By Marilyn Nelson Waniek

Abba Jacob said:
Did I ever tell you about the time
I was asked to bless the fishing boats?
I got to the appointed beach at the appointed time,
in my long white tunic, of course, and discovered
the beach had been taken over by a crowd
of Italian tourists, most of them women, and topless.
Luckily--or unluckily for me,
considering the circumstances--they were all
beautiful. One or two of them...
Well, what could I do?
I just walked through them.
They parted before me
like the waves of the Red Sea, silent
and watching. It was almost all I could do
to keep a straight face
and look straight ahead.
I thought such a fancy-dressed audience
deserved a grand gesture,
so I walked right in, shoes and all,
to my chest in the sea.
Inwardly bursting with laughter,
I stroked the nearest prow
and blessed the boats
with the sign of the Cross.
Then I turned and blessed the beach.
I didn't laugh until I got home.
They're probably still
talking about it.


By Marilyn Nelson Waniek

Somewhere in France a vacation album
holds a snapshot of, you guessed it, Abba Jacob,
sitting on the lawn after eight o'clock mass.
White cassock and green stole, he leaned forward,
head bowed, hearing a child's first confession.
On her eight braids eight white ribbons;
small hands clasped on her white chiffon lap.
A nest of quiet, a white pool of stillness
her brown face, his loving listening. Behind them
sky, sea, three sailboats.

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