The Autistic Altar Boy

catholic poetry room

This week’s poem in the Catholic Poetry Room is by Jeffrey Essmann.                                                                                               


The Autistic Altar Boy

Sometimes he wanders ‘bout the altar, strays;
(but don’t we) (just like him) (but don’t we all)
sometimes between the priest and table (stall
and wonder) and he wonders, “Should I pray?”
For just a moment word and world dissolve
and he is (aren’t we all) cast blindly to
the empty arms of grace and all askew
he hovers without intent or resolve.
But lest I turn the boy to metaphor
entirely, a specter on the spec-
trum (aren’t we), holy (all just) wreck-
age broken on a godly shore,
let me recall his presence and his calm
when side by side we softly sing the psalm.


Jeffrey Essmann’s poetry has appeared in America Magazine, Dappled Things, St. Austin Review, The Road Not Taken, and in various venues of the Benedictine monastery with which he is an oblate.

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About the Author

Tim Bete, ICL Poetry Curator To submit poetry to be considered for the Catholic Poetry Room, visit our submission guidelines page or CatholicPoetry.org.


Tim Bete is Poetry Editor for IntegratedCatholicLife.org and always searching for the best Catholic poetry from today's poets as well as those of the past.

Tim's poetry has appeared in Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry, The Asketerion, and the Poet and Contemplative Blog of the Discalced Carmelite Friars (Province of St. Therese). His first book of poetry is The Raw Stillness of Heaven, of which one reviewer wrote, “If you are Catholic and think that you do not like poetry, this book will change your mind.”

Tim is former director of the national writers' workshop at the University of Dayton—a Catholic, Marianist university. He's a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS) and often trades poems with his oldest daughter, who is a Dominican Sister. He says she's the best writer in the family.

Tim's writing has also appeared in several editions of the Amazing Grace anthology series (Ascension Press), theChristian Science Monitor, Writer's Digest magazine, and numerous parenting magazines. His latest book is Wanderings of an Ordinary Pilgrim

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