Posted by: Peadar Ban | October 13, 2018

A RAINY OCTOBER MORNING

It seems the rain will never stop.

Apropos of nothing more than a cold damp morning, good for not much beyond drinking tea, reading a good book and wondering about the world beyond the window, I picked up Robert Bork’s “Slouching Toward Gomorrah”.  It has all the makings of a wonderfully dark, thrilling and depressing (aren’t they all?) Dystopian novel: action, characters galore, plot.  Anything by Orwell or Dick would have done but they weren’t around.

About halfway through the second chapter dealing with the 60s I come across about a paragraph of prose from another book written by two survivors, two converted radicals, named Horowitz and Collier.  In this short excerpt the reformed (I will not use the word which presents itself, they are sincere.) fellows describe a kind of collapse of that movement toward the end of the decade.

What to make of that puzzles me, but, never mind.  Using their information, Bork writes about a kind of “diaspora” that the, pardon me, rats undertake.  He spends a few pages reporting on where they nested, and what they did; mainly in the media, the universities and publishing.  They became, he writes, the “chattering” class.  Oh, he also mentions politics, I think, and entertainment; that last in connection with the media.

I can’t see much in the way of difference among any of those categories.  Perhaps there is some distinction between universities and the rest.

Now I must look for the Horowitz and Collier book, which should be a “fun” read.  I understand it was published in the 80’s and has been updated.  There will, of course, be nothing about the recent disgrace in the Senate; the happenings there reminding me, almost moment by moment, of episodes from long ago.

I have a feeling that a necessary element of dystopian novels is some sort of hope at the end. “The sun will come up tomorrow…”, don’t you know.  They even fly off to another planet at the end of “A Canticle for Liebowitz”.

Well, that may be something for the book.  Certainly, it doesn’t seem that way in real life; today, anyway.

I keep thinking, though, of men in caves in Italy, or wandering around in Hippo, or Assisi, or, please God, somewhere nearby.

Before I die.

Because, I miss a lot of things that were good.

And I think of my poor, dear father on such mornings as this, defeated by forces he never knew were attacking him; the ones inside his head. And the others behind desks making promises they knew were lies. He’s the man I pray for on such days, though he’s been dead an age or so.  And I think of my older brother, only gone three years.  An exile from his family even when he was with them.  He didn’t want the old way, and tried to make his own way.
The one afraid to fight what he couldn’t see or understand, and the other no fighter at all, but a wanderer, and long gone in search of what he left behind.
And me, still here, still trying to bring it all back home; waiting for the door to open and the outside to be inside, the inside outside, and God smiling at the end.  And hoping I can stand the light.
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Posted by: Peadar Ban | August 26, 2018

A POEM ABOUT THE RIVER

DOWN TO THE SEA
I saw the group at water’s edge gathered
In a semi-circle where we launch boats,
Cast lines, throw stones, just sit watching
The river moving on down to the sea.
Some times they shifted slightly, waiting…
For what, I thought… As if I signal sent
They turned and walked up the bank. One came
Toward me, sadness in her step, on her face,
And spoke her name, Sherry; from down the road,
There to remember with his family
Her young nephew, now no longer living.
He was just thirty-six, and too soon dead
Her eyes, tone of voice and shaking hands all said
Before she spoke the name of her nephew: Greg.

I told her I would remember and pray
For him. “He came from here, but he had gone
To Connecticut and died there last week.
He wanted some of his ashes scattered on
The river. That’s what we were doing there.”
“Oh,” I said, “I thought it was a christening.”
I would still pray I told her. Then thanking
Me she turned and walked back to the others.

I stood, there on the river bank, later
Looking downstream; the deep, dark, slow stream,
Stone paved shallows at my feet, floating leaves.
What had been Greg had gone away downstream.
No trace remained, no little speck of him
On the river’s long way to the deep wide sea.
I turned away and turning saw the old man
In his old boat pulling against the current
To the spot where Greg’s people had just been.
Each day to this spot, mid-river he comes
Drops anchor, baits line, settles down, and waits.

Often I see him, sitting there mid-stream
Rocking if a breeze ruffles him a bit
Or a passing cloud casts a shadow down
On the water’s face. Always there, it seems
Always there so we may all meet the sea.

peg 08/22/2018

Posted by: Peadar Ban | August 25, 2018

In Which I Write A Poem About Good Old Dad

My Father’s Song, for My Brother:
A Brief Chronicle of the Time of
Edmund John Gallaher 4/6/1913 to 4/26/1969

I will sing a song of my father, sing as I remember him
Nearly half a century’s gone, though his light has not grown dim.
He wanders still my memories, pacing, as I go,
Beside me, faithfully and gently; holding hand and heart just so.

The years amuse me in their passing by
Tolled like bells in some steepled church nearby
With times recalled ringing soft, ringing deep
Across the fields of days, the hills of years
Between the last loud laughter, the bitter tears;
Great wonder of his stature. I do weep
At good and ill most equally to see
My father covered in our sweet love who
From deep love fled until he turned, to me!
And swore his love that was ever and would be.

I think he was old before he could stand
On soft boned toddler’s legs, stretching a hand
For help to his own about the world.
His soft brown eyes, his bright red curls
Begging attention paid to him as due
All children. And they not there, the two
Strangers, children themselves; he a burden
More than love’s bright sign, promise made. But then
The world and need, which only God knows now,
To work and woe, far and long, would they go.
He would then be mere one more on the floor
Among the bundles dropped just inside the door
To be picked up when and if “Poor Eddie”
Should be brought next wherever was “could be.”

Grown indeed, more weed than flower in the sun
He was, uprooted, shoved; and always one
Among many, the little after thought!
“Poor Eddie” was the family’s name, and ought
It not have been so? He had shelter, sure,
But never had he home or place secure.

There’s a photo of him on a bridge
Easily leaning, in summer whites, with
An innocent, confident gaze, hoping
Under a clear sky; his manner open
It seems whenever I look at it. Those eyes,
I think each time that it might be me,
There looking into the future to see
The ones he’d love, whom he could call his own
At another time in the world full grown.

I know the place, though now it would be strange
So much time since then, so much that has changed.
That he was there is fact, and that he smiled
At least one time. “Poor Eddie”, lonely child
So young for these unnatural shocks. There
He seems composed although; complete and fair.

Soon he would be married and father of
Three. All in a decade come to love
The beauty of bride, mother, family
A real life to live, and place to thrive free.
Now his own in his own he must have thought
Among the bounty love and hard work brought.

So, they were! The very truth. Joy, happiness
And steady bliss with spouse and “spawn” in paradise.
The four little rooms in the big city
That never slept, simply furnished, pretty.
With a chair from here, a pillow from there;
The place in the basement, at the back where
Kids could play in the yard and lot nearby,
Where they had moved, escaping rats red eyes
And roaches’ filth. Worse than Harlem, even,
Our mother told him the day we were leaving.

He worked his job, nor was ever stayed from
Swift completion of his appointed rounds
The first fifteen brief, bright, years. Paradise, bliss,
As we, all of us, smiled, danced, sang, kissed
The days and seasons going by in turn.
Our opened door, our hearts, to all who came.

Oh, he had found, he made, family, home
Which he had always hoped to name his own
So Why? we wondered who lived with, in, him
The change so slight, then strong. Dark! Dawn, came dim
Which had always been bright. And night, black threat,
Grim, violent, bleak, endless and wild. Full blown
Rages in the dying light, great fear, deep harm!
Home, once sweet home, became a prison camp.

Then he disappeared : a deluge of booze
A mighty river of despair, his bruised
Soul swept away. While we mutely
Witnessed the catastrophe, “Poor Eddie” left us
Moved deep inside his own whisky soaked home
Where he at least would be safe, numb, Alone.

CODA
I saw him last alive on earth, breathing, barely
In the keep of loving nuns whose one care
Was to see him safely home to God
Along the way he’d so long tried to trod.
Immovable now, but with love made new
And in their prayers bound for heaven soon.

Two days before he left (what he’d left long
Before) we spoke last words; our own last song
Telling of the love each to each still bore.
And, doing that, left. Done then! There was no more.

peg August 15, 2018

Posted by: Peadar Ban | July 11, 2018

THE LADY IS DEAD

And here I am high above the huddled

Mourners in the pews, their heads bowed in prayer,

Me wondering if she may or mayn’t,

I almost always feel this way, be safe

For all eternity.  Will she get safely

Where we all, on some level, hope to be,

Back in God,s pocket as my father said,

And did very little about while here;

Confident, I do think, we would pray him home,

At last coming to assume the weight of

Responsibility for the ones who

Can do nothing for themselves any more?

 

I watch them filing out when Mass is done

Wearing sad smiles, wiping away last tears

And shaking hands, hugging old friends who’ve come

To show they love you and will miss her, too.

And, I wonder how long it will be before

Something as silly as a pennant race will

Put a stop to intentions truly meant.

 

Don’t we do it all the time?  Behave that way

Filling our heart with our own goodness?  But,

The lady is dead, and, God knows how I feel,

While my team, good as they are, needs prayers too!

P.E.G  July 11, 2018

 

 

 

Posted by: Peadar Ban | May 9, 2018

The Last Tulip

Quietly the rower gliding by seems

Less a man than spirit sent

To ride the silver surfaced river’s softness

Enchanting just another watcher standing

On the green bank alone in sweetest morning

Amid song bright birds, infant leaves, the last tulip

And his sun splashed arms pulling, pulling, away.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 27, 2018

WHOSE ONLY LASTING MONUMENT IS TIME

“Stop us!?” say the waves.  “We have rolled thousands

Of miles.”  The mountains at the shore stand

Still. Solid, granite walls wait silently.

Of stony calm wide gray oceans take no heed.

They have broken greater on wind, waves and rain.

 

I sit thinking while the river, such a

Proud thing pouring from old northern hills,

Now grown full, swift, before me, brings back

From those hills, up thrown a thousand, thousand

Years and more beyond counting, or sum I

Can measure, by deep Ocean’s waves or her

Cruel pounding storms and rains, born far offshore

Where none but sun and moon see, ancient stars

And silent space standing mute cold witness,

Water’s original home born in flame,

The cauldron cradle, nothing now but dust.

 

The river does the ocean’s will, bringing back

What pounding waves and freezing rain have carved

Out of aeonic stone from the world’s deeps.

Returning atom by atom, year by year piled,

The matter of mountains’ mother and ocean

As well, twins identical in Earth’s womb,

Or one, the Worm Ouroboros, some say

Appearing. Disappearing. Always here.

Whose only lasting monument is time.

 

PEG  02/27/2018

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 21, 2018

SUMMER DROPPED IN

I heard a noise.  Opening my front door

I saw Summer standing there.  “You!” I said

And let him in, surprised to hear the birds

Outside brightly singing in summer’s light

Soft on the snow, see little snow puddles

On the grass, diamonds of water drops

Necklacing trees.  Summer entered the house

Filling the rooms with his presence while I

Stood silently, happily, wondering

Why he had come, how long Summer would stay.

 

I showed Summer to the back of the place

In wonder still, and Summer said, “I see

The river sparkling in my sunlight.  Waiting

Do you think?”  Summer turned to me and smiled

The warm smile I remembered.  All those times

I’d seen it before came back peacefully.

“How long will you stay?” I asked quietly.

 

And Summer paused.  My neighbor’s cat, out now

There weren’t any piles of snow to breast,

Curved in and out between my legs and purred

Deeply in pure delight.  A raucous Jay

Off in a tree by the river’s bank called

Laughingly, the first Jay I’d heard in months,

While little sparrows peeped across the grass

In search of seed mindless of the old cat

Curling around my legs as mindlessly, while

A Cardinal bathed leisurely beside

Us in the old fountain in warm sunlight.

 

As his eminence finished and flew off

I glanced again at Summer.  My look

A question, a need to know of his plans.

“I just stopped by, “ he said, “to see how things

Were.  I cannot stay of course,  I’ll be back.”

“Of course, “ I told him, “I knew that.”  “The trees

And all the other things would be confused,”

He continued and turned.  I sensed a sadness

In Summer I had never sensed before.

Certainly Winter, Spring nor Autumn had

Never seemed sad to me as Summer did

Now.  Perhaps, a fleeting thought came to me,

I had ignored him all these years, ignored

His favors to me of warmth, long days, sweet

Evenings, flower scented soft winds sighing,

Bright Dawn’s early song and light symphony,

And I said as much as he turned to go.

 

And, just like the friend he is, or father

Who always smiled when he went away,

Summer smiled, waved and said, “I will be back.”

 

PEG 02/21/2018

Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 3, 2018

READING AUGUSTINE: FOUR

AN ACCIDENTAL OCCASION

“What am I apart from God’s sustaining love?  An accidental occasion of perennial neediness…” **

 

Unsatisfied wonder never leaves me.

Am I an accidental occasion

Of perennial neediness, rootless

Thing and nameless, essentially alone?

Believed something in the rushing flood, flung

For a time by dumb chance, blind circumstance

Against another thing; rock, twisted root?

Just one whirling turbulence spinning

With all the others in tighter circles

Passing, timeless, first submerged, then raised up.

Moved by blind force; nor care, nor peace attend.

Will I see the fire fall from cruel sky?

 

Unsatisfied wonder still moves in me.

 

“Open the book.  Open the book and read!”

The war is won.  No longer any need

The ashes, burning sands, darkened wood

We once found so pleasant that we believed they could

Be truth itself; diminished, unseeing

Dry, dark, seeming close, yet not there.  Such dear

Unsatisfying treasures lie!  Awake

Find what was always there and see true joy!

 

PEG  Feb. 3 2018

**  See the essay “Augustine’s Confessions and the Source of Christian Character”  by

Christopher J. Thompson, in “The Confessions, Saint Augustine of Hippo” Ignatius Critical Editions

Editor, Joseph Pearce, P. 506

Posted by: Peadar Ban | January 29, 2018

DEEPLY INTERESTED IN THE UNFOLDING

Some old men I know are strange animals

Sitting in one place, sometimes all morning,

Quietly watching the wall across the room

Or the bare tree trunk outside the window.

A young man would move the furniture

At least, or, soon getting up, go outside

To rake the leaves from the garden beds

Beneath the tree before the crocus bloomed.

Make straight the stones along the garden way.

 

I have seen old men walking slowly by

At almost any time of day looking

To me like fellows somewhere far away

Who, when I speak a greeting, often silently

Return mine with the merest glance, eloquent

In its simplicity; all that’s needed

On a dark night to keep the course they’re on.

 

Men of a certain age will watch the day

In the same way an infant might calmly

Follow from its crib or its cradle mother’s

Path across, or in and out of, its room

Knowing what will come somehow; none the less

Deeply interested in the unfolding.

 

PEG

January 29, 2018

Posted by: Peadar Ban | January 23, 2018

Reading Augustine: Two

“I know time rules me, and I long for its end when time is no more.”

 

I cannot see the speed of time.  Who can?

Invisible thing, waiting, here and gone

Somewhere (to wait again?). I wonder now

While time rushes by my eyes to some then,

Has time a place, a country, where seconds, minutes,

Hours and all its other known forms reside ?

What there governs the Land of Time?  How long

May each period of Time’s government

Continue?  And by whom?  Is it self ruled?

Does it see itself move and self adjust?

 

Does each period know its place, its time

To move, or in the Land of Time to wait?

Where, after it has done what it must do,

Does it return, to wait, to repeat,

To do it again what had been done before.

Again! Ages upon endless ages?

 

Time cannot be a democracy, nor

Will its appearance, length, duration

In being, yet surely exists, closely

Involved in all things we need to take time

To do.  Where then is time stored, to be used

Counted out, measured, and put to work for us?

Used well or wasted, frittered away.

Whatever that means.  How may I save it

I often wonder, as I am told it’s

Slipping away, someday will be all gone.

 

Is it all in my mind and nothing more?

But, when there is no time left what will take

Its place for we who have lived for so long

Under its rule?  For, as the saying goes,

“Time rules all things!”  Come chaos then, or peace

In timeless rest?  That all depends, I guess

On the use we make of it.  Use it well

And one goes to heaven.  Unwisely?  Hell!

 

“Could anyone measure past periods that no longer exist, or future periods that do not yet exist?  Only someone who is bold enough to claim that what has no being can be measured.  So then, while time is passing it can be felt and measured, but once past it cannot, because it no longer exists.”  Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions: Ignatius Critical Ed., Bk XI, Ch. 16, p.347

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