Some readers may not know that I grew up in Pennsylvania in an Evangelical home, went to Greenville, South Carolina to attend Bob Jones University, and then became an Anglican and went to Oxford to study for the Anglican priesthood. I was ordained and served ten years as an Anglican priest before coming into the Catholic Church. I then spent ten more years living in England and working for a Catholic charity as a layman. Then the call came for me to return to South Carolina to be ordained as a Catholic priest. This journey there and back again is at the heart of this poem.
I hope you like it. By the way, if you do like it, think about buying a copy of my book of poems–A Sudden Certainty. Click on the picture of the book in the sidebar to go to the purchase page.
“Save a half hour,” my host said, “and leave town
driving North ‘cross country on Highway One.”
So on a balmy day in May I set off
to travel home across the rural south.
The road ran past broken farms, peach orchards,
Bar BQ joints, quaint old towns and junkyards;
trailer parks and dilapidated shacks–
the homes of poor white folks and poorer blacks.
With stenciled signs the country churches wore
their ignorance with pride and proclaimed their war
on the world, the flesh and the devil
in names wild and apocalyptical.
Almighty Fire Temple Missionary
New Testament Church of God Prophecy
Mount Pisgah Methodist Episcopal
Church of the Revival of Reverend Irascible.
Twenty five years ago I fled all this;
seeking sanity, refuge and release.
All I found were other forms of madness,
poverty, despair, anger, lust and stress.
Worst of all, after time, I woke to find
these terrors lodged deep in my own heart and mind.
Like a birth defect, they’d been there all along;
It wasn’t my world, but my heart which was wrong.
So now, with a sense of humor and shame
I’m ready to accept my part of the blame.
In accepting this I can accept all things,
and in this freedom my heart stops and sings.
As I drive on and the sun sets into night,
each church and farm and face I see is filled with light,
and in my heart and mind a certainty begins to swell:
that, “All shall be well, and all things shall be well.”