by Paul Hooker

This room is full of words

impatient for the joust

lances tucked firmly into arm-pits

steam-breathed stallions paw the earth 

eager for the charge, the clash full tilt

that aims to unseat the metal-clad meaning

of another.  Broken preachments

are strewn like autumn’s dried-up leaves

across time’s rutted lists, here where

hearts once pierced were left to bleed.

This room is full of prayers

helium balloons full of petty piety

nuncios to an alien episcopacy

decrees dispatched from haunts 

of haunted yearning, jostle for a seat 

in confessionals where no one slides

the latticed screen to listen. Inflated pleas 

encyclicals to minor more familiar gods 

rise on updrafts; they burst their bullae

and cascade like falling ashes to the floor.

This room is full of hymns

that swell and rise then crest and sink

on ocean waves, like frigates made of air

laden with the music of foreign passions

canticles mis-navigated from missals

in strange tongues, run aground in

these storm-racked nights. Broken melodies

crash on the rocks of our disenchantment;

they leave their fleckèd foam marooned 

on deserted beaches of comfortable habit.

Outside this room, night is falling

and in the Darkness Something

presses its Nose against the windowpane;

insistent, It interrupts the reverie

begging only to be let in

to light and hearth and quiet respite

from the loneliness. Whining 

it would share Its gentle healing Presence

tendered in Its cross-shaped sacrifice 

if only It could come in from the cold.