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Paul Mariani poem: ‘Pieta'

‘Pietà”

New Year’s Eve, a party at my brother’s.

Hats, favors, the whole shebang, as we waited

for one world to die into another.

And still it took three martinis before

she could bring herself to say it. How

the body of her grown son lay alone there

in the ward, just skin & bone, the nurses

masked & huddled in the doorway, afraid

to cross over into a world no one seemed

to understand. This was a dozen years ago,

you have to understand, before the thing

her boy had had become a household word.

Consider Martha. Consider Lazarus four days gone.

If only you’d been here, she says, if only

you’d been here. And no one now to comfort her,

no one except this priest, she says, an old

friend who’d stood beside them through the dark

night of it all, a bull-like man, skin black

as the black he wore, the only one who seemed

willing to walk across death’s threshold into

that room. And now, she says, when the death

was over, to see him lift her son, light as a baby

with the changes death had wrought, and cradle him

like that, then sing him on his way, a cross

between a lullaby & blues, mmm hmmm, while

the nurses, still not understanding what they saw,

stayed outside and watched them from the door.

— PAUL MARIANI

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Poets of Franklin County: A moment of grace

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

In the mid-1980s, Turners Falls poet and devout Catholic Paul Mariani went every Sunday to nursing homes in Greenfield, bringing communion to elderly patients unable to attend church. Bringing communion to the elderly was one of many acts of service Mariani chose to partake in over the years. One Sunday, as he entered one of the nursing homes, Mariani saw … 0

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