Home >> Volume 1, Issue 01


Darius Lecesne

(Palm Sunday 1919)

 “Located on the site of an old farm, the grounds covered two hundred
acres. Tall pines sheltered the tiny campus and perfumed the air with
their clean fragrance . . . the school consisted of a few simple structures,
the most impressive of which was the chapel, and a small monastery to
house the monks who taught the hundred or so students.”

—Laurence Bergreen, James Agee:  A Life

Its roof a polite Florentine red,
Skirted in stucco, ivyed and Norman,
The Cumberland daybreak jars the chapel’s quiet tread
Of English probity among the tangled pines,
And icy waterholes like white saharas
Cloud the dirt walks while the patient Angelus
Chases the artful sparrows into hogback arcs,
And reverberates along the poplar and spruce crowded gorges.

The farmer said he knew livestock like cornbread,
And yet couldn’t believe the mule lived
With his four legs “burned clean and pink”
When the horses choked and died, flailing
And hollering like cats in a water barrel.
“No sir,” the farmer said, “this here mule
Is special, your horse is too much like an angel,
But this critter showed he could walk on death
And keep his nerve, the goddamn sire of none.”

The boy, barely ten, can see the unusual mule
Tied, and salved shiny in the sunlight,
His singed mane and tail still roached for the harness,
With laid back ears, more dunce than heretic.
“What you say, farmer John, can I ride
That mule?  And my momma don’t have to know.”
“Boy, they’ll be no riding till all that hurt hide’s
Well, but you might could pet him,
And ask him out of what kind of barrenness the heart grows.”

Palm Sunday is a yellow exhalation of forsythia,
And the dappled rind of sunlight cast upon the ice beaten earth.
The boy, lately out of the green Mass which points to death,
Searches for the shade tree where the heroic beguiles
The regnant notion that pretty is the form of our benediction.
And there he finds farmer John, shod for meeting,
His hands slick with the copper hued ointment,
“Boy, so you come to ask him about carrying glory,
Ain’t you?” “No,” he answers, “I came to see if he had a cross
On his legs like Father says the ass has on his back.”
“Well, I’ve heard it now, what you mean boy?”

“But hold on,” he says waving his arms, “them flies black the hurt
Thick like the devil’s lies, that’s why he can’t stamp good,”
And tears start in the boy:  “I mean if God marks things for Himself
That’s hurt, that’s all,” The old man’s hard forehead line retreats,
And the crackling voice spills like the April-shaking pine’s chant:
“Son you’re right, I believe He does, and that it’s
That he can be sorry for this here burned up barren mule,
And me and you the same time is that reason for the
Cross you’re looking for marking things you touch and see.”

“Only remember, boy, when you touch the mule’s face,
Put your hands up high, and always go as far up as his eyes.”
And the boy is left alone in the shade of a sign that recalls
How heavy and awful is nature’s dereliction,
Like a man in death, arms cracking and breaking
Under the weight of an obstinate sterility,
And the delicate forlornness of a fatherless child.