Carolyn O’Connell

Feasts of Peace & War

Spare with years his familiar figure was known
by all, comforting as morning coffee in the café
his smile sweet and welcome as a Tart Tatin
he was known by everyone, beloved as the bells
that rang to summon them to the church they’d
entered since childhood. He’d consoled in times
of sorrow, shared wine in joy, and kept secrets.

Beyond years when many had retired to enjoy
the fruits of lives he’d continued a sweet ministry
tending the community, visiting the sick, teaching
children, consoling troubled, burying the dead
and every morning ringing the bell to call
the faithful to daily prayers beneath the steeple.

One August morning as sun stirred every window
scent of croissants, coffee mingled with geraniums
he stood before the early worshippers as he’d done
for many years, intoning the familiar peaceful prayers,
two teenagers burst in armed with hate and knives
bundled the old man to his knees and slit his throat.

They had heard the horned voice of hate snarling
from the pit, twisting theology to its service, preying
on the young to serve up feasts of war and death
to be consumed in banquets where demons dance
celebrating souls falling to their cause as Fr. Jacques
looks down from Paradise on weeping St. Étienne-Rouen.

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