Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Three Poems for the Coming of Winter

November in Northern Ohio

Before the darkness descends,
This moment of distilled grace--

Skies blue as robin egg,
Woods aflame with sugar maple

Dressed in fall finery
Oranges, yellows, reds.

Keep the clear days and nights in memory
When December falls—

            With its gloom of cloudy darkness,
When your heart is on ice waiting for the transplant!


November 22, 1963

I remember the very moment
as if it were branded on my soul:

It was 2:05 pm.
We were in Brother O’Connor’s 10th grade religion class,
St. Joseph High School in Cleveland, eager for the end
of the day.

A crying voice came over the PA
saying, Please Pray for Him, Boys,
He’s Been Shot!

For 30 minutes there was stunned,
uncomprehending silence,
punctuated by confused attempts to pray;
but all our prayers were incoherent,
crazed dancing of a chicken, its head cut off.

At 2:35 Brother Matthew’s quavering voice
said, He’s Dead, Boys. Let’s Pray
For Him And For Ourselves

pray that love and light
overcome the furious violence

and darkness
in our souls.


Winter Solstice

The chill creeps into the bones:
December 21 and sun gone long before 5 o’clock;
huge gray clouds roll in off Lake Erie
riding the Witch’s gale, spitting sleet and

fears as real and as organized as the swirl
of pin oak leaves down Lakeshore Boulevard.
This day, shaken by nameless fears,
seems to last forever:

I wonder how I will get through the next minute,
and the minute after that,
and the minute after that,

wonder if I can make it
until hope returns

until peace-which-surpasses-understanding,
as mysterious as winter solstice’s fear--
my heart standing still, turning cold,
my spirit abandoned--

until peace returns like grace like unexpected


                        Robert M. Coughlin

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