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)

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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.

Faith

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Photo Brian Federle: Overcast in Oregon, 2008

Faith
is seeing my blood
coursing through
shut eyelids

and feeling
blood pushing down
into my arms and legs,

believing
it will soon return
to my darkly
beating heart.

But faith is more than
seeing
or believing.

Faith shines
like the cloistered sun
concealed by thick
autumn clouds.

Faith knows
all my childish lies,
and gently laughs
at my innocence.

Faith stalks me,
deep into my desert
where, trembling,
I wait for her famished arrow.

I love faith;
in her passionate embrace
I fall into my
darkest night.

I fear faith;
slave to her lacerating truth
reluctantly I walk
into her relentless light.

false comfort, treacherous joy

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Photo Brian Federle: Candles 2014

Lights dancing
In evergreen branches

bright birds perched among
golden ornaments —

false comfort,
treacherous joy!

For this season of life
refreshes my tears,
renews my pain.

Fall Leaves

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Photo Brian Federle, Camping March 2010

 

Wind-ripped leaves
cover my yard

severed flesh, leathery
fingers splayed
grip the brick walkway.

Flush winter roses
drop petals,
red shrouds cover
glistening gold veins
sundered
from ravaged trees.

Yet the trees survive.

mimicking death’s
grey angularity
oblivious to the wind,

nude limbs
lean into the howling storm
and dream of June breezes,
singing green afternoons,
the faithful thrush
thrusting new life to flight.

But for now
black clouds gather

the winter wind sings dirges
for these sacrificial leaves
nourishing the famished earth.

(11/18/2010)
re-post 10/25/2017

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.

Pacifica Seawall, October

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Photo: Pacifica Seawall, 4 Oct 2014, Brian Federle

We dropped by your house today
and sat in the new chairs
under the gnarled tree
and spoke of you.

We walked to the wall
that separates ocean
from land, and observed waves
rising, mighty, lunging at rocks
beneath our feet.

We spoke your name
there, to the moaning sea.

(Oct 3, 2017)