Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Old Poem about Kenny Przybylski
I recently thought about this poem I wrote about 12 years ago in memory of Kenny Przybylski, our great friend. The form is (loosely) a ghazal, a Persian poetic form. In ghazals, the poet's name is mentioned in the final verses.
Ghazal for Kenny Przybylski
(Riffs on lines by the poet Ghalib)
“No wonder you came looking for me, you
who care for the grieving, and I the sound of grief”
After high school in Winona, your parents astonished and angry,
You joined the Franciscans, Little Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis,
Living in Simplicity, in imitation of the life of the great saint
Who stayed close to his own suffering and forever cared for the grieving.
Working with “bad boys,” delinquents, incorrigibles,
Abandoned detritus of a brutal society.
They gave you a religious name, “Masseo,”
An early companion of Francis in Assisi,
And you lived up to the name, staying close to suffering,
And laughter, fun, practical jokes.
After six years of this life, you get kicked out.
Who gets kicked out of the Franciscans?
Well not exactly kicked out, “asked to leave.”
They were right, of course, your vocation was stranger, more complicated.
A vagabond life, some time in jail, picking apples in Wisconsin,
Oranges around Tarpon Springs, time at the Catholic Worker,
Sometimes finding food in a dumpster behind the Piggily-Wiggily.
(Easter breakfast, 1977!).
We all recognized your holiness and your craziness, your unusual ministry.
Wanted to be around you as you ministered to our grieving, the sound of grief,
Stayed close to suffering. And in the end, as you lay dying of AIDS
In a Franciscan hospital in Tampa
(You tried to ride there, from New Orleans to Tampa,
on your bicycle to visit Joanie)
In the end, full circle, surrounded by Terri, Peggy, Joanie, Chuck,
The Franciscans, keeping watch over your suffering, your sound of grief,
Still blessing everyone in your luminous circle,
Ever the Francis, wounds on the hands, feet, chest.
Listen, Bob Coughlin, this amazing blessing, rubbing shoulders
With this ragged funny saint, who forever cared for the grieving,
Stayed faithful and close to our own suffering
The song of our grief.
Robert M. Coughlin/October 25, 2002