The Empty Pulpit

Since Vatican II, the number of Catholic priests has declined
by more than half.
—Malachi Martin

He’d always wanted to remain a priest.
Contingencies of life restrained that dream,
Especially his strong desire for joys
The hierarchy felt should be constrained
Toward hallelujahs chanted underneath the gaze

Of God.  It wasn’t odd that he’d not spent his days
Refuting these old men.  Instead he’d trained
To practice first the law, and then the noise
One makes to run for office.  “Rising cream
Is how I saw myself, not collared beast

“Required to postulate a theory least
Appropriate for living.”  He did seem
Sincere and passionate, an equipoise
Developed just before he first campaigned
(Ignored by voters with experience nowadays).

His poor initial polls suggested one who prays
For what he cannot win, a posture strained
Of facts.  Of course it’s tears that one deploys
As ordinance for the victory.  The scheme
Succeeded later.  God, not praised, was pleased

Perhaps, that would-be servants loved the smell
Of sulphur more than heaven’s perfumed dell.
When one escapes the single clap of Zen
One may begin to fear Ms. Magdalene.



Arthur Mortensen of Brooklyn has appeared in many journals and has three collections: A Disciple After the Fact, a novel in verse (Kaba Press); Life in the Theater, sequel, and Why Hamlet Waited So Long (San Sebastian Press). Upcoming is After the Crash, currently in submission. He has been editor & publisher of Somers Rocks Press, Pivot Press, and is Webmaster of