The National Catholic Review
Joseph Soldati

To the Father and to the sea
I confess my gross being,
embrace with withered arms
our rank God
here at Kalaupapa.

My eyes dull moons,
I know the sun by its smell.
More corrupt than Lazarus
I live this death before death,
live the reciprocity of flesh.

The death of our death stuns even the sky,
wailing birds reel in the unclean air.
The cemetery at Kalawa’o
vomits our pitted bones,
and the blind sun stares.

Kalaupapa is an open tomb—
three walls of water, one of rock.
When Lazarus died, Jesus wept.
With corrupt voices we sang
Mozart. The bishop wept.

Joseph Soldati, of Portland, Ore., has published numerous poems and essays, most recently in New Millennium Writings. (Note: Under the direction of Father Joseph Damien de Veuster, the patients sang a Mozart Mass for the visiting b

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