A Birthday Gift St. Pio’s Novena

When I turned seven,
My mother made me wear
A red terno dress,
Yes, it’s that national costume
With a low neckline
And butterfly sleeves.
“Let me comb your hair,”
With loving hands, she said.
Then a photographer came
The only man in town
Who owned a camera.
And my father coaxed me,
Happily, proudly,
“One two three, smile!”
Women were busy
In the kitchen
Mincing garlic
Slicing onions
Cooking up menudo
And chicken adobo
And other dishes I didn’t know.
Men were busy cooking lechón,
Yes, it’s that pork dish
That’s like a barbecue
A humongous one, I tell you!
A whole pig is roasted
Until its skin turns red-orange
And crisp and crunchy.
How do they do it?
Youtube’s got a video.

When I turned sixty-two
I woke up at dawn
With aching joints,
But I was able
To get out of bed
On my own.
When I looked out my door
The morning star was there
In the horizon
As it always is.
“Thank you, Lord,
For heaven and earth.”
I put on a lavender t-shirt
It’s a new one my sister
Gave me the day before.
I walked up the stony
Country road
Illumined by a flashlight
My brother gave me
The year before.
I was going to catch
The 5:30 morning mass
But the church was closed
The gates were chained
And padlocked.
“There’s an open door
I told myself.
To a nearby city
I went and caught
A 6:00 a.m. mass.
Church was old and small
A crucifix hung
In the middle of the altar
An image of Our Lady
Sat silently on the right.
Evergreen wreaths
with pink poinsettias
Adorned the walls
Charming and simple
Warm and amiable.
On an empty pew
I sat down and saw
A half-sheet of A4 paper
Tucked in a corner
“A desperate soul’s
Plea for divine help,”
I noted with empathy.
The Gospel told of the leper
Who threw himself
On the ground
And cried out,
“Lord, if you want to,
You can make me clean.”
Jesus stretched out His hand,
Touched the leper, and said,
“Yes, I want to. Be clean.”
The leper locked out of heaven
Became a child of God again.
When Mass was ended,
I was surprised
Everyone picked up
The half-sheet of A4 paper
And recited fervently
St. Pio’s efficacious novena.
“O my Jesus… Behold,
I knock, I seek, I ask for grace…”

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