by Paul Hooker

On the occasion of the adoption of the Belhar Confession
by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)

They stood around the room,
unseen saints, hanging
from the rafters, or floating
in the air, or marching
among us, invisible as ghosts—
the dead who ask the living:
How long?

Some wore the shackle, some the noose,
some bled from wounds from bullet
or sword, or hobbled, fractured bones
not yet knitted. Some bore the look
of hunger, with bloodshot eyes
hot with tears of hope denied
too long.

We took the vote to make
their words our own, to lift
their prayer upon our voice.
And there was silence.
And we knew. The time had come
to rest these ghosts, and make no more