Angela O
November 16, 1989
El Salvador

The pandy bat, the swift soutane,
the fierce eyes that tempt the boy to pride.
Ordinal in their ranks and rows,
the God-squad, heaven’s Special Forces.
Trampling Christ’s face before the smiling Inoue
in sacrifice of soul for tortured peasants.
So brave, so fired by God’s love,
the Iroquois ate de Brébeuf’s martyred heart.

A mighty story, terrible and true
beginning with Ignatius’ shattered bones,
grace exploding from a French cannon,
unfolding with the cold steel of dawn
against the necks of five prostrate priests,
the bodies of an old schoolmaster,
a housekeeper and her terrified child.

Ignatius imprisoned in the picture,
the caves of Manresa behind his eyes,
forever doomed to write his holy book,
right hand brandishing the endless pen,
his sword long left behind at Montserrat.


Angela O’Donnell teaches English and American literature at Loyola College in Baltimore, Md. Her poems have appeared in Hawai’i Pacific Review, Runes, Studio, Windhover and Xavier Review.

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