Memorial

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Summer

 
He worked nights, leaving as we climbed
the tall narrow staircase to our shared room,
up into the summer heat, the steel fan
in the hallway window
pulling cool, leafy breezes
from our waving trees.

We heard the kitchen screen-door
slap shut, the Pontiac roaring to life,
and watched as slowly he backed down
the dark driveway, and was gone.

And gladly we glided through misty dreams,
flying over tree-tops, baseball games
and cool swimming pools,

when finally the robin’s enthusiasm
and the fresh morning sun
flashing through green leaves
woke us as we heard the car stop
and Dad call cheerfully, “I’m home!”

The air already scented with bacon and coffee,
we flew down the groaning stairs,
two steps at a bound,
and eagerly started another golden
summer’s day.

 

Winter

 
One winter day I did something wrong, and
he got angry and drew his worn leather belt
From the loops of his grey, stained work trousers
To teach me a lesson.
Terrified, I ran upstairs to the big closet
and trembled behind coats and sweaters,
as heavily he came up the steps,
righteous anger ringing in his voice,
tears flowing down my cheeks;

when my big brother, teenage and strong,
called defiance to him and drew him down
into the back yard to fight him
and save me, angered by his

memory of so many other beatings,

determined to stop it now!

But facing his own father

he could not fight back, and

weeping, I watched my dad
pummel my brother’s defenseless face,
far worse than any beating
I would have gotten.

From kitchen window,
I screamed to them both
to stop!

That was when my father saw,
in the kitchen window’s glare
his own father’s angry eyes,
and felt his father’s fists

landing hard on his own face,
and he stopped and

embraced my brother.
 

 

Spring  
Seven years after my father died
my first child, my son, was born in spring,
and in the gleaming, sterile room
I first held him in my arms
as, with his impossibly wide, blue eyes
he calmy gazed right into my raw soul,
and I felt in a sudden rush of warmth,
a timeless love
and at last discovered
the reason for my life.

It was then
I understood my father.

In my son’s face I saw my own
and felt my father’s eyes gazing
in warm wonder on me
and I glowed with
unconditional love for my son.

(30 Jan 2011/11-2017)

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Miserere

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i
In October
golden days suddenly fly
as unexpected,
brutal
nights arise.

ii
You died last spring
when love seemed
to promise life
never ending.

iii
Thirty-one years before,
when I first held you,
your bright eyes
gazed on me
with wonder,
my son —
my love at first sight!

iv
But the cruelty of March
surpasses even winter’s rage.

I prayed for God’s mercy
On that bright, green day.
but bereft in my soul,
only bitter darkness
remains.

Alone

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Alone
on this 4th of July morning;
the sounds of sleep,
peace surrounds me.

Birds call, content
in the gentle, warm wind
of this summer day
dedicated to remembrance.

I can see you now
when I close my eyes.

I took you to the parade!

You were just two then,
clasping my hand
as the big firetrucks rolled by!

Amazed, smiling, happy.

Perhaps later today
I’ll find some flowers
red, and white, and blue
to cover your marker

to make you smile
and take my hand.

Transition

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The generals line-up, war-plans
in withered hands, ready to strike
the children.

But do not fear this transition!
For above the black clouds, know that He lingers,
Ready to strike!

Then will the blind see and the deaf hear.
Then will we leap for joy
As the mute break forth
In song!

Isaiah 35: 1-6A – 10.

(10 Dec 2016)

Lament for the Children of Syria

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“We must begin by frankly admitting that the first place in which to go looking for the world is not outside us but in ourselves. We are the world.” Thomas Merton

I do not seek you
where the children peer
into the burning night;

fire, false dawn
consumes their eyes,
rages through thin skin.

I do not know
where you go when
the gas softly flows
through the shelter;

have you left us here
in this veil of tears, fear-
full and alone?

Oh, where may I seek you
but in this green shade
of whitened bone

(1 October 2013)

Graduation Dance

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The gym was dim.

Red and white balloons
glittered in the dusk
while flashing lights writhed
on the dark floor
like enchanted water-snakes
gliding through scented fog.

This was a celebration dance!

Eighth grade done at last,
they stepped, hesitant, into the roiling
teen-age sea,their synchronous, bobbing heads
attuned to the be-bop rhythms of the city (not their city),
and the lusty calls of the hood (not their hood).

Smooth gym walls echoed the dj’s mechanical angst
endless, relentless beats, the racing heart of the machine,
artificial sighs, nano-seconds long and gigabytes wide.

The boys, spinning on heads and leaping from hands and
flailing legs, showed an athleticism
never seen in PE,
while the girls huddled in their own dark corner
and planned their move;

their fashion walk,
legs strutting ahead
of swaying hips,
heels clicking the hard, dark floor,
as they stalked right up to the foul line

where boys were spinning and leaping
through throbbing lights
to the tribal, primal beat.

So the girls turned,
hips flung in defiance,
and sashayed back to the wall,
staring hard at the gaping boys
over their swaying shoulders.

(29 May 2009)

Living Rosary

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The children sit calmly
their complacent voices
monotone as a monk’s chant.

They repeat the ancient words
recalling grace and courage
at the hour of death.

They really don’t know
about the terror
and bliss of angelic visitation,

how a single greeting
can change everything

in a single moment dash
her young, pure heart
into the Judean dirt,

while her soul, enraptured,
soars high into the clear
desert sky.

These are mysteries too deep
for their supple, green minds.

But I feel
in the rise and fall of their words,
her gentle acceptance
of the thrusting sword,

her transcendent smile
as the whip
tears across His tender skin,

the redemptive power of
all undeserved suffering.

These good children do as they’re told
and behave well, reverently reciting
the millennial hope

on the bright gym floor,
in their school-day
morning prayer.

(1 May 2013)