Denise O’Hagan

Prayer stool

There it was
Gracing the footpath of a well-heeled house
In a well-heeled suburb
Amongst a stove, a rake, a dining chair
And an oversize one-eyed teddy-bear:
A prayer stool of all things
Awaiting collection by the Council
On a shiny Saturday morning.
Its comical incongruity beckoned
And we found ourselves, my son and I,
Lugging it home.

What bruised hopes
Or fervent yearnings
Line the creases and hollows
Of its faded blue knee rest?
I hear the whispered recitations,
The click of beads
And the crack of ancient joints
Unbending, unending
Heads bowed, in supplication,
Or shame perhaps, or renunciation
At the high scream of innocence
Cracking and shattering
Its falling shards unveiled,
Debated and dissected on national television.

In an altered atmosphere
Bishops are paraded like common criminals,
And a Cardinal is discreetly dismissed
From Rome’s inner sanctum,
Falling like a puppet felled
By a rising tide of revelations
As the unmentionable becomes commonplace
And the Commission turns Inquisition
Dishing out indictments and condemnations
And no absolution.

Is this, then, the seat of intercession
And forgiveness?
Or is it rage, or horror, or something else
That flung this wooden frame
Out into a suburban street
Discarded, dilapidated
And a challenge to us all?

Highly commended in Scribes Writers ‘Poetic Licence’ Poetry Competition (free verse), 9 August 2019