’ll hunker down,
efface in work,
succumb to menial offices—
as you, Thérèse,
were once subsumed by yours.
At last a green light, a chime:
we throng into a mirrored cell
and are raised, Little Flower,
to a more lofty station
than you ever could have prophesied.
There, beyond glass,
the sacred spire;
there the bridges,
the helicopter,
the skyscraper,
and all the radiant logos
of our global souk!
It is indeed a dazzling vantage—
but Saint, in your mercy,
raise us higher still. 
As we do and are done to,
in the crucible of our humdrum jobs,
give us holiness. 
Grant us ecstasy even in dailiness.

 

Appears in Earthly Use: New and Selected Poems, 2015


 

Salvific Ode

 

I would praise what saves us,
through assaults and shamings, what saves us.
Through ridicule, and violation.

A boy is mocked. It is the custom here—
the body all wrong or the speech peculiar.
He endures. What saves him?

A girl is slapped in front of others.
Look: the mark is on her, indelible.
She moves on. What saves her?

School: odious echoes and memorization,
coercive, diminishing, dull-eyed, robotic, and rote.
Still many learn. What saves them?

Home: constant intrusions.
Pryings and enemas,
fault-finding, blaming, disgrace.
No escape, yet the child is saved.

I praise what saves her.
I praise the flint of her secret will: small spark.
Where terrors would infiltrate: small spark.
Among the desolate and the injured: small spark.

Next to an outhouse in a weedy park,
in the despairing shade, in the rubble,
the lady’s slipper dangles, cèpes drip,
green jack tips in a green pulpit.


Appears in Earthly Use: New and Selected Poems, 2015


Contemplative Observances

 

Let this small apartment be a cloister.
I’ll be a pacing monk at morning prayer.

Let windows be lowered gently and fastened
and the clattering of garbage trucks be quieted.

As morning light comes slowly to the corridor,
let my soul be thus illumined.

Let it darken also, for the maelstrom is infinite,
and the absolute an all-in-all of colors, a perfect black.

It’s what I quail before, in my hooded bathrobe.
It’s what body knows and unknows. Knows.

My arms are open for a Pentecost.
I wait for tongues, a tribulation, the flame, the lamb.

I wait for the annihilation.
Let every sense and synapse acquiesce.

Reason has brought me here, the mind my beacon.
Reason is the ground beneath the pinnacle.

Faith will accomplish it, one day.
As the carrion is taken by the vulture, I will be taken.

It will be all I hope for.
It will be nothing I hope for.

It is nothing I return to now.
A bare plank floor, a pall of dust.

And in each ball of dust, a galaxy of mites.
And in the essence of each mite: alpha, omega.


Originally appeared in Voice of Many Waters, ed. Kay Snodgrass, Geneva Press, 2000, and in Earthly Use: New and Selected Poems, Umbrella Editions, 2015.

 

 

 

Kate Bernadette Benedict is a poet and editor from Riverdale, New York.  Her full-length poetry collections include Here from Away (2003), In Company (2011) and Earthly Use: New and Selected Poems (2015). She is the erstwhile publisher and editor of Umbrella and Tilt-a-Whirl, online poetry journals which are archived and linked from her website: katebenedict.com.