Monday, January 30, 2012

New Poem for My Daughter Carolan

The Trip to the Airport

I awake at 3:45 in the morning,
Call to you in the dark, this
Crystal clear late January stars and cold--

We drive the 73 miles to the Akron-Canton airport
Shadows dashing in front of the car as we speed along,

Some sort of animal or a phantom of my sleepiness and fears.

An hour and a half later we enter the airport,
And after a final inventory—passport, tickets, driver’s license, colónes

You go through the astonishing security procedures . . .

            And then you are gone from my view
And my ability to protect you.

I pray to every saint who will listen:
            Christopher, Francis of Assisi, Patrick, Bridget,
And to your grandparents, gone to the other side:

            “Keep her Lord like the apple of your eye,
            Shelter her under the shadow of your wings.”

I imagine the frantic stopover in Atlanta,
The scrambling to a new plane,
The hope that the checked backpack makes it

And think of you six miles above the Caribbean
Seeing only the vast blueness and at times specks and streaks of ships
Making their way

As you are making your way to Costa Rica, Rancho Mastatal,
Adventure, learning, new companions, new challenges--

Like your Mom and me,

A bit on edge as you wonder what’s to come.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Another New Poem

Unripe: Post Mortem

In the post mortem of their marriage,
The coroner found that she had never recovered
From her woeful childhood,
Deep scars, keloids from her Japanese
Mother, so foreign and passive, and
Her GI father, controlling mean and silent.

And a failed first marriage that she didn’t learn from
And never revealed to her second husband.

She talked to him in babytalk,
Right up to the day she snuck out of his life forever,
Leaving unanswered, unanswerable questions,
Abandoned pets, a stinking mess of a house,
Unpaid and unpayable bills,
A reeking mess of two lives.

He, a sweet man-child, probably a bit spoiled
And at the same time a bit neglected by parents
Who had given so much of their energy and youth
To the four older siblings—

He married the first girl to love him, to kiss him,
To hold him under the sheets.
He couldn’t believe his good luck

Which has broken down to

Bad luck

And lives that need to be boot-strapped.

Is that possible, Lord?
We pray that it may be.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Draft 1 of a Strange New Poem

The following draft is very different from my normal writing. Here I tried to imagine a life going totally awry. This kind of wrong turn could happen to any of us, to our families and friends. "Nothing human is alien to me" (The famous quotation by Terence reads: "Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto").

What Didn’t Happen [draft 1]

The house was filled with cat piss and dog sh**,
The mortgage couldn’t be paid since she left,
The utilities were sent partial payments.

In his head, rutted dialogues replayed every minute of his failed marriage
As he tried to correct things he said and did
Or find the fatal flaw
That caused her to leave.

He could no longer sleep and then
He could no longer eat.
Strange paranoia seeped into his soul
And strange confused thinking alarmed friends and family

Who called often and visited often
Trying to find ways to help him, but the downward spiral accelerated,
Totally out of control,

Until one day he took his shotgun and blasted the 2 outside dogs to kingdom come,
Then mercy killed the little house dog.
He got out the five-gallon cans of gas and doused the garage and basement,
A mortgage he could no longer pay,
And the filthy stinking house would become a cinder.

Then next door to the other house they had owned and rented to Tom.
And not knowing that Tom was sound asleep inside,
Dowsed the garage and basement with more gasoline,
Struck a match then headed for the barn

Where he emptied his shot gun into the tractor that he could no longer pay for
And lit the straw on fire until everything was gone:

The 2 old outside dogs, the house dog, the house, the car,
the rented house, the tractor, the little barn,

And Tom, incinerated and suffocated as he slept unknown to the desperate
Paranoid, confused, sleepless, broken


That’s what didn’t happen—but could have.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Our Father in Irish-Gaelic

The "Our Father" in Irish-Gaelic

Ár n-Athair atá ar neamh,
Go naofar d'ainim,
Go dtagfadh do ríocht,
Go ndéantar do thoil ar an talamh mar a dhéantar ar neamh.
Ár n-arán laethúil tabhair dúinn inniu,
agus maith dúinn ár bhfiacha
mar a mhaithimidne dár bhféichiúna féin
Ach ná lig sinn i gcathú,
ach saor sinn ó olc,

Approximate pronunciation:

AR NATH-her ah-TAH er NAHV
Guh NAY-her DAHN-um
Guh DAHG-huh duh REE-ukht
Guh NANE-ter duh HULL er un TAHL-uv mar a YANE-ter er NAHV
ah-gus MAH DOO-in ar VEE-uh-kha
MAR uh WAH-him-MIDGE-nuh DAR VEKH-yoon-uh FANE

[The syllables capitalized above receive more stress; the “kh” is used to represent a sound similar to the “ch” in the Scottish word loch or the “ch” in the German word Nacht. A more precise pronunciation transcription would need something like the International Phonetic Alphabet. Irish has many alternative pronunciations and regional variants, so what I have above would not be accurate for all dialects.]

At some point I will add audio or video to help clarify the pronunciation of the prayer.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Goodbye to 2011 and Greetings to 2012

I was traveling and otherwise busy as the year changed from 2011 to 2012 and didn't get to write any reflections about the passing and new birth.

I guess the words that entered my mind on New Year's Eve were "Deo Gratias." The old Latin phrase, first learned as a kid attending Latin masses at St. William's back in the early 1950s. Thank You, Lord God, for my life, our lives, my family, friends. Thank you that we have health, a good job, so many gifts. And prayers for those sick in body or troubled in spirit (I know many, as do you!). Prayers for those suffering from the Great Recession, those needing money and work, those without health care. Especially for those without hope. Especially for those without hope.

We got an annual Christmas card from a friend, Tom Liszkay, a Clevelander exiled long ago to Columbus, who closed it by reminding us to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and shelter the homeless. Tom reminded us to live out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, an injunction at the heart of our Catholic Christianity, and something I learned in my parents' home (where we fed the neighborhood kids, gave them companionship and love even if their parents neglected them, where my Mom and Dad offered a home to three alcoholic uncles and to my Grandmother in her old age); and learned from my teachers, both Ursuline nuns and lay teachers alike, in my Catholic grade school--St. Williams; and from our first pastor at St. William's, Monsignor John Flemming, who paid the family bills when my Dad was layed off from work; and from the wonderful teachers, both lay teachers and Marianist brothers and priests, at St. Joseph High School in Cleveland. All these wonderful teachers and models--who never saw what they wrought, the fruit of their works and their lives.

As Tom Liszkay said--Don't forget to practice the Works of Mercy.

And don't forget to say thank you to family, friends, and colleagues. And to the Lord--Deo Gratias.