Mea Maxima Culpa


This week’s poem in the Catholic Poetry Room is by Fred Gallagher.                                                                                                                    

Mea Maxima Culpa

From time to time tragedies reappear
in imaginative relief. The face of my
shame has aged. Terror has whiskers,
loathing bad teeth. After the first wreck,
for years, I heard her say my name,
as when she awakened on the hundredth
day, with a child’s tongue, impeded.
After the second, for years, in dreams,
I sat on a grave on a hill in Burlington,
in the mist at dusk wondering how her
face might’ve aged, and I looked back like
an old man whose days were numbered.

And now, from time to time, I still
hear my name or see a static portrait,
a face in perfect preserve, laughing
with her head back. And the force of
all I did settles in on words and lines
and breath, in on joints and heart and
syllabic bone, scars in the mirror more
a part of who I am. And the only saving
grace in the lifelong pain I inflicted, in
the fiery memories, is the notion that
somewhere hidden, perhaps in all
our souls, lives a long and alluring
saga of sacred mercy and hope.


Fred Gallagher is an editor with Good Will Publishers, the parent company of TAN Books/Saint Benedict Press. He has authored three books on bereavement, three children’s books and published poetry in college journals. As he continues to write poetry, his focus more and more has turned to poems with specifically Catholic references, themes, and questions.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Essmann, ICL Poetry Curator To submit poetry to be considered for the Catholic Poetry Room, visit our submission guidelines page.


Jeffrey Essmann 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.

Jeffrey is an essayist and poet living in New York. His work has appeared in numerous magazines and literary journals, among them America Magazine, Dappled Things, the St. Austin Review and The Road Not Taken. He is a Benedictine oblate of Mt. Saviour Monastery.

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