A Mass for the Dead

(Cross-posted on The Obama Diary.)

For the dead, we say, “Amen”. And for the living.
There are too many dead, and the living are riven.

Every day, a new horror, a new loss of innocence,
And the night-dimmed tide swallows us.

There is no innocence; this is a fallen world,
And men of evil revel in destruction.

When is it enough? It’s never enough.
Violence has an army of reasons,

And peace seems to be an idea
Honored more in the breach than the observance.

This is not your heritage; it is evil.
This is not your freedom; it is slavery.

Do that which you would have done unto you;
Flee from that which is harmful to all.

The answer is there, to be teased out
Of life, hard life, the only life we have.

Remember the dead, for they speak from the earth,
Pleading, “Let us not be in vain.”

Aubade

In the morning the sun’s limp yellow light
creeps sullenly into the dark-filled room;
particle by particle its bright-
ness takes shape; it fails to dispel a gloom

of more than night.  Cracked eyes and stirring flesh,
bedclothes cast aside; mumbled greetings, minds
a-whir; the day conspires to enmesh
them, like the old.  Slipstreamed time too fleeting—

bathe! dress! eat!—nothing settled from before;
the looming day a welcome eight hours’ break
from things unsaid but thought.  Best not to bare
words better left silent; just go and make

a life of sorts, like everyone they know:
work, distract, suffer through that little blow.

Father & Son

He said “I live three miles from the ocean but I haven’t been to the shore in three years.” I say, “That sounds awful.” “It’s easy to forget the things of beauty that abound all around you.” I nod in agreement, furtively looking at my watch, eager to get home, hoping he won’t keep me much longer. “Look out of my window. Do you see that tree? It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Look how it stands, impervious to everything we throw at it— the city’s rot, the earth’s malefactions. Year after year it goes through its cycles, the constant rebirth, until it outlives us, gently mocking us with its silence.
“But I forget it. I forget it unless forced to consider it, as your presence has forced me to consider it. It’s a trapping, a mere accessory, a bit of color that doesn’t impact me in any way that’s significant, except on a day like this; and even a day like this—talking here, sipping coffee, getting along famously— will soon fade, be of no matter, ebb away into the wash of time. And that’s the way that beauty perishes: rarely through willful destruction, but through mere neglect.”
I left soon after, for the day pressed on me— many promises to keep, many more people to please. I, too, live near the ocean, and haven’t been to the shore; and I have a tree in my backyard, tall and glowering, insisting on its weight, mocking me by its age, by its permanence, refuting my claims to property, to earth, to life. The world conspires against you, not out of malice, but because, like God, it would say “I am what I am”.
Look at your watch; look, and watch the hands fly.