Prison Chaplain

By Timothy Murphy b. 1951 Timothy Murphy

For Stuart Longtin

Heavy and gray now, dressed in deacon’s robes—
I see you in your Speedo at Floyd Lake,
its nylon clinging to those golden globes
you exercised for Moorhead football’s sake.

We hiked the Black Trail to Itasca Park,
but now I see a deacon hard at work
explicating the Gospel of St. Mark,
our high school quarterback become a clerk—

in the high sense. A boy with such good looks,
you could have run to Hollywood and whored
but turned to mastery of sacred books
and the manly mimesis of our Lord.

Lifesaver, that was your job at Wilderness,
teaching tenderfoot farm boys how to swim.
Soulsaver, I would call you now and bless
any man who preaches Saint Mark to Tim.

We take our coffee outside for the view,
patrol the walk-about with twelve-foot mesh
where drunks can smoke. What has become of Stu?
The Word. Not on the page but in the flesh.

                                                      Prairie St. John’s Hospital

Source: Poetry (January 2010).

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This poem originally appeared in the January 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

January 2010

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