“A Grand Procession in Baltimore,” poem by Day Williams

Ratifying the Constitution did
Inspire a Grand Procession in the Honor of
Ratification, “The most interesting
Scene,” wrote the Journal, “in this world’s part ever
Exhibited,” for every Citizen
Who wished to live beneath a Government
Capable to protect his person and
His property, united with the Farmers,
The Merchants and Mechanics, to create
This morning scene at nine: Three thousand people
Gathered on Philpot’s Hill, directed by
Plunket and Moore, both captains: Seven guns
From Major Smith’s and Captain Furnival’s
Park of Artillery, to which Huzzahs
(Three in all) signaled the Procession had
Begun, and the whole line moved to Fells’-Point
And from there through the Town’s main Streets amidst
The Acclamations of a Number of
Spectators (“a prodigious number”) to
Federal-Hill, where they were greeted by
A Seven-Gun Salute, and they partook
Of Entertainment brought forth for the Purpose.

They sat down at a Table (circular,
Three thousand and six hundred feet, with Standards
And the Devices of their Orders, which
Were flown as usual and showed the Town
And shipping in the Harbour what looked like
A brilliant camp, and the Repast was set
Out gracefully, with local food alone.

With Mr. Peters’ first-rate Ale, they closed
With Thirteen Toasts and were accompanied
By Thirteen federal discharges. Toasts
Were to the People’s Majesty, the late
Convention, Congress, Seven States which had
Adopted the Federal Constitution,
A speedy Ratification by those
Remaining six, without Amendments, to
George Washington (Toast number six), to His
Most Christian Majesty and other Allies,
The Maryland Convention’s virtuous
Sixty-three, and Toast number nine was to
The Agriculture, Manufactories
And Commerce of America, while ten:
The Memory of those who had
Fallen while in America’s defense.
Number eleven: Massachusetts’ worthy
Minority; that in each Quarter of
The Globe the flag of America be
Respected, and as Number Thirteen Toast:
Continuance of unanimity
Among inhabitants of Baltimore-
Town; and, the Business of the Day complete,
The different classes of the Citizens
Returned in separate Divisions to
Their proper Stations and continued their
Celebrations in many rational
And lofty Pleasures ‘til each heart was full.

~Day Williams

See “A Grand Procession in Baltimore from the Debate on the Constitution,” Part 2, The Library of America, compiled by Bernard Bail

(Unlike some citizens today, the citizens in Baltimore were overjoyed to have a Constitution.)

SECOND KINGS CHAPTER NINE

SECOND KINGS CHAPTER NINE

1 Prophet Elisha called a man out from

The company of  prophets and told him,

This: “Tuck your cloak into your belt, and take

This flask of olive oil with you and go

To Ramoth Gilead. 2 When you arrive,

Find the son of Jehoshaphat, the son

Of Nimshi, namely, Jehu. Go to him,

Get him away from his companions and

Take him inside an inner room, 3 then take

The flask and pour the oil upon his head

And say, ‘The LORD says: “I anoint you king

Of Israel.”‘ Then open up the door

And run; do not delay!” 4 So the young prophet

Went up to Ramoth Gilead. 5 When he

Arrived, he found the army officers

Sitting together. “I have brought a message

For you, commander,” he said. “For which one

Of us?” asked Jehu. He replied, “For you,

Commander.” 6 Jehu got up and went in

The house. The prophet poured the oil upon

The head of Jehu and declared, “The LORD,

The God of Israel, says: ‘I anoint

You king of the LORD’s people Israel.

7 You shall destroy the house of Ahab your

Own master, and I will avenge the blood

Of prophets, my own servants, and the blood

Of the LORD’s servants shed by Jezebel.

8 The entire house of Ahab will collapse.

I will cut off from Ahab each last male

In Israel: The slaves and freemen. 9 I

Will make the house of Ahab like the house

Of Jeroboam son of Nebat, like

The house of Baasha, Ahijah’s son,

10 And as for Jezebel, the dogs will lick

Her bones upon the plot of ground at Jezreel,

And nobody will bury her,'” then he

Opened the door and ran; 11 when Jehu went

Out to his fellow officers, one asked

Jehu, “Are you all right? Why did this nut

Come in to you?” “You know the man, the sort

Of things he says,” said Jehu. 12 “That’s not true!”

They said. “Tell us,” and Jehu said, “Here’s what

He said: ‘The LORD says: “I anoint you king

Of Israel.”‘” 13 They quickly took their cloaks

And spread them under him on the bare steps.

They blew the trumpet then and shouted, “Jehu

Is king!” 14 So the son of Jehoshaphat,

The son of Nimshi, Jehu, did conspire

Towards Joram. (Joram and all Israel

Had been defending Ramoth Gilead

From Hazael the king of Aram, 15 but

King Joram had come back to Jezreel to

Recover from the wounds the Arameans

Had given him in battle with Hazael

The king of Aram.) Jehu said, “If you

Desire to make me king, do not permit

Anybody to slip out of the city

To go and tell the news in Jezreel,” 16 then

He mounted his own chariot and rode

To Jezreel, for there Joram rested and

Ahaziah the king of Judah had

Gone down to see him; 17 when the lookout standing

On Jezreel’s tower saw Jehu’s troops approach,

He called, “Some troops are coming.” “Get a horseman,”

Joram commanded. “Send him out to meet

Them and ask, ‘Do you come in peace?'”

  18 The horseman

Rode to meet Jehu and he said, “The king

Says: ‘Do you come in peace?'” “What do you have

To do with peace?” said Jehu. “Fall in line

Behind me,” and the lookout notified

The town, “The messenger has reached them, but

He isn’t coming back,” 19 and so the king

Sent out a second horseman. When he came

To them he said, “The king says: ‘Do you come

In peace?'” And Jehu said, “What do you have

To do with peace? Fall in behind me,” 20 and

The lookout called, “He’s reached them, but he’s not

Returning either, and the driving is

Like that of Jehu, Nimshi’s son’ and he

Drives like a nut.” 21 “Hitch up my chariot,”

Joram commanded, and when it was hitched

Up, Joram king of Israel and Judah’s

King Ahaziah rode out, each in his

Own chariot, to meet with Jehu. They

Met him right at the plot of ground that Naboth 

The Jezreelite had owned; 22 when Joram saw

Jehu he asked him, “Have you come in peace,

Jehu?” And Jehu answered, “How can there

Be peace,” said Jehu, “while idolatry

And witchcraft of your mother Jezebel

Abound?” 23 And Joram turned about and fled

And called out, “Ahaziah, treachery!”

24 Then Jehu drew his bow and he shot Joram

Between the shoulders, and the arrow pierced

His heart—he slumped down in his chariot;

25 To Bidkar, officer of chariots,

Jehu said, “Pick him up and throw him on

The field the Jezreelite named Naboth owned.

Recall how you and I did ride together

In chariots behind his father Ahab

When the LORD spoke this prophecy against

Him: 26 ‘Yesterday I saw the blood of Naboth

And his sons’ blood, declares the LORD, and I

Will surely make you pay for it upon

This plot of ground, declares the LORD.’ Now then,

Go pick him up and throw him on that plot,

According to the word of God.” 27 Now when

Ahaziah the king of Judah saw

What had occurred, he fled along the road

Up to Beth Haggan; Jehu chased him, shouting,

“Kill him too!” And they wounded him inside

His chariot along the way to Gur

 Near Ibleam, but he escaped and fled

To Megiddo, where he died. 28 Servants took

Him to Jerusalem by chariot 

 And buried him with his own ancestors

Inside his tomb in David’s City. 29 (Now in year

Eleven of the son of Ahab, Joram,

Ahaziah became the king of Judah.)

30 Then Jehu went to Jezreel. Jezebel

Heard of it and put on eye makeup, and

 Arranged her hair and looked out of a window.

31 As Jehu came in through the gate, she asked,

“You Zimri, you murderer of your master,  

Have you come here in peace?” 32 He looked up at

The window and called, “Who’s on my side? Who?”

Two or three eunuchs looked down at him. 33 Jehu

  Said, “Throw her down!” They threw her down, and some

Of her blood spattered on the wall and horses

As they did trample her beneath their hooves.

            34 Jehu went in and ate and drank. “Take care

Of that bedeviled woman,” he said, “and

Go bury her, for she was a king’s daughter,”

            35 But when they went to bury her, they found

Nothing except her skull, her feet and hands.

36 They went back and told Jehu, who said, “Through

            Tishbite Elijah, God’s own servant, God

Spoke this word: On the plot of ground at Jezreel

The dogs will eat the flesh of Jezebel.

            37 Jezebel’s body will become like dung

On ground in Jezreel’s plot, so none who dwell

In this place can say, ‘This is Jezebel.’”

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) by Day Williams

CATHERINE OF SIENA

(1347-1380)

 

A person who believes that Jesus Christ

Is Lord and Savior of the World is called

A saint through faith, the substance of the things

 

Hoped for, the evidence of things not seen;

And in the Catholic Church some souls are known

As saints and doctors by the grace of God.

 

The blessed Catherine of Siena, born

A twin upon Annunciation Day,

The last of thirteen children who survived,

 

Professed her love for God through holiness

When wars and plagues had shaken faith and hope

In city-states of Tuscany where walls

 

Protected citizens from outside harm.

Her father’s trade was dyeing wool; his wife,

Madonna Lapa, ruled the family.

 

This daughter destined to direct the Popes,

Young Caterina Benincasa, taught

Herself to say the Angelus at five,

 

And knelt upon the steps of stairs at home

To say an Ave Maria, step by step.

When she was six years old, she looked across

 

Valle Piatta to the abbey church

Of San Domenico; above its roof

She saw the Savior of the World, who sat

 

In bishop’s robes upon a royal throne,

The treble Papal crown upon His head.

Beside the Lord were Peter, Paul and John,

 

And Jesus raised His hand and blessed the girl,

Who stood enraptured while the love of God

Abounded in her soul, a cup that gushed.

 

Her brother called to her; she did not move.

He had to take her arm to make her wake

As though from sleep, transformed forevermore.

 

She swam beneath the water in the sea

Of love, and vowed when seven she would be

The bride of Christ, and of no other man,

 

A virgin pure in body and in soul.

In times alone with God she learned to build

An inner cell within her soul which she

 

Would never leave, despite temptation’s pull

And the entreaties from her family,

Who wanted to arrange a groom for her.

 

Forced to divulge her vow of chastity,

She told her parents that her will was fixed:

“It would be easier to melt a stone

 

Than tear this resolution from my heart.

I must obey the Lord before all men;

My Bridegroom is so rich that He will give

 

Me all I need, if you should throw me out.”

The twelve-year-old prevailed; no more would they

Attempt to wed her to a mortal man,

 

Although she lived beneath her parents’ roof

Another seven years, her room a cell

Beside the landing, ten by sixteen feet.

 

O Catherine, if I had one-tenth your zeal,

What miracles could God perform through me,

What battles could He win for souls of men!

 

The revelation of the Trinity

Was hers through meditation, solitude,

And the denial of her self:  three times

 

A day she scourged her body with a chain

Of iron: once for her own sins, once more

For sins of every living soul, and once

 

For souls in purgatory, giving Christ,

Her Lord and Savior, blood for blood, ‘til blood

Ran down her shoulders in her sacred cell.

 

Within her parents’ house where she would sleep

For half an hour on every other day

On planks of wood when she was not in prayer.

 

The holy teen’s devout desire to join

An order of St. Dominic was quenched

At last when she received the robe and veil,

 

In white to symbolize her purity,

And the black cape, in black as sign of death

Unto this world and of humility.

 

Eternal blessedness is knowing God,

God as He is; thus she renounced the world,

That which is vanishing, for unity

 

With Him who suffered on the cross of love.

She gave belongings to the poor, and cared

For sickest of the sick in darkest hours,

 

Even when stinking wounds made others leave,

And patients shouted blasphemies at her.

Companions said that when she prayed, she rose

 

Above the floor so high that one could place

A hand between the woman and the floor;

When she received the Body of the Lord,

 

She would withdraw in ecstasy, as stiff

And as insensible as Lazarus

Four days inside the cave before the Lord

 

Commanded him to rise and leave the tomb.

When Catherine’s soul was lifted to commune

With Love Incarnate, she could not perceive

 

A needle in her foot, and passersby

Who doubted her sincerity would kick

The girl who lay insensate in the street.

 

At twenty-two she ate no solid food,

And for long times the Eucharist alone

Provided nourishment for her who drank,

 

In mystic flights, from Jesus’ wounded side.

Christ let her see His secrets, and equipped

Her with the gifts of grace to call her forth,

 

His weapon in the battle for men’s souls.

One story of a multitude is all

I have the space to tell of how she saved

 

The souls of men through visions and her prayers.

One winter day two wagons took two men,

Condemned to suffer torture and then death,

 

Around the town as executioners

Used red-hot tongs to tear and burn their flesh.

The robbers, chained to stakes, reviled the Lord

 

As townsmen shook and shuddered in alarm;

But Catherine of Siena, who had seen

The wagons pass, retired to beg in prayer

 

For Christ to save the wretches’ souls, as He

Had saved the robber crucified by Him.

The wagons drove up to a city gate,

 

The Porta della Giustitia,

And there beneath the arch stood Christ, who wore

A crown of thorns and bled from head to toe.

 

Caught up in Spirit, Catherine saw the Lord;

The robbers saw Him too, and when He saw

Their eyes and hearts, defiance broke in them.

 

These highwaymen called for a priest, confessed

Their sins, sang hymns, and met their deaths content.

The very moment that they died redeemed,

 

The praying virgin woke from ecstasy,

For love of God and mankind for His sake

Was all the mystic knew worth living for.

 

The exile of the Popes to Avignon

(Franciscans called it Babylonia,

And hung their harps on poplars as they wept)

Disrupted Rome, corrupted faith, and left

Believers rudderless and insecure.

The Roman churches lay in ruins, priests

 

Had morals of degenerates, and law

Was lost as factions fought and clutched for power.

God sent as punishment the plague, Black Death,

 

Which killed one-half of Europe’s populace.

In thirteen-fifty St. Birgitta, a seer

From Sweden, heard the call to cleanse the Church.

 

She went to Rome and urged the Pope to leave

His capital in Avignon, lest he

Should suffer wrath from God–but he refused.

 

As John the Baptist heralded the work

And ministry of Christ, Birgitta ran

Before the mystic saint who wrought success,

 

The Pope’s return to Rome from Avignon,

For Catherine told Pope Gregory that he

Had made a vow when Cardinal to move

 

To Rome if ever he became the Pope,

A vow which he had never told a soul.

At thirty-three, the age her Bridegroom died,

 

Suffering, paralyzed below the waist,

As she lay on her bed of wooden boards,

The purest dove accused herself of sins,

 

And cried aloud, “My honor! Never! Praise

And honor to Christ crucified alone!”

In April thirteen-eighty Catherine gave

 

Her spirit to the Father’s hands.

In spring a million buds appear on trees;

In winter snowflakes fall from clouds, each one

 

Unique in pattern, each a gift to earth,

And as each bud and snowflake offers gifts

That come from it alone, so every child

 

Who’s born again of God, among the millions, bears

And offers special gifts, the gifts of grace

And mercy to the Lord and humankind.

 

This daughter of a wealthy family

Used special gifts to lead and move the Popes

And men of lower rank to follow God.

 

Greater than special gifts that Catherine had

Through her ascetic life and ministry

Was intimacy she possessed with Christ;

 

She loved the Lord with heart and soul and strength,

And fixed her eyes on Jesus’ wounds; she knew

None are redeemed without the blood of Christ.

 

She served her Bridegroom, clove right by His side,

Surrendered self with zeal, and gave up pride

As she renounced the world to be His bride.

~Day Williams

From Virginia Street and Other Poems

and Three Saints, Two Villains

“Detective Sonnets” by Day Williams

Detective Sonnets

Sonnet 13

“The thirteenth floor? Most hotels don’t have one,”
Said Sargent Saturday. “The balcony–
What was she doing there at two a.m.?”

“The brand new husband says she couldn’t sleep.
Says he had no idea why she leaped.”

“She is–was–a Carducci? I know them.
Good folks. The old man won the lottery.
His wife died and he put a loaded gun–”

“I know the rest,” Detective Rogers said.
“They found his brains all over Noland’s farm.”

“That leaves one heir, with three Carduccis dead.”

“He can’t explain the scratches on his arm,
Torn shirt and pants, or why his head has bumps.”

“Honeymoon’s over. Go pick up the chump.”

Sonnet 14

“Fourteen stab wounds and he claimed self-defense?”
“A cornered man will make a wild excuse.”
“Does he think cops are ignorant and dense?”
“That I won’t answer. He has been abused.”
“A deadbeat. He was behind ten months’ rents.”
“But how much must a two-bit loser lose?
He said that he was thrown against a fence.”
“You won’t know left from right, drink that much booze.”
“Detective says he has another lead.”
“I can’t believe they haven’t closed the case.”
“The obvious can cover something new.”
“The wounds don’t match his knife. Who did the deed?”
“They caught a kid downtown, the Bloody Ace.
His knife matched.”
“Things people say and do.”

Sonnet 22 (1 of 2)

The Palace’s detective followed me
Into the bathroom. The corpse was sprawled,
Elbows akimbo. Now my wife was free
To strum a harp in clouds, for God had called

Her home, but the detective could not see
His way to let me go. He stammered, stalked
And stood above my wife, her dignity
In death of no concern to him. He balked

When I suggested that the coroner
Could check for anything on her amiss.
“You can’t explain the bruise upon her skull,”

He said. “Your alibi is like a burr
That scratches. It don’t check out. I insist
You come with me.” I swung, my anger full.

Sonnet 23 (2 of 2)

Blood sprayed the mirror like Pollock’s paint.
I kneed his crotch, he went down, I took
His gun and pointed it. The man looked faint.
“She’s happy now, in heaven like a saint.
I wouldn’t go to church with her. Her Book,
The only book she read, told her to look
To Jesus for deliverance. No taint
On her. She’ll find a smarmy cozy nook
And she’ll be happy evermore.” “What for?
He asked me, as his pistol grazed his chin.
“You’ll never get away–” I slammed his head
Against a pipe, and he was out. I’ll soar
On wings for my good deed. I made her win
Escape from sin. She can’t sin, for she’s dead.

Sonnet 87

I’m in the kitchen with Detective Joe
Who wants a statement from my brother’s mate,
But she won’t talk to him or me no more.
“Why?” Joe asks me. “Because she tempted Fate.

He slit her throat, that’s why.” The apple core
He held, he turned and threw beside the gate.
“Can’t no one tell me nothin’? I am sore!”
“How do you think she felt? It’s gettin’ late.

Why don’t you take your copmobile and slide
On out of here?” “I’ll have to take him in.”
“I am my brother’s keeper,” I remarked.

Rain falls for forty days. The flood is wide.
Water rising–I’m drowning in my sin.
My brother smiles and steps inside his ark.

~Day Williams

The Land of Never

The Land of Never

Have you ever been so clever 
You visited the Land of Never? 
“Never will I eat the foods that make me fat, 
Never will I say those awful words 
Like Heckedy Schmekedy drat,” 
Or in a moment of practiced pique 
When your bottom’s fallen in the creek: 
“Never ever will I do that again, 
No horse could drag me through that glen,” 
Or when your friend and you 
have a falling out,             
A spat where you cross your arms and shout, 
“That’s it, never will I be your friend! 
Never! Never! Never! The End!” . . . 
But 
 it’s not the end, 
  now is it? 
You’ll eat the pie despite the pounds and zits, 
You’ll say some awful things 
Because they have a righteous ring, 
You’ll take that trip to somewhere far away, 
Smiling as you wipe off spray, 
You’ll call your friends 
And make amends, 
You’ll say, “Did I say ‛Never’”? 
For me that’s far too clever. 
Let’s take a walk 
Around the block, 
Pluck a dandelion on the fly, 
Pick out Orion in the sky. 
Whatever we may endeavor 
Let’s steer clear 
Of the Land of Never.” 
 ~Day Williams

December 7: Dominion

Dominion

God said to fill the earth and take dominion
Over it, so men harnessed nature’s laws
With floating farms and coffee-powered cars,
The hoverboards and mines on asteroids,

Easy tattoo removal from the skin,
Transhuman tech, space kites, robots that draw,
Weather control and terraforming Mars,
Dyson spheres, penicillin, cyborgs, androids:

Man takes dominion over every breath,
Advances medicine to fight death’s grin,
Strengthens the people, healthier each day;
But no device can soften man’s hard heart.

Man can extend a life but can’t crush death
To bits, because no tool can wipe out sin,
As only Jesus’ blood takes sin away:
Man’s saved when he submits to God’s great art.
~Day Williams