At the Death of a Young Girl


“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?

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
And so we say the rosary,
And we go on.



Abscissa of the Soul


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,
than thin soil
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.

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

But faith
will lift you
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.


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.

Bridge at Montezuma Slough


We drive to see
where the twisted road will lead.

Salty river, winding slough,
dark water
rising to frothy cap
slapping concrete pier,

moon driven waves race
back to beckoning bay.

Finally we must decide…

cross the low bridge
or turn back,

but the flood is so close to the deck!

We feel tidal vibration,
basso profondo,
rattling sub-sonic
in our ears
as together
we face our fear,

and slowly cross,
eyes always ahead
til again we feel sure earth
solid beneath our tread.

(2013 – 2018)

On the Feast of St. Stephen

The Martyrdom of St. Stephen by Peter Paul Rubens 1616-1617

“The life of the soul is not knowledge, it is love, since love is the act of the supreme faculty, the will, by which man is formally united to the final end of all his striving – by which man becomes one with God.” (Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain)

See how wind tears, how
clouds ravage the sky
to shreds…

Can you hear the geese fleeing
shouting dread
as the savage storm crouches?

Are you afraid?

I know
how the sea sometimes
launches boulders;

but the stubborn land
bows and waits
and, swollen, forgives

with torrents of life;
rivers of joy.





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.



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.


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)



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)



“What is my new desert? The name of it is compassion. There is not wilderness so terrible, so beautiful, so arid, and so fruitful as the wilderness of compassion.” Thomas Merton

I’ll wander with you
in your pain.

Though dried, dissected,
through rainless days
and starry nights
we’ll search sharp rocks
for pools of cool tears.

Forty days and
forty nights shall we journey
through the wilderness
to the green oasis
where we’ll flourish,

audacious lilies
luxuriant in hidden springs.

There we’ll possess
every good thing.

(13 Oct 2012)