Three Poems for My Father

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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?

(11/24/1980)

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)

Memory

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“Memory”

sometimes in mass
as sacred songs
wash over me like rain,

I break free
and drift
into memory,

and again you rise,
your tears flow
as tears fill my eyes,
your dying breath
whispering
good bye;

after so many years,
the knife still cuts
and again, and
again

I cry.

(20 May 2015)

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)

Consoling Martha

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Freely flow her fears;
a dam so brimful
cannot contain
such towering waves.

Wondering that
my words fail
to give peace,
I reach out
and take her trembling hands.

Tearful,
I brush away
all her
bitter tears

(13 April 2011)

Elegy for Jeanette

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“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men.”  Thomas Merton

The moment you died
I felt a breeze rise
tussle of wind
wild in the tumult
of transformation.

Nothing is the same.
since your soul
broke through.

My eyes sting
with tears
with grief
with the sharp seeds
of ecstasy.

In the beautiful box
you lay, wrinkled brow
withered hands
pampered
by white silk,
thrall to the embrace
of never ending
grace.

And so I leave you
in this shadowed place.

Gaping and dumb,
I can say nothing
but “fare thee well,
oh great soul,
and to heaven
quickly flee!”

(24 January 2013)

Cain

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The delicate action of grace in the soul is profoundly disturbed by all human violence. Passion, when it is inordinate, does violence to the spirit and its most dangerous violence is that in which we seem to find peace. Violence is not completely fatal until it ceases to disturb us.

Thomas Merton. Thoughts in Solitude.

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Like a delicate wind
your grace shaped my infant soul
filled my emptiness
with angelic form

and I was beautiful
and good

until, jealous for your love,
I slew my brother.

Now I fear the abyss
that opens beneath me
the grave
of my sin-withered soul.

To you I pray
forgive me! bring me back
from the numbing peace
of careless, empty
days.

(1 February 2013)