‘Church of the Immaculate Conception’ by Tom Sexton

Church of the Immaculate Conception


Because the massive side door is slightly

ajar at 6 a.m., I decide to pay a visit,

to inhabit my past. Inside it could be night.

Old women kneeling. Perfume thick as mist.

To my surprise the man with the purple-red

stain on half his face, a birthmark or a wound

from his war, is still sitting alone at the end

of a pew, a man who disappeared as soon

as Mass was over, barely pausing to bend

one knee, his close-cropped hair now snow.

Penance is the only coin that’s never spent.

He could be only a shadow or even a ghost.

I genuflect. Touch the pew. Turn around to go.

Unclench my fist. Drop a few coins in the box.


—Tom Sexton (c) 2012, from Bridge Street at Dusk

Tom’s book may be ordered at www.loompress.com

web photo courtesy of jenandtommy.com

4 Responses to ‘Church of the Immaculate Conception’ by Tom Sexton

  1. Daniel Patrick Murphy says:

    Tom, here’s one from across the Concord where it’s difficult to “Drop a few coins in the box.”

    In Sunshine and In Shadows

    In lost shadows of Saint Peter’s Church,
    A boy kneels, a voice fills his silence.
    In stillness and gold, she arrives
    Through shimmering candles.
    Green, white, and orange shadows
    Presses her cool hand to the nape of his neck.
    He is frozen by her low sound
    Hovering on his childhood shoulders.
    She murmurs her familiar harmony.
    O Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling…

    As she bends to kiss him,
    Candlelight wavers in the darkness.
    Her hand touches his cheek,
    And he feels sad and strange,
    Listening to the hours’ calling,
    Watching her fade into moments
    Of gilded hues, a drowning orange sky,
    A window of green and white surfaces.
    A familiar tune leaves only
    A relic to kindle the darkness.

    –Daniel Patrick Murphy

  2. Tom Sexton says:


    A wonderful poem; if I ever get back to Lowell, I’d enjoy having a cup of coffee with you.
    We’ve probably met, but my memory isn’t that good. We can watch the Concord flowing.

    My” Lowell” poems well seems to be dry, so it’s up to you


  3. Daniel Patrick Murphy says:


    I would love to re-connect with you and have “a cup of coffee with you.” We met when we were in our late teens. There are several people we know in common on both sides of the river. Here’s a wee taste of Lowell I’m sure you recall. She was from your side of the Concord. I look forward to watching “the Concord flowing” with you–a great substitute for Wallace Steven’s ‘a walk around the lake.’

    The Cat Lady

    Hilda steps out
    Carrying her cage,
    Heads of cats inside.
    On sunny days

    Her skinny legs flake dirt.
    She’s an underfed alley cat,
    Mangiest that strays,
    Staring through cakey slits.

    On rainy days
    Her bony legs,
    With murky rills trickling down,
    Cross downtown sidewalks

    And along famine-filled canals.
    She’s shuffling silently along—
    A feline song sung
    In her own demented time.

    A singular pallbearer,
    She carries her box
    Of cat-heads
    With cutting, clawing eyes.

    –Daniel Patrick Murphy