by Czeslaw Milosz
in Selected and Last Poems
Come, Holy Spirit,
bending or not bending the grasses,
appearing or not above our heads in a tongue of flame,
at hay harvest or when they plough in the orchards or when snow
covers crippled firs in the Sierra Nevada.
I am only a man: I need visible signs.
I tire easily, building the stairway of abstraction.
Many a time I asked, you know it well, that the statue in church
lifts its hand, only once, just once, for me.
But I understand that signs must be human,
therefore call one man, anywhere on earth,
not me—after all I have some decency—
and allow me, when I look at him, to marvel at you.
Excerpt from Whitsunday in Kirchstetten
by W.H. Auden
in Collected Poems
. . . In the onion-tower overhead
bells clash at the Elevation, calling
on Austria to change: whether the world has improved
is doubtful, but we believe it could
and the Divine Tiberius didn’t. Rejoice, the bells
cry to me. Blake’s Old Nobodaddy
in his astronomic telescopic heaven,
the Big White Christian upstairs is dead,
and won’t come hazing us no more, nor bless our bombs:
no more need sons of the menalty,
divining their future from plum-stones, count aloud
Army, Navy, Law, Church, nor a Prince
say who is papabile. (The Ape of the Living God
knows how to stage a funeral, though,
as penitents like it: Babel, like Sodom, still
has plenty to offer, though of course it draws
a better sort of crowd.) Rejoice: we who were born
congenitally deaf are able
to listen now to rank outsiders. The Holy Ghost
does not abhor a golfer’s jargon,
a Lower Austrian accent, the cadences even
of my own little anglo-american
musico-literary set (though difficult,
saints at least may think in algebra
without sin): but no sacred nonsense can stand Him.
Our magic syllables melt away,
our tribal formulae are laid bare: since this morning
it is with a vocabulary
made wholesomely profane, open in lexicons
to our foes to translate, that we endeavor
each in his idiom to express the true magnalia
which need no hallowing from us . . .
Excerpt from Possible Answers to Prayer
by Scott Cairns
in Slow Pilgrim
. . . Your repentance—all but obscured beneath
a burgeoning, yellow fog of frankly more
conspicuous resentment—is sufficient.
Your intermittent concern for the sick,
the suffering, the needy poor is sometimes
recognizable to me, if not to them.
Your angers, your zeal, your lipsmackingly
righteous indignation toward the many
whose habits and sympathies offend you—
these must burn away before you’ll apprehend
how near I am, with what fervor I adore
precisely these, the several who rouse your passions.
You might also want to take a look at my TOP10 list of living religious poets.