Nos Spes Nostra
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust returns,
and all creation silent doomed to fall;
or so say some, though others, unconcerned,
live day to day, as if by living small,
their lives might last forever. Days are fleeting.
Their little lights shine briefly if at all.
But we, be this our first and final meeting—
let us hope not for more! for these are vain
and worldly wants, and still our hearts are beating.
Take you my hand to brace against the pain,
for holy smoke surrounds us, and the dove
has cooed its last. Faith, hope, and love remain,
these three, but the greatest of them is love.
Those who surrender to another find
a peace alone they were unworthy of.
And others—still they scramble!—they are blind.
"Peace be with you"—in embracing—let us rise.
Peace, I Leave You
This blue-black sky is a tasteful painted canvas
stretched loose over a frame of wood and starlight,
to conceal, on the one side, our supine bodies,
draping gently to hold us in its folds,
and on the other, a soft and velvet darkness,
an imprimatura visible only now
at the setting of this once-forever sun,
when the hand of day plays on the face of starlight
and exposes softly blended layers all-and-each:
black leaves rampant on a field of Oxford blue
fading to black again as night creeps nearer,
blending details, accentuating outlines.
Layer upon layer, all-and-each so keenly present!
Long grass trampled ‘neath a Dominican flamenco,
grass seeds mingling with mustard seeds on the wind
while we hold in our hands each other’s broken hearts.
Three-in-one we lay, in perfect metaphor,
in soft’ning light (in the literal heart of Jesus)—
Jesus, who said to His apostles, “peace I leave you,”
(peace because He alone knew what was to come,
left, because presence is strongest felt in absence);
Jesus, after all, who said to His apostles,
"I am going away, and I am coming back to you,"
(and from the depths of darkness, He returned.)
Each moment, another layer painted on.
Details blend in shadow, blurred through tears,
then emerge anew, in colors greater than before.
Moments fade beneath new layers painted,
but the same sun rises to illumine them all-and-each,
new-and-old, one light of love ablaze.
Liturgy of Hours
How much easier to believe,
at a warm Thursday Mass on the first day of spring,
when a stranger takes your hand between his own
and whispers (in a voice that threatens tears)
"the peace and love of Jesus Christ be with you now, my brother"
that Our Lord dwells in the hearts of men.
How much harder to see Him
in the weathered face of the homeless man
who, walking toward you on the sidewalk,
his processional a litany of curses
concluding with “and what are you, twelve?”,
swerves only an inch to avoid knocking you into the street.
How much harder to hear Him
in the anonymity of the call
which turns abusive,
or in the rough voice of the teenager
sitting sentinel on someone else’s fence
who calls “sup, bro!”, who you ignore.
How blinding is the sin of pride!
(“If only they knew who you were.”)
How difficult to see with eyes turned down to a glowing screen,
or inward, ever inward! or to hear,
through a Bluetooth headset,
a voice, in the wilderness, crying out.
All vice is virtue twisted, laughs the serpent.
(“They will have more respect when you wear a Roman collar.”)
So wide the gulf between us, brothers all!
We brothers, tearing at each other’s throats,
or hearts, with words,
or souls, with poison thoughts.
To be Christ to a stranger takes two hands
to reach out and take hold of their own,
two eyes, to meet them where they are,
two lips to call them brother, and to say:
"peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you;
not as the world gives do I give to you.”
To be Christ to a stranger takes one’s presence,
full presence, undivided
by invisible multitudes inside our phones,
real presence, unhidden
by our shields of artificial loneliness
in any company—
to be Christ to another takes Real Presence,
to be bread to the one who calls after you in hunger,
to be light to the one who stumbles toward you in darkness;
and to give peace is to give of one’s own blood, and
to wear the collar, to be a willing servant, and
the crucifix, to commend your spirit on the cross.
There is a terrible beauty
in leaving your
on the pristine
of a soul.
There is a beauty
under night lights
There is a beauty
in the footprints
of the footsteps
no longer tread,
where mortal angels
There is a beauty
in the tracks
in the scars
that mar the mask
that masks the dirt
in virgin snow.
As Daylight Fails
To walk beneath the mottled purple sky
below the light’ning bruise upon the earth—
to walk these blue and empty streets alone
but for the street sweeper’s electric wail—
to walk, and breathe, and suffer not to cry
for rending hearts and drifting souls, the dearth
of sweet communion ever once we’d known,
for death and chill and trial and travail—
to walk with You, and you to pass me by,
while olive beads proclaim the Virgin Birth
in ten-part harmony with the low drone
from frozen lips of mem’rised prayers gone stale—
to stand in light of day gone cold, and sigh,
to look upon your face and see that mirth
that once we shared, though now I have disowned,
and fall, and fall again, as daylight fails.
“In every human being there is a stratum of solitude that no human affection can entirely fill, not even the most powerful love between two people. Whoever will not consent to enter this place of solitude is living in rebellion, in rebellion against mankind and even against God. It is there in the depths of your being, where no individual is like another, that Christ awaits you.”
– Excerpt from the Rule of Taizé
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up.”
– Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum (via quotestuff)
There’s a space that can’t be filled beside me.
It’s nothing solid, solid nothing, my
little absence (a not-here that should be)—
There’s a vast blue emptiness across which lies
a blanket with all the sleep wrung out of it—
wrung out, brung out, twisted-squeezed-drained dry—
There’s a deserted city where we split
at the corner of sleep and my bedside
(my coffee cup still empty, there it sits)—
There’s a wharf a dock an old-pier-at-low-tide
empty but for the waves and memories
caressing ‘cross the oceans’ vast divide—
There’s a ferry. There’s a salted dreamy breeze.
There’s a land that’s better-clearer-hazy
on the other side of lazy caramel seas.
Pillow-friends forgotten, dizzy-dazy,
fuzzy-sleep-brains, warm-hands (bodies locking),
we’ll fall in twos and speak words spoken crazy—
But that ferry’s hours off from docking
and hours more across the seas (another
later boat will be mere minutes rocking
across the waves to new lands, and another
still—not a boat at all—a bridge, a step—
it spans but a step to you, dear brother—)
But now is not eternity, not yet!
Sweet orange fingers won’t yet brush across a sky
still dark from night, still stars-and-clouds-beset—
in minutes-hours-ages by and by
they’ll reach from back beyond, and they will shine
(two worlds bathed in philosophical light!)
Good night, then, lionheart and mind-twin mine.
Good night, dear brother, my soul and heart entwined
with thine — I’ll see you when I sail across that line
dividing beating hearts from hearts supine.
You and I
We terrify each other, you and I.
Between us brush two worlds like fingers reaching
across the canyon of experience
that can’t be breached in spite of hearts’ beseeching—
our minds so like and yet so alien,
our deepest yearnings opposite and twin,
we are as night and day or glass reflections—
and yet — closer together than we’ve ever been.
This world belongs to you more than to me.
I pass through it like the wind on summer leaves,
touching lightly, never resting, not disturbing—
but you laugh and live, run and touch and breathe
its air, and wonder at its mysteries—
your heart is overfull with love for living,
for cats and kids and hopeless people hurting,
your soul spills over gentle love forgiving!—
I watch from my world, separate and distinct.
My inner life is all I’ve ever known—
but with your hand in mine (our eyes embracing)
two worlds at last become one of our own—
And we terrify each other, you and I!
You draw me out and I draw you down deeper—
You show me that the world is good, exciting,
and between us, a communion that’s still sweeter—
You are life and light, warmth and security,
soft caramel skin and eyes too deep to see
iceberg memories of a life before
long conversation nights, and we were We—
They break black, frozen depths, scrape starless skies,
and give form to the void of cold existence,
these monoliths (my young self’s cruel convictions!)—
Their current marks the path of least resistance,
and for years I drifted careless in their wake,
a specter on the waters of my mind.
All light is love—your love and His above
the light of dawn warming these eyes long blind—
a dawn still breaking two years on and counting—
a dawn of love I’d never dared believe,
much less hope for myself in the black hours
of the long night of my soul — ne’er I conceived
that life ablaze with love could be such joy,
that giving all to you would feel so right,
that lying in your arms could be so warm—
that light upon these waters shone so bright.
‘Twas a conspiracy divine, my dear,
that brought two hearts to beat in us as one,
two mouths to speak in time delicious words,
words b’yond language that spring from two minds spun
round and round in Teresa’s ecstasy—
round a fixèd point, the incarnate Word
made flesh, the God made man made bread of life—
we children of His birth and death absurd—
twin minds, twin souls (hearts weary, teary eyes)
and two hands claspt against the beat of ages
and your embrace ‘gainst the e’erpresent darkness
that lives behind our masks and in our cages—
‘Twas a conspiracy divine, my dear,
not quantum, not a quirk ineffable,
ours a communion, two souls and Trinity,
and secrets shared in our confessional
with none but you and me and God above.
Your hand tugs at mine and keeps me standing,
and mine at yours, and I keep you from drowning,
and as we kneel, there burns a golden light:
the sun through leaves falling to dappled ground,
the glint of love and laughter in your eyes,
the light from light in tabernacle shining,
the warmth of Christian love that ne’er dies.