Joseph A Brown, sj — wrote this poem for the ordination to priesthood of Joshua Peters S.J.

Monday, June 22 – Joseph A. Brown, S.J. written for a Jesuit soul friend Joshua Peters, celebrating Joshua’s ordination as a priest on June 20 of this year.

And Here I Stand on Fire

“two women wiped my face
held my hands and stood
with me”

Joseph Brown wrote a poem for me in May 1970 to commemorate my ordination as a priest on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation.  As long ago as that was, I still carry the poem with me – “Note to a Priest.”  50 years later, Joseph wrote another young Jesuit a poem for his ordination this past Saturday.  It means a lot to me that I have a place in this long tradition of strong, serious poems about a moment of commitment taken with uncertainty about one’s future as it begins.

Best to read these two poems slowly, with pauses.  Perhaps slowly enough to imagine the 50 years that connect these two gifts from a first rate poet, Joseph Brown.

Have a blest week,


john sj


Post #1 – And Here I Stand on Fire (June 20, 2020)

“As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian,

who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him,

they made him carry it behind Jesus.” (Luke 23:26)


Oh  I know  the story

that somehow  I was seized by the soldiers

to walk

behind him

the burden of the day

heavier by far

than a single bar of wood


But  I know

how I fell out

into the road

as they pulled him along


My breath caught my throat   constricted

water streaming down my face

Oh  I know


He stumbled   he shook

he groaned

and I looked into his bloody eyes


They never seized me

He did


I grabbed the wood

I could not lift him

from the dirt   I could not leave

I could only see his back   his legs



When the stumbling stopped

the beasts

pushed me back  into the crowd

two women wiped my face

held my hands   and stood

with me

until the silence and the dark descended



They brought me to the hall


Men I did not know made me bathe

drink  what little wine they could spare


It was not sleep

it was a falling into nothing

I could dream



Days and nights made

no difference



Please let me cry this  to you


Again the air grew warm

we all grabbed each other and leaned

into fear

the door   disappeared

and I saw

His eyes

his eyes

as steady as a fisher’s net

pulled me to him

Again I fell

and never broke the stare


hand upon my head

please let me


His hand

and I said



And here I stand

on fire with his eyes

his hand

upon me still


for the Ordination of Joshua Peters, SJ
20 June 2020

— Luke


Post #2 – Note to a Priest (May 25, 1970)

this is not an easy age to handle mystery and myth

it is a time of disposable gods and quickly fashioned

signs and wonders

we have been brave enough to bury demons or burn them

or lock them into the dark places where they are not


and soon even dead bones will rise without a secret

magic or a silent oath


if you choose to walk among us and allow the smell

of blood to feed your prophecies and move you to

forgiveness your vision is suspect to madness and

we will turn away


we say this   we have no need of you  we are content

with our earth and our air and whatever gives us life

this has been decided


and yet there is something in us that our courage will

not redeem

we have not outlived icarus and still fear the dark places


if you will stand there and point out the sun we may

come and follow you.


luke  1970

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