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)

Atonement

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“There must be a time when the man of prayer goes to pray as if it were the first time in his life he had every prayed.” Thomas Merton

Grey mist
rises and falls
enfolding parched hills
easing autumn’s harsh pain

saturating the spreading valley
with gathering rain
and mercy.

(1 Oct. 2012)

The Humble Man Prays

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Sunlight through Dirty Window

“A man who is truly humble cannot despair, because in the humble manthere is no longer any such thing as self-pity.” Thomas Merton

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I am like this window
streaked with rain,
obscured by
blowing dust,
neglected
yet holding firm
against the wind.

I know
that some fine, clear day
you’ll open
the door,
wipe my sins away
and clean at last
I’ll dissolve
into your face.

(10 Nov 2012)

Down a Bright Way

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Close to the center,
near to where silence
fills my straining ears,
where long years
of searching end,

I find you waiting
my old friend.
You take my hand
and in a glance
know all.

Without a word
down a bright way
we walk.

(in memoriam, Maryalice Clare, friend and mentor)

Transfiguration

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From this holy height,
I gaze into
my Father’s eyes.

His fire scorches
my trembling flesh,
and fills my soul
with sacred breath.

In joyful flames
I suddenly see
I never was
what I appeared to be.

(25 Feb. 2013)

Psalm 9-11 (dedicated to Fr. Mychal Judge)

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I hear your soft voice
In the hushed evening breeze
as gentle wind fills
these tall, murmuring trees.

For you’re never too far;
your soft breath I can feel.
My soul stirs with faith
that no anger can steal.

Through the cold, empty night
you fill my dark soul.
Your brilliant light breaks
death’s harsh, ancient hold.

In the morning I’ll hear
your clear voice proclaim
my life you’ve restored,
bitter tears wiped away.

(7 March 2014)

America

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fireworks_feature

Deep thunder shakes this warm July evening
and lightning flashes over the waterfront
filling the clear, starry sky with acrid clouds and glimmering rain
falling to the water as children gaze
in shock and awe,
waiting for the next big one to explode.

False bombardment as celebration:

such fits my nation, founded in genocide and slavery,
this nation baptized in the blood and tears
of Navaho and Cherokee and all the tribes of the American holocaust
a nation that devoured one quarter of its sons
in four short, blood-soaked years; my nation,
a nation of efficient bigots and hungry hypocrites,
giving the world Gettysburg and the Trail of Tears
as models for problem-solving;
a nation unlike any other, not able to live up to its promises
because no other nation dares make such promises.

The bright violence of rockets’ red glare lights our sky
like the bold Declaration ignited the world, and thunder
rocked mighty kings from complacent belief in their divine rights,
rocked the people of Europe, thirsting for their own rights
and land and a chance to pursue a little happiness;
yes, rocked even distant Asia, deep in its ancient dream
foolish men joyfully following the distant thunder
to seek the fabled Golden Mountain.

The promise was made and broken and made yet again,
and the anger of betrayal torched the cities of the sixties,
and singed our hearts
and in the redeeming pain of change
made them a little less impure.
Yes, we are imperfect,
but we know our sins
and pay for them over and over again,

and to remind ourselves of the debt yet unsatisfied,
every summer we celebrate in the only way fitting for such a nation;
In the starry sky fiercely glowing with liberty
and in the transcendent thunder
of the Promise.

(4 July 2011)