Robert Laliberte

by Timothy Murphy

I. The Monsignor

Young priests tell me they’ve climbed into your car
and smelled the scent of roses.  Yesterday
my friends gathered at Mass to hear you pray
for a fine poet who has crossed the bar.
The Navy Hymn sent Alan on his way.
You spoke of poetry, the Word made flesh,
how metaphor unravels the dark mesh
of chaos that ensnares us when we stray.

Your learning rouses my Platonic love
and summons this confession: when you preach
or come to grace my table, when you teach
history, Hebrew, Latin, Ancient Greek,
all that your lost host could hope to seek,
I hear the distant wingbeats of a dove.


II. The Confessor

I cook.  My dear monsignor comes tonight
for scallop jambalaya, for smoked fish
in a Cobb salad (with his dressing light
to deal with diabetes).  None could wish
more penetration of a sinner’s mind
than I, so long benighted I was blind.

I call ambition what the priest calls pride,
Superbia, the gravest mortal sin.
This saintly man my Lord took as his bride
looks in your eyes, but deeper, looks within
the Christian conscience where he would anneal 
each bloodied soul the Sacred Heart can heal.

—Friday, January 6, 2011


III. Partial Indulgence

We always pack my .410 gauge Contender
when Tim and Feeney run game checks in April.
The wilds host nasty varmints who are rabid,
badgers and skunks, dead from a point blank headshot.
So out we tramp, me in my rubber knee boots,
Feeney dressing au naturel as always,
checking out pheasants on our favorite pasture.
It’s wet as hell and every soaked depression
puts up a pair of hormone-crazy snow geese.
They’re all point blank, but I pull out no pistol
until a Canada tries to attack me.
He’s immature, I draw and blow his head off,
then kneel and knife away his bloody breast meat,
sautéed two ways and served with vermicelli,
the cheese, parmigiano reggiano.
Red wine reduction, then black bean and garlic.
“Father, I shot a black goose out of season.”
“No sin, my son, you're feeding your monsignor.”


IV.  The Shepherd
Today I fix lunch for a bride of Christ,
student of ancient Hebrew, Latin, Greek.
The eggs and salmon will be finely diced,
and garni?  It will be onion and chopped leek.
Some forty years since Father was ordained,
and how many confessions has he heard
from the repugnant, from the travel-stained?
How many times has Robert taught the Word?
Tuesdays, Thursdays, I go to hear him preach.
He’s only five years older than I am.
I have known masters at majestic speech,
but none of them clasped to his chest a lamb.


V. Apocalypse Tomorrow

“What should I invest in?” asks Father Bob.
“Where does the truly frightened money flee?”
Licensed to sell securities, I'm asked
this basic question pretty frequently.
From the garage I haul a case of shells,
Winchester, and I lay it at his feet.
“Backpack, canteen.   The Bible’s in your head.
Boots.  When the world ends, you will walk with me,
Feeney will see we have enough to eat. 
We’ll hike the tracks where railroad cars spill wheat
and pheasants laze until we reach the sea,
and there God will provide for you and me.”


The first section, ‘The Monsignor’, was previously published in The Hudson Review. To purchase Mortal Stakes and Faint Thunder, please visit
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