Sunday, August 19, 2012


New York – A naked man, carrying red carnations,
ran into St. Patrick’s Cathedral…
He killed one man and injured a police officer
before being shot to death…
                                    --from a news story

We might imagine him
straight-edging his wrists
or plunging from bridge to water,
a .22 ricocheting off the back of his skull
or his feet dangling above the oakwood floor.
Instead, he chose absolution
by way of another form of suicide.

He took off his clothes
at 51st Street and 5th Avenue,
then he entered the Manhattan shrine
where the air charged with incense.
The votive candles flickered yellowish-orange,
and the inscrutable, soft murmurings
of prayer rose above the front pews.

The parishioners gasped
when the iron-prayer bookstand
crushed down upon the usher’s back,
as he believed he was Christ
purging his temple from sinners
while chanting dark monologues
to exorcise demons.

He discarded his life on the streets
because he wanted to find something
more impossible: testimony, refuge, or God.
He was gunned down in the middle aisle
of St. Patrick’s Cathedral among the flowers 
and the faithful. A gush of blood
stained the floor at the altar.

“Sanctuary” was originally published in Ariel.

1 comment:

  1. Neil Simon was prone to severe anxiety attacks - especially on airplanes. The first behavior of these attacks for many people is the sense of being constrained or suffocated by their surroundings and clothing. They loosen and pull at their clothing at first. The severity of the attacks leads to stripping off the clothing. In the naked stage, full blown hallucinations follow. The worst time for his was as he left a hospital immediately after his wife died. Police captured him, and doctors sedated him. He was sent home after family members were called. This was about 1/3 of the way through his career.
    Jonathan Winters had a full blown attack as well - after several other lesser attacks had caused some media attention. His wife signed him into a sanitarium. Upon his release, he played in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World which boosted his career which would continue for many years.
    In Florida several people have been shot and killed within the last few years during one of these easily recognized seizures. Not even arrested - simply killed like sick animals. One middle aged woman in Orlando was tackled by a guard, pinned down and shot in the back of the head; the hired guard who killed her claimed he thought he drew his tazer instead of his gun.

    Neil Simon and Jonathan Winters are part of our past. The anonymous naked man gunned down in the sanctuary of a cathedral is our present. The killers aren't even prosecuted. Why bother?
    Pensions? Health care? Teachers? Middle class? Why are these no longer treated fairly? Too bad the naked guy died. He probably knew the answer.

    - Ken