Contact

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I search the narrow rooms of memory
through steep, childhood hallways
under high ceilings, past dim, flowered lamps,
when, trembling, I hear echoes calling me
in deep tones of summer thunder
to our willow tree out back
just as the blinding lightning
contacts
and shatters the still-living wood.

Afraid,

but compelled by my father’s gentle voice,
I retreat
to another room
in my mind.

In the kitchen, at the top of the long, painted staircase,
I hear small, shrill squeaks and low, electric hums
coming from your ham radio set,
and walking down, I see you,
hunched in the red glow
of your magic box, calling softly
into your silver microphone,
“W8PNW calling CQ, calling CQ, calling CQ”

O lonely angler, you cast gossamer lines into the eternal, black sea
looking for a catch, any response, any acknowledgement,
but I’m with you! Standing by your shoulders,
I hear the distant human voice respond
“K8QJZ to W8PNW, receiving you loud and clear!”

I feel your joy of connection
as, quickly you fill out your special postcard,
(American Bald Eagles triumphantly unfurling your call letters)
to mail to your Newfoundland friend.

This, too, is contact.

Another soul found, identified, and filed
in your list of ham-buddies, and I grin with you
as you sign off
and resume your patient search.

(7/14/2010)

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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)

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)

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)