Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Frankie's Rosary

I was looking at my rosaries
not too long ago,
all of them, twenty at least--
but this one in particular:
this pearl-colored one,
inexpensive, made precious
by time and memory.
It’s been mine
since I was thirteen.

It used to be Frankie's.
It was a gift to me
from his mom Concetta
for my Confirmation.

Frankie must've gotten the rosary
for his First Communion:
it's a child's rosary,
with beads too small
for my full-grown hands.

Concetta cared for
and prayed for her son
after the accident.
He was fourteen
when the car struck him
as he biked down
Woodland Avenue.

My mom was Frankie’s
home health aide.
And Frankie was at home,
in his bed, in his room
made holy by a crucifix,
by images of several saints,
by the love of family,
his mother and father,
two brothers, a sister,
dozens of visiting cousins.

Concetta would hold
her son’s hand
and talk to him
for hours, every day.
My mom would feed Frankie
through the feeding-tube,
would keep him clean,
would change the sheets.

Frankie's rosary
has stayed with me
from Latin School to Chestnut Manor,
from John Paul to Francis,
from Reagan to Obama,
from Pac-Man to the iPhone-6,
from Laura Branigan to Adele.

Throughout my years of truancy
from holy Mother Church,
it waited patiently
in a small desk-drawer
until I came back.

I keep the rosary now
in a small diaphanous pouch.
Sometimes, I pray with it,
large fingers moving
with extra care
through the pearly
and luminous decades.

Frankie’s gone, it must be
twenty years now.
His parents, too,
Concetta and Giorgio.
His older brother Carlo
just last year.

When I die,
this rosary will pass
into someone else's hands,
someone who never knew
Frankie and his relatives.
But that person, too,
will be part of this history,
this mystery in which
souls are bound together
into a garland of grace,
into a family of faith.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

An Easter Poem

(for Elena, whose much-better Easter poem inspired this effort)

A surfeit of lilies
and a large congregation
(not quite madhouse
as it's early in the day)

Music at the 7:
cantor and organ
and the hymns
of Charles Wesley
with their rolling alleluias

Beside me
an elderly woman
reverently clutches
a crystal rosary

I am dressed
for Easter Sunday
but my soul's unready
needing more
than the sprinkling
from the aspergillum

I do not receive
the Blessed Sacrament
but stay in my pew
as virtually everyone
else goes up

my neighbour's example
leads me to the beads
and I go to my pocket
and take out my rosary

Christ is risen
he is risen indeed

And have I
risen with him
or am I still
in the tomb?

I hear the words of Isaiah
in which Divinity
upbraids the doubter
Are my arms too short
to save you?

Sometimes I wonder

but then St Ignatius
chimes in Discouragement
is not from God!

his fellow Jesuit
Fr Hopkins tells us
Nothing is so beautiful
as Spring but warns
that spring can sour
with sinning

let me take my stand
with Papa Francesco
and with St Faustina
who trust that Mercy
(like the truth) is great
and will prevail

Thursday, March 17, 2016

I Write Because

I write because Mr Waldron had a poster of “The Road Not Taken" at the front of his classroom, complete with bare brown tree and forked black path.

I write because I needed to fill up the time in study hall and didn't feel like studying.

I write because of Don McLean, The Looking Glass, America, Lennon & McCartney.

I write because what else was an only child to do who couldn't throw a football or shoot baskets or hit home runs or score goals?

I write because of Erin, sage therapist, and Reverend Peggy, wise guide of the spirit.

I write because of autumn in New England. Because of brown eyes and blue eyes in tired faces on the Red Line.

I write because of black coffee and Dylan Thomas. I write in memory of the mixed grill special at Barney’s Bar.

I write because Brother Pat played guitar in the Salesian chapel. I write because of calamity. I write because of resurrection.

I write because of Hart Crane, because of mountains, because of cold water and ambidextrous crushes.

I write because of Saint Lucie’s Day, the yeares mid-night.

I write because of Wishes, Lies, and Dreams. Because of Seamus Heaney and Juan de la Cruz.

I write because Tracy Chapman smote my heart at first sight. I write because Cardinal Bergoglio became Pope Francis.

I write: broken glass, skinned knees, hard fists. I write because the streetwise kids called me maggot, wimp, pussy, queer.

I write because of insomnia and even more black coffee. I write to praise the immortal Wystan Auden.

I write for the woman who looked at me funny when I said I wasn’t married. I write for the tenements of Eastie. I write for the group homes of Chelsea.

I write because Dr Macmillan made me better. I write because Dr Naidoo made me worse.

I write because E E Cummings grew up in Cambridge. Because Uta Pippig won the Boston Marathon.

I write because of ravioli and beer. I write because of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I write: Simple Minds, the Smiths, New Order, Depeche Mode, the Cure, Dexys Midnight Runners.

I write because nobody's stopped me yet.

The Song of Xerxes Riffraff

I've lurched through middle age More sophomore than sage, More prodigal than thrifty Now that I'm over fifty. I hear the hounds...