A Leper on Molokai, 1880

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.

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

John F. Kennedy’s austere brand of patriotism still shines.
John J. ConleySeptember 19, 2017
Pope Francis greets people as he arrives to visit the Shrine of St. Peter Claver in Cartagena, Colombia, on Sept. 10. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
A Colombian Jesuit reflects on the visit of Pope Francis to his country.
Esteban Morales Herrera, SJSeptember 19, 2017
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., left, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., right, talk while walking to a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington in July. Senate Republicans are planning a final, uphill push to erase President Barack Obama's health care law. But Democrats and their allies are going all-out to stop the drive. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
“The health of the American people is incredibly important...you just don’t railroad something through, something you’ve just whipped together in the last couple of weeks.”
Kevin ClarkeSeptember 19, 2017
The absurdity of "BoJack Horseman" offers an unrelenting, often devastating look into our own humanity.
Eve TushnetSeptember 19, 2017