People in Church

People in Church

Penned between
oaken pews,

in corners of the church which their breath stinkingly warms,

all their eyes on the chancel dripping with gold,

and
the choir with its twenty pairs of jaws bawling pious hymns;

Sniffing the odour of wax if it were the odour of bread,

happy, ad humbled like beaten dogs,

the Poor offer up to God, the Lord and Master,

their ridiculous stubborn oremuses.

For the women it is very pleasant to wear the benches smooth;

after the six black days on which God has made them suffer.

They nurse, swaddled in strange-looking shawls,

creatures like children who weep as if they would die.

Their unwashed breasts hanging out, these eaters of soup,

with a prayer in their eyes, but never praying,

watch a group of hoydens wickedly

showing off with hats all out of shape.

Outside is the cold, and hunger – and a man on the booze.

All right. There’s another hour to go; afterwards, nameless ills! –

Meanwhile all around an assortment of old

dewlapped women whimpers, snuffles, and whispers:

These are distracted persons and the epileptics from whom,

yesterday, you turned away at street crossings;

there too are the blind who are led by a dog into courtyards,

poring their noses into old-fashioned missals. –

And all of them, dribbling a stupid groveling faith,

recite their unending complaint to Jesus who is dreaming up there,

yellow from the livid stained glass window,

far above thin rascals and wicked potbellies,

far from the smell of meat and mouldy fabric,

and the exhausted somber farce of repulsive gestures –

and as the prayer flowers in choice expressions,

and the mysteries take on more emphatic tones, from the aisles,

where the sun is dying, trite folds of silk and green smiles,

the ladies of the better quarters of the town – oh Jesus! –

the sufferers from complaints of the liver,

make their long yellow fingers kiss the holy water in the stoups.

1871

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