Saturday, May 23, 2015

The New Canadians

The New Canadians

When the world ends
families from the five nations
will be gathered
into the Toronto Tower
whose concrete skin
will fall away in
spectacular fashion
revealing an immense
rocket-powered ark
pointed at the nearest
inhabitable planet.
Their children will grow
into adults on the journey,
they will appreciate
the opportunity they have
been given, they will be
fruitful and multiply, and,
most important of all,
they will get along.
They are the New Canadians.  


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Somewhere in Southern Indiana

Somewhere in Southern Indiana

Somewhere in Southern Indiana
a basketball floats on a rain puddle
at the bottom of a rusty wheelbarrow.

High grass swallows it up on a long
fence line separating house from
farm fields rolling into the distance.

Patches of forest can be seen just
past the fields where deer roam and
small mammals live out short lives.

These are the scenes that formed
my childhood and put the firm stamp
of melancholy on my personhood.

But also provided a buffer from
things that can wither the soul and
may compromise the man to be.


Friday, May 01, 2015

The Passing of Fr. Roman Braga

Fr. Roman Braga

What can one say of the passing of Fr. Roman?  He suffered terribly in a notorious prison camp during the time that Romania was ruled by the Communists.  This camp was known for its experiments in stripping people of there identity, their personality, even their humanity, and trying to rebuild them as the new Communist man.  What it inadvertently did was strip him of his false self and facilitated the development of a new life in Christ.  He was grateful to his tormentors for this help.  His suffering was transfigured in imitation of Christ and brought forth a love for all things, creation and creatures without exception, in union with the Creator.  He once told us that "monks love everyone and everything, even the demons."

When I first met him I was a confused college student being pulled in many contradictory directions.  I went on a retreat to the monastery where he was the spiritual father.  There was an opportunity for having confession with him.  He welcomed me into the small room beside the chapel and said, "Before I hear your confession, let's just have a little talk."  He asked a few basic questions and then told me of something to watch out for, how to handle this thing, how to understand it so as to not be deceived.  He then heard my confession.  Several weeks later I went through this very thing and I did not handle it as I had been lovingly instructed to do so.  It did not turn out well and only too late did I remember the words of fatherly love that he had spoken to me.      

May his memory be eternal.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Carpet Store

Behind the Clinic

The railroad tracks ran alongside my Dad's carpet store on the edge of our small town when I was a kid.  Heading North, they cut through neighborhoods and eventually skirted the downtown area with its one way street and assorted antique shops.  Heading South, they cut through forests and farmers' fields, balancing on the back of a rocky mound that snakes through the hills of Southern Indiana to eventually find the Ohio River.

When I found the odd bit of change in and around the carpet store, I would lay it on the tracks and watch the train's wheels smash it flat.  Pennies were best, followed by nickels.  The dimes and quarters were too valuable for buying candy and comic books, plus the pennies were easiest to find amongst the gray and white gravel after the train's wheels sent them flying off of the tracks.  I collected these thin oval-shaped objects of curiosity in a cigar box.

A coke machine sat at the store entrance waiting to relieve customers of their coins and dispense a cold Tab for the occasional portly person who didn't seem to mind its chemical sweetness.  I was in the back of the attached warehouse using a long stick to smash carpenter bees as they entered their burrows in the wooden beams above my head or jumping on large rolls of pad wrapped in plastic and stacked in rows.

The front of the warehouse had a very high ceiling with a loft that had no ladder or stairs for access.  It was my secret place to nap or read books, but only on cool summer days.  It was unbearable on the hot ones.  Adults needed to bring a ladder to get up there, but I could shimmy up a  long carpet roll propped against the wall, like a small tree-loving animal, and scamper into my favorite hiding place several feet above the warehouse floor.

Behind the carpet store, near the tracks, was a sizable burn pit where my Dad would turn his  trash to ash.  One particular day he had been burning the plastic coverings from his rolls of pad and we were getting ready to go home for the day.  A few tendrils of smoke still rose from the black ashes and I decided to use a large utility bucket full of water to put it out.  I was unaware of the pools of melted plastic hidden below the ashes.

I poured the water and swung the bucket to make sure the fire was out.  The bucket hit the ash and I immediately felt an intense pain from my legs.  I looked down to find black splotches that I could not wipe off.  I snuck into the warehouse bathroom and tried to wash them off.  The plastic had stuck to my legs and burned where it clung.  My Dad was calling for me to get in the car but I hid from him, afraid to show my damaged self, like Adam in the garden.

There were second and third degree burns, some of which eventually required skin grafts to cover.  I wore shorts for a few months while the grafts healed.  My sixth grade teacher had me come up in front of class the first day of school to explain the situation, this boy in shorts.  Stranger still, I wore shorts to church which I had never done before nor have I done since.  My son is curious about the scars and will sometimes feel the smooth and hairless patches.

My first summer back from college I stayed in a room in the back of the carpet store, feeling independent but strangely isolated in those evening hours on the edge of town.  I got a cat to keep me company from a member of our church who owned a farm.  He was white with a gray tail.  I named him Sir Mouser Graytail and put his litter box in the furnace room.  What I remember most about Sir Graytail was the puddle of diarrhea he left in my bed.

And then there was the time a tornado touched down just North of our town, destroying some businesses and dumping cars from a used car lot into the White River.  I did not have a TV or radio at the store, but I knew something was brewing due to the strange weather conditions.  Outside it was prematurely dark with a soft drizzle coming down.  Someone must have called by telephone to warn me to stay inside.  I remember having on just a pair of shorts.

I felt compelled to walk outside and experience the strangeness of the situation.  It was eerily quiet.  The darkness was warm and wet, like being in a spacious womb.  I climbed an old TV antenna tower onto the roof to see what I could see.  The sky directly North was glowing with a strange shade of green that I'd never seen before.  Standing still and half-naked, eyes closed, I wondered what it would be like to fly away in a pillar of wind.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

She Stirs


She had been sleeping for over an hour, about half way through her typical afternoon nap.  Sometimes a noise will awaken her and she will stir and may even sit up, but if you don't intervene, she will invariably lie back down and finish her day's sleep.

I sat at the kitchen table facing the living room where she slept on the couch.  My frame of mind was on the melancholy side, a slight drizzle dappling the windows.  There was no sound, no bump, no crack or creak, but I heard her stir.

She sat up and stared blankly at the window, her profile visible to me over the arm of the couch.  "Daddy?"

I ignored her, waiting for her to lie down and resume her nap.


She was waiting for an answer in her not-quite-awake state.  My silence had not deterred her.

"Yes, Anya?"

"I love you, Daddy," and her head found the couch cushion once more to finish her nap.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Spring Swings In

Spring Swings In

Spring swings in once again
with her impeccable taste
and exquisite use of earthtones.
Where there were dirt patches,
she has expertly laid in
textured clumps of moss
that interlace with the
surrounding grass speckled
with the lovely beige
of last year's growth.
My attempt at landscaping,
in comparison, is a ham-fisted
struggle for cohesiveness.
Spring condescends to work
with me and fill in the gaps
so that I feel a part of
her burgeoning beauty.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Tin Rocket

Tin Rocket

He stands in the front yard
with eyes closed tight,
arms pressed to his sides.

He has closed out the world
in quiet anticipation of
what is, and is to come.

The countdown begins,
ten, nine, eight, seven,
six, five, four, three, two...

His arms widen a bit
forming long thin fins
to guide his flight.

He begins to tremble
and then shake violently., we have lift off.

There is a sensation of
his feet leaving the ground
and his body ascending

into the moist morning air,
leaving behind all that
is heavy and harsh.

Wind whistles past him
cooling his red cheeks,
tears tickling his eyes.

As he reaches the higher
realms, his body falls away,
the first stage of his journey.

His unencumbered being
rockets through the celestial
spaces, gaining substance.

His trajectory ends in the
heart of a massive star,
a supernova of Love.


Police arrive on the scene
to find the boy's body
lying in the littered yard.
Conspicuous signs of abuse
color his slight form lying
peacefully in the grass,
a rusty tin rocket
clutched in his hand.