Father John Clermont’s Hands

By on Sep 12, 2011 in Poetry

Father John Clermont's Hands graphic


His hoary hands hang like fish.
Unexpressed, they fall from his wrists
like lake pike caught and up strung
with lidless staring eyes aft hung.

Unaware with his lifeless extremities, of
the shook light bursting by degrees of
epidermal hemorrhage of bright and shine
squinting through pores and life lines;   

A miasmal kaleidoscope of forgotten tales;
of hands healing and soothing others’ travails;
of Christ’s use of John’s hands to bless God’s folk;
raised a thousand times to lighten their yoke.

His hands, swollen with years and a bit stiff with age,
still remember the bishop’s chrism which bathed
palms and a young man’s inchoate dreams of
open hands for all the gain his Lord might deem.


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Robert Phelps is a 72-year-old Franciscan priest. He's been writing poetry for 30 years. He has spent almost 40 years as a missionary priest to the Territory of Guam and the state of Hawaii. Currently, he's a parish priest on the southern shore of another island, Long Island, New York. He's had poetry published in several journals, both in the U.S. and in Britain, such as The Evansville Review, Nassau Review, Penwood Review, Cairn, Ruah, The Guild, A New Song, Falling Star, Bound, Concrete Wolf, Jubilation, and from the U.K., Jones AV. He has also had some great opportunities to study under some really good poets, such as Susan Schultz at the University of Hawaii. Reading poetry and writing provides him with right-brain experiences that are a welcome counterpoint to his pastoral life and work.