We Sing

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“The rain ceases, and a bird’s clear song suddenly announces the difference between Heaven and hell.” Thomas Merton

Over bright fields
we fly.

Thin slips
of consciousness,
bounded by darkness,

we rise
on our song’s
golden glow,

not knowing
how descends
the growing edge
of nothing.

 

(7 July 2012)

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After Christmas

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Photo, Brian Federle: Desert Tree, Palm Springs, Dec. 2016.

After Christmas
life persists, though
the bare trees are
dancing with death,

their leaves ripped
from living flesh;
disincarnate,they wait
for the storm.

So how, then, can I endure?

I live that day every day,
clenched fists pounding
my penitent heart, crying
Mea culpa! Mea culpa!

What kind of a father am I,
absent at the hour of your need?

Oh, forgive me, my son!

Surely tomorrow
the rain will come.

(28 Dec. 2018)

Three Poems for My Father

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Overcast in Oregon
Photo: Brian Federle, Overcast in Oregon
…on the 40th anniversary of my father’s death

i

When I last saw you
Your hands were clenched
With a rage foreign to your voice
And you were rushing inward
Away from the moon, beyond the glowing
night
Of my grief.

Yet on my way home
I saw the moon rise.

Where have you gone, then, If not
to that land behind the moon?

ii
In the emptiness above the earth
In the terrific clashing of jet with atmosphere

I heard your new voice
I saw your new hands

Tearing at the cold, hurtling steel,
Casting off silk shroud

For dark soil
And even darker rivers.

iii
If stars loom too large
Is not my window too small?

(11/24/1978)

Preparation Day

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The light is fading early today.

Rain turns the whole world to night.

I drive through watery streets,
headlights
stretch to bright tapers,
red lamps
softly trailing
blood beneath my wheels.

Death’s details
fill my busy day.

First, the uncut granite,
sorted and sized,
words neatly arranged,
ready to inscribe
the bare facts of your life,

and then on to the small, white house,
with its big front window and spring garden
hidden behind the black iron gate;

this is where your party will be.

Our guests will arrive soon,
and I must order flowers, great
purple blooms
to dim this too bright room.

Now we’re nearly finished,

but first I must see
to your final ground,
small patch
of turned earth,

and then tomorrow you can finally rest.

Attend us gently
as we weep
and slowly walk away.

(10 Dec. 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)

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.

to the center

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Photo: Brian Federle, “Night”, 2014

the
beat
steady;
constant hum,
music of days to
night fading; the right note, only
song you know; sum of your days, falling, falling to night.

so
go
to the
center, to
the black place to wait
for Him. Don’t call out in fear for
there’s nobody there but you and He, so silent be

and
hear
how His song
fills your darkness with
light; smile at Him, your familiar
bright friend, and no longer will you fear your emptiness.

(23 Dec 2013)