Benedict Sows Habeas Corpus by Ralph Adamo

Ralph Adamo's books inlcude Waterblind: New & Selected Poems (2002). Hanoi Rose (1989), The End of the World (1979) and Sadness at the Private University (1977). He teaches at Xavier University in New Orleans.

Benedict Sows Habeas Corpus

       an occasional poem


Which Pope was it gave us the half-being of Limbo?
Couldn't reconcile mercy with consigning the innocent
to hell for an omission without guilt,
some softy Pope, medieval do-gooder, worried
about his own afterlife, must've come up with
Limbo: where you go if you are innocent minus
the baptismal ticket, to wait for God to --
was it: end the world? freeing by that act
those held without a human trial,
what a long time to pay --
till the end of the world!
(by which surely they meant the end of time,
our own milieu, not counting stars, the balance
of accountable gases, our specialty)-
for something you never did, or had done to you.
The classic example spun by nuns in my time
being the poor sod born aboriginal anywhere
no missionary'd planted the cross, dead
before a single evil deed and yet, well,
not heavenly stuff, going off to wait.
In Limbo. Which meant waiting.
Which still does through the degradation
of metaphor: I am you are he she it they are in
were in will be in Limbo and Limbo is no line,
or was none, was located, a place you could
get used to, a place where, waiting, you knew
you were waiting (but for what, did the cloud
crowd know that? were they still in the fifty
thousandth year to heaven averted babies,
or by then very old guys with beards that tickled
the scalps of the faithful on chapel steps,
or women, childless elderly girl children pissed to tears...)
oh, lets see them as babies, abandoned, yes,
but blessedly without a sense of time, not left
to cry behind the doors of a place the Trentians -
softened perhaps by Dante? -- called forth
for the salvation of their markedly sensitive souls.
Now, the doors of Limbo flung open by a Pope
speaking mercy, his language inlaid with slabs
of irony pondered over time, that Pope saying no,

the babies are welcome to heaven if that is
where they wish to go, wished in their ancient
murders and succumbings to have gone
all along, to join the faithful there and sing
praise of He who made them, freed from the word
that whispered wait, there, forever, which is
only a short while in the refinements of this space,
where your grand languor was imaginary,
a crepuscular limb. O. Wait no longer, go.