W. F. Lantry




The shadows of a pillared colonnade
structure our steps, as bells call us to prayer.
The chapel’s quiet, now its simple panes
admit the early light. Practiced refrains,
responses to the psalm, fill fragrant air.
Our lilies, harvested just yesterday,

begin to flag and fade. The whole array
must be renewed each morning, as our words
renew the Mysteries. We recompose
in song their meaning: Pomegranate, Rose,
put forth their blossoms daily, and those birds
sing prayers of praise: so we, who reconvene

with each new daylight, praise what can’t be seen
but only felt, as if the waterfalls
outside us are within, as if a case,
locked, holds a jewel, and the interlace
pattern of grapevine metalwork recalls
our own work in the vineyard, as we twine

the canes around themselves, so that the vine
may bear the sweetest fruit. Imagine then
the whole untwined, unknotted, to reveal
that gem within, which, fully known, could heal
our every wound, and bring us comfort when
even our choired voices start to fade.

Gathering Flowers

Our paradise may be a garden where
our souls, like butterflies, move from one bloom
onto the next, delighting in the grace
that gives so many blossoms to one place
in such variety, their rich perfume
lifting our wings to constant, grateful praise,

but here, in this small garden, where the rays
of sun mix with the earth to nurture roots,
we cultivate the altar blossoms, prune
and stake desired sprays: rough stems are hewn
back to their base, and any wayward shoots
are bound with twine to reinvigorate

blossom and base. We, gardening, translate
nature into displays you won’t recall
after the Mass. Imagine galleries
of art you’ve seen, each object made to please
both eye and soul, harmonious, and all
most carefully arranged, yet when you leave

no blossom stays in mind. We may perceive
remembrance of emotions we had known,
but not the petals, delicate and veined,
each raised by skill and labor, each stem trained
and coaxed from earth, sunlight, water and stone,
until they’re brought in for our morning prayer.


We’re told the signs of mysteries are spread
around us, and if only we had eyes
we’d see them everywhere. So we must teach
our minds to touch what had been out of reach
yet present: we must learn the small disguise
which keeps them hidden while our vision’s sealed.

Imagine, then, a winged seed from some field
outside these walls, carried by light winds past
the orchard boughs heavy with fruit, above
the streambed, through our vineyard, where the dove
rests at midday. The seed settles at last
within this herb bed, sprouts, and sends down roots.

And I, unknowing, have cut down such shoots
a hundred times, thinking them weeds. Today
I pause a moment, looking closer, shake
the dust away, and with my fingers, break
a rough stalk off, whose mottled green and gray
intrigues my sight, and hesitating, taste

a small leaf this first time. Confused, but braced
for anything, I sense its sweetness flow
across my lips, which seem wounded and cured
within a single moment, as one word
escapes my mouth, and I begin to know
the meaning of those passages I’d read.


Outside this room an unseen nightingale,
whose song is living flame, whose breathing seems
to harmonize with heartbeats as I read,
continues as these quiet hours cede
all motion to the endless, flowing streams
within our courtyard, echoing along

the unifying motion of his song.
Almost as if his breath in mine transforms,
through melliferous notes, the rhythm of
my slow breathing, almost as if the dove
descending lightly in this dark informs,
through curving flight, the framework of the scene

outside with just the flicker of a wing,
just so, the nightingale’s song imparts
a hint of grace to all those who may hear,
across this shortest darkness of the year,
waters of union swelling empty hearts
who drink as long as that voice sings the slow

continuance of movements: waters flow
just like that song within us. We have found,
in lamplit shadows, luminescent rays
that spark even the waters into blaze,
uniting earth and air in one sweet sound
as if lit stairs informed his unseen scale.

Waking Dream

Beyond our understanding, candlelight
illuminates a scapular received
from her own hand, as symbol. And it’s said
she came to a young man as sickness spread
and told him suffering would be relieved:
they found her statue hidden in the bark.

And some have said that there exists a dark
cavern close by a distant gorge, where stone
has taken on her image. Others tell
of tilma where her image still is well
preserved, miraculous, by means unknown.
I do not know. Her hand is everywhere,

and always she is calling for our prayer.
And so, this scapular, worn fast, reminds
even in this near darkness that my hands
must count the beads as one of her commands,
even in this small candlelight that blinds
my half closed eyes. Awake, resisting sleep,

that I may finish climbing up this steep
hillside, which others climbed to see her face,
and even for a moment hear her words
within the voices of the wheeling birds,
who clamor all together of the grace
they felt when gathered near her in their flight.

© 2011 W. F. Lantry


W.F. Lantry, a native of San Diego, received his Licence and Maîtrise from L’Université de Nice, M.A. in English from Boston University, and PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. In 2010 he won the Lindberg Foundation International Poetry for Peace Prize (in Israel), Crucible Poetry Prize, CutBank Patricia Goedicke Prize and the Birmingham-Southern College National Hackney Literary Award in Poetry. His work has appeared in Prairie Fire, Asian Cha, James Dickey Review, Kestrel and Aesthetica. His chapbook, The Language of Birds, is available from Finishing Line Press. He currently works in Washington, DC and is a contributing editor of Umbrella Journal.