On the Razor’s Edge

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Photo: Brian Federle
“Despair is the absolute extreme of self-love.”
― Thomas Merton

Gazing into bright desert space
we see endless highways, distant
mountains we never reach,
sharp hills, steep cliffs
receding
as we move closer,

closer,
to the pacing sun,
creasing dark canyons,
casting amber light
into the gauzy sky —

yet our dark dreams trouble
the faint stars; the reeling planets
throw wide nets over
our haunted, lost souls

when, morning at last,
we begin again,
pursuing the tumbling edge
of this turning globe

believing that
it will never end, will never
end,
will never
end.

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Intricate Psalms

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Photo: Brian Federle, Sun in Clouds, Hawaii 2016

Clearing the tallest
eve of the big house,
the sun overwhelms.

Then the mockingbird chants
intricate psalms —

All praise to the
lord of the sky

and with glory
fill the land!

Eucharist

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Caravaggio,Supper at Emmaus 
National Gallery, London

 

Walking through the dusty grove
we talked of death and empty graves
when a stranger suddenly appeared.

He walked with us and asked why we trembled so.
Amazed that he seemed not to know
of the blood and pain in Jerusalem,
we told him
how dark the day became, how the sun slid down
to shivering night
when, broken, our friend was placed in the cave.

Rebuking us for our lack of faith,
he explained how it was all foretold in the ancient books;
from Adam to David, the inevitable grave
insatiably claims
corrupt humanity

until now.

We heard, eyes cast down,
when at Emmaus he broke
our common bread

and looking up, we saw Him.

His face was blazing like the sun!
We blinked, and then he was gone,

but the bread remained.

 

Suisun Spring

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Photo: Brian Federle, “Camping” 3-25-2008

 

the green glow
of our cottonwoods
newly clothed in the gentle April sun ….

our apple tree,
still skeletal,
intimating cotton buds
promising green glory to come,

and the grass!
all winter-yellow evaporated,
shouting like a
third-grade leprechaun
skipping across the playground
in the school’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

but most unforeseen,
along the rough fence
the vinca
blazing with royal light
in the deep, verdant shade
of our cottonwoods.

(12 April 2010)

At the Death of a Young Girl

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“We cannot find Him unless we know we need Him.” Thomas Merton

I see its raw fury clawing at her hands,
Kissing her sallow face with lies so perfect on silk pillows,
Concealing raw, gaping wounds inside, the insult
The harsh silence, the enforced peace.
I have seen all this before, this beast, this darkness, this indifference
To waves of anguish washing through the room
As her mother weeps, and her father strokes
Her dark, perfect hair.
I see her, and
I know.

But what am I to say to their terror? These children
Look at me, questioning … after all,
I am their teacher…
But why did she die?, well, asthma… breath denied… but why?

I know this insistent knot, this question piercing my gut,
And I want to hide in silence, but questions will not be denied,
And I know their questions, all of them…
So what am I to say to calm their red, flowing eyes,
These, my poor, dark flowers, piercing me with their tears?

Faith.
Yes, read the book to them…Lazarus found out… faith…
Promises were made, now to be made good.
Yes, faith… what else is there but
Faith?
And so we say the rosary,
And we go on.

(12/15/2012)

At Caritas

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I gaze
through the undergrowth
into deeper woods.

Redwoods rise,
limbs link tree
to brother tree,
climbing high
to the bright
coastal fog.

Walking out
I see the three,
still as lawn ornaments,
frozen in motion,
stunned
by my sudden form.

They stand and gaze
and reassured
by my stasis,

at last with lazy gait
back they move
into the nodding
trees.

(3 May 2016)

Abscissa of the Soul

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Photo by Brian Federle: Seagull, New Brighton Beach, 2009

“Once we enter again into contact with our own deepest self, with an ordinate self-love that is inseparable from the love of God and of His truth, we discover that all good develops from within us, growing up from the hidden depths of our being according to the concrete and existential norms laid down by the Spirit Who is given us from God. “  Thomas Merton, The New Man

Go beyond
the surface
of things,
deeper
than thin soil
fecund
in the rain,
but dried to dust
by the summer wind.

Dive head first
into the darkness;
have faith
that someone
will catch you,
that you will
spash into
a warm sea,
that a strong hand
will reach out
and save
your life.

If you wait
for proof
you will find only
a solid stone
at your core.

Death
is like that…
facts dash
your brains,
bring you
to the edge
of nothing.

But faith
will lift you
beyond
your limitations,
will bear you up
on golden wings,
make of you
the Royal Ordinate
of time and space
and you will dance
to the music
of the spheres,
as without fear
you reach out
to your Beloved,
the Abscissa
of the soul.

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Author’s Note: In mathematics, ordinate refers to that element of an ordered pair which is plotted on the vertical axis of a two-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system, as opposed to the abscissa.  on a graph, the “x” coordinate rises or falls on the vertical line, but never moves forward. Alone, it is doomed to fail, to fall to its eventual death because things that do not move forward always die. But with its abscissa, it has forward movement… purpose… life… and can continue to soar into the ether. I am not good at math but quite good at seeing things.