. A Ballade on Being Commissioned Twixt Florence and the Holy See Of every artist you could hire You thought it meet to torture me. You gave no weight to my desire But quick to wield the Church’s ire Commissioned me to paint for you And mount a scaffold ever higher. A blight, this work you’ve had me do! Sienna, ochre, ebony... Such hues as masters might admire Combined with lush solemnity Show prophets under Heaven’s gyre. What humble skills I could acquire Show Genesis from every view For all who visit, Pope to friar. Behold this work you’ve had me do! At times I’ve been your enemy Yet still did all that you require. Where once was plaster now you see A biblical, angelic choir, Like psalms drawn with a paintbrush lyre--- Old Scriptures now revealed as new! A few strokes more, then I retire From all this work you’ve had me do. But it is God, not me, whose fire Reveals Man’s birth with spirit true! What He hath wrought let men inspire! Lord, bless this work You’ve had me do. . . On Integrity a Spenserian sonnet Integrity, like courage, soars above The mottled landscape---city, forest, farm. It feels but will not bow to hate or love Nor genuflect to weariness or harm. It neither sings nor shouts, but ever calm, Speaks out objectively, disdaining fear. Denouncing lies, it raises the alarm On those who seek to obfuscate what’s clear. Integrity flies high yet hovers near In what we see and know, all that is right. It scorns to offer honey to the ear But to the eye brings sharp, unblinking light. It dares us to display a spine of steel And honor truth---no matter how we feel. . . San Juan Capistrano An earthquake-ravaged church, its silent apse Rubbed blank by time, a bleached and fleshless skull; Raw brick replaces icons; nothing traps The ocean wind nor guards the roofless hull And crumbling deck of what was once alive. Yet Mission bells cast echoes on the walls; Not all is dead! they ring. The swallows dive And glide, sea-weary pilgrims. Something calls To them come home, come home, you should have stayed! They journey here each year. None will say why. The breeze through ruins breathes be not afraid, But join in worship underneath our sky! Before dawn’s light the swallows may be gone. O, let us join their vespers on the lawn! . Poet’s note: The famous swallows of Capistrano make the 6,000 mile journey from Argentina each year and arrive at the Southern California mission on March 19th, St. Joseph’s Feast Day. . . Brian Yapko is a lawyer who also writes poetry. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.