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)

Advent Wreath

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The pale sun, gliding low,
refuses to rise into leaden
grey skies, so bleak night
inters our sinful souls.

Oh! break out the candles
and place them around!
See how their fires
consume the dark ground.

Bouquet of flame!
devour our sins,
and ignite winter’s night
in holy conflagration.

(12/01/2010)

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)