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The Death of the Servant of the Lamb:
Holy Prophet Philip Berrigan

A small mammal still
feeding from her Mother,
still at her side…
Jonah House in a
sea of tombs.
Exquisitely battered Victorian
gravestones and monuments rock
on the waves like buoys-
you visit and in turn,
they visit you.
Sometimes we think we are
drowning in death but
the Cornerstone and Lighthouse
draws all creatures to Himself,
the Sacred Heart of Jesus
out there,
Morning and Evening

Inside the infant whale lies
the Prophet waiting for
Sister Death who
with infinite tenderness
allows each of his earthly
loves and followers to come kiss
his hands or forehead,
our tears and tears and tears
on his pillow, on his
glorious hand-made
patchwork quilt.

At exactly 9:30 pm
(because even the clock moaned)
on the feast of
St. Nicholas the Wonderworker,
She came at last …
("and how do you like your
blue-eyed boy Sister Death?")
Amy and Dennis were the only ones
inside the room with him.
She who virtually alone
brings Truth to the air waves,
she the voice in our vast and
violent wilderness,
was given the honor of announcing
his death.
Steve read aloud the
Canticle of Simeon…
"Lord, now let your servant
depart in peace…"
and then
"…there was silence in
heaven about the space of
half and hour."
and then
the Lamb received His
Prophet and Lover
Faithful and True.

The Cardinal said the Prophet
could be outside in
the Irish Sea with the others,
and he said that's the least
we can do
for Philip Berrigan.
In the tender creature's belly
I could paint something
onto the wooden boat
Jerry was building
for his father's ride.
I could paint words from
the Lamb's hillside-sermon
with a twenty-one flower salute,
red and yellow roses,
and an afterthought…
forget-me-nots too.
I could also cry some,
protected by Susan and Becky and Phil,
in the privacy that the
gave me,
over and over I listened to
Dar's haunting "February" and,
stark Advent music.

On the First feast of
The Hermit of the Mother of God,
St. Juan Diego,
the funeral began with an
avenue of mourners
of every stripe.
Sonorous bagpipe led the
procession of pennants and songs
and sobs.
Inside Phil's Church of
St. Peter Claver (whose blood n' pus n'
urine stained cloak once gave off
nothing but perfume)
John, Dan, Frida, Kate
all found words-in-haiku
to touch his life and work,
and then the Supper of the
Lamb followed,
reminding us
that that
Second Death
is our motto and mantra
and land's end.

We buried him
after sunset in the
frozen sea.
You could see
the skeletons rising and
taking flesh just as
Holy Prophet Ezekiel
had been commanded,
had been promised.
Elizabeth was held
by friends,
she who already holds too much
of the world's suffering…
still more, more was asked.
Jerry and Carol held
one another
as always
as ever,
the beauty of their love,
we never tell them but
we never stop
I could read some flames
from Scripture
of the Early Prophets.
I could stumble in
a threnody.
Knights of the Lamb's Table
held fiery torches as
tall as a man.
We let fall our
dirt and roses onto his
Flower Boat.
We followed it with our eyes full,
into the womb of the sea
of caskets.

And then
"…there was silence
in heaven about the space
of half an hour."

William Hart McNichols
Epiphany 2003