surgical mass

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quiet hovers in this sacred place

the last vestiges of uncleanliness

scoured away

this morning before dawn


a priestess enters unspeaking

spreads the utensils of the first sacrament

with practiced ease

across the twice blessed stand

saving for last

three basins of consecrated water


a second priestess enters


and sets about preparing the altar

draping it in layers of holy cloth

reverent attention

to every folded corner


a heavy door groans open

as cardinal and claustral converge

hands raised in traditional deference

to those who sanctified them

for this work


in a flurry of activity

they are robed head to toe

in heavenly blue

every element of the common world

covered against the chance

that some small sin

may yet cling to them

and falling unchecked

defile the offering


the sacramental emblem arrives

prepared and positioned



with an upward glance

at the clock high on the wall

the priest grips his blade

brow wrinkled in concentration

nine o’clock he incants

midline incision

xyphoid to umbilicus


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About the Poet

j.lewis is a poet, musician, and Nurse Practitioner. His poetry and music reflect the difficulty and joy of human interactions, and often draw inspiration from his decades of experience in healthcare. When he is not writing, composing, or diagnosing, he is often on a kayak, exploring and photographing the waterways near his home.

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