Brick wall scripture

By Patrick T. Reardon

Read the brick wall scripture.

Fingertip the prophecy braille.

Shakespeare wrote a Bible of plays.

Macbeth’s sin (3 Samuel).

Lear’s rage against the pain (Job).

Iago, more evil than Judas.


Will wrote no Christ.

At the ward yard,

city-blue trucks write psalmist lines in rock salt,

sing solemnities of garbage, asphalt, rat poison,

tree removal, votes street-line paint

and precinct-captain doorbell-ringing.

Every winged thing, every scarred thing.

The Dollar Menu prayer at McDonald’s.

I liturgy my morning.

I plainsong thin, sharp arthritis lines

I confess my Babylon river.

Every cackling thing, every thing that chirps,

every sick thing.

The 5th Station of the Mall:

LensCrafters, Marshall’s, Lids,

a kind of Aramaic.

The Cyrene has a return to make.

Her votives were always sputtering.

She holied dark,

fearing sin upon her sundress.

Litany the street grid:

Granville, Thome, Rosemont, Devon,

four horsemen,

pray for us.

Study expressway chapter and verse,

splotch oil stains, thrum of tires —

Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Parable new-mown embankment

where, before the dug road, my father first breathed.

The branches, chain-sawsed,

fed into chipper,

spewed into truck bed.

Sectioned trunk, chippered.

Root system, ripped out and chippered.

Parkway hole, filled

with mild dirt and

the last of the jagged chips.

The gardener rectangles the site with bricks,

plastic chairs, flower pots

and, on stained-glass mornings, herself.

Let fall angel leaf.

Let snow cover congregation.

Let waters of baptism pound down,

curb rush,

sewer mouth swirl

to sacramental filtration.

Every stolid thing, every tall thing,

every thing close to the earth, every fragile thing.

A tender shoot from concrete, tall weed,

tight with yellow blossoms tense to transfiguration.

He prayed to Our Lady of the Crosswalk

that he would not stray.

He learned that lesson.

He learned the run of soccer.

He sought to fill gaps in the formula

but never whitened himself enough sin wash.

Every thing nocturnal.  Every hunting thing.

Every nest-building thing. Every thing giving up the ghost.

Mayor the registered communicants.

Mayor sacristan commissioners.

Mayor theologians.

Mayor ex cathedra.

Mayor the College of the City Council.

Western Avenue, patron of neighborhoods,

pray for us.

Leamington Avenue,

pray for us.

West End Avenue, summer sun street,

and grimy Cicero Avenue,

Broadway, Paulina Street, Southwest Highway,

pray for us.

79th, 111th, 35th and all consecrated number streets,

pray for us.

Count steps to no purpose.

Plot black gun lines,

a chart from the Garden to the Second Coming

of the pigeon

to apple ooze pie tin,

iridescent neck sheen peck.

Every horned thing.  Every thing with fangs.

Every sly thing.

Every thing in fear.  Every striding thing.

Everything that soars and plummets.

I pew.

I paten.

I incense coal.

I sacrament the el.

Every rotting thing. Every rutting thing.

Every thing carrying its young in a pouch.

Every roaring thing.

One more station

on his numbered steps

to the hill

with no Veronica here on Devon. 

She’s taking her own walk.

Street the cherubim.

Street the urchin.

Street the demon-filled hogs racing off Navy Pier.

Street the corner leper selling Streetwise,

the jewelry hawker, the Uber driver, the addled tourist, the opera bus station, the velvet rat

down Old Testament alley,

along Edenic walls.

She takes my words weapons.

She steels her steel.

She declares me sick son.

She cries anger tears to my father

who takes his police gun and shoots me.

Breaking news.

Every unknown thing.  Every stunned thing.

Every thing that lives on the fluids of another.

Every poisonous thing.  Every thing with a shell.

Prostrate yourself face-down

on the sanctified skin of cement sidewalk,

arms above your head in obeisance.

Every thing ordained.  Every grit thing.

Every thing that holds its breath waiting.

Every thing that feels blessed pain.

Every marred thing.

Every thing born immaculate.

Patrick T. Reardon


This poem was originally published on The Write Launch on 9.1.19.

Written by : Patrick T. Reardon

For more than three decades Patrick T. Reardon was an urban affairs writer, a feature writer, a columnist, and an editor for the Chicago Tribune. In 2000 he was one of a team of 50 staff members who won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. Now a freelance writer and poet, he has contributed chapters to several books and is the author of Faith Stripped to Its Essence. His website is

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