Posted by: Peadar Ban | May 25, 2020

Between Aisles

We have just returned from doing a little shopping.
While wandering around a not so full, nor yet quite empty supermarket, in search of things that we really didn’t need, but could not live without, and momentarily separated from my Beloved Spouse, busy with the Asparagus, I happened to notice a gentleman doing the same thing I was doing, wandering aimlessly and wondering great wonders.
He was dressed for doing that. In fact, I think he was the best of all dressed men in the store with me. I confess that I was not a little jealous of the way in which he was dressed.
Because, you see, it was his shirt which made the man in this case, and not at all the other way round. It was such a shirt as every man these days should own, He should not limit to one the number of such shirts he owns, but have many, each of them in a different color to match different occasions, public occasions of great meaning; as well as private or small occasions of almost casual, or no meaning whatever; and moods lively, tender or solemn.
He was walking towards me in the vegetable aisle; the one covered with lettuces and squash just across from the beans and tomatoes. And as he got closer to me I made up my mind to comment on his choice of garment, and how much it mean to me.
And, I did!
I spoke, well, just slightly more forcefully than I had intended, but, for heaven’s sake, didn’t the occasion warrant some public acclamation?
“I love the shirt you have on,” I said, “It is the best I have seen in no little time. Thank you.” Several heads turned in the aisle and stared. He, the man himself inside the shirt, stopped still and looked at me. Then he understood what I was saying and why. He smiled broadly and nodded at me. We walked on, two men understanding each other.
He was happy, I have no doubt, to be understood. And so was I. He was pleased to meet, perhaps at long last, someone who understood what too few people understand. And, I was delighted to let him know he was not so terribly alone in the world.
He had company. We all need that.
You are entitled to ask about the shirt he wore. It was a simple gray cotton short sleeved t-shirt. It was the message emblazoned across his chest which made it immortal:
Every Day I Wake Up And Do Nothing!
Posted by: Peadar Ban | April 27, 2020

A Kellogg’s Good Morning?

 

I don’t pretend to anything beyond what I am, truly, the kind of fellow who fits the song whose opening verses begin:   “Lazybones, sleepin’ in the sun! How you ‘spec to get your day’s work done?”

The correct answer(s) to the question might be, ” I doan much care.”  or “You? You gonna do it, Suh?”  Directly below you will read what I think is one of the many “money quotes” to use a  phrase favored by a fellow I know who lives now in the very strange state of Washington, a few hundred miles north of that part of the country I am thinking about now.   He has a passing knowledge of the people and the place.  I have very little of either, and less of what is done there, and why and how, and whether or not it is of any lasting good, as might be a strong team of bullocks, and a well made plow.

I have been in Washington.  (It seems to me to be a lot like California, which is, I think not at all like any place in the universe.  But, that’s just me.) That was a long, long time ago, my sojourn in Washington.  And, it was in Seattle.  I was only there long enough to get off a ship, and get into a bus that took me home, in five long days, to New York, the town where I was born, where I grew up; the town I used to love.  The town I used to love no longer exists.  Quite a few of those things don’t.  For heaven’s sake, the world I used to love no longer exists.  Well, bits and pieces of it still do.  I am in one of them now writing this thing.  It’s four rooms on a small hill looking down on a small river, if you must know.

If you read this far, if I haven’t annoyed you too much, continue please, if time permits, to the longish article you’ll find at the link just below the excerpt:

“Silicon Valley increasingly draws the same kind of soul as Hollywood does. Or perhaps one might say that math nerds never before had a shot at mass adulation and glamour, Silicon Valley gives it to them, and many try to grab it. The motivations—fame, power, money, sex—are scarcely different from those impelling people to flock to Tinseltown, or the nation’s capital, for that matter. The main difference is that the rewards in Silicon Valley are vastly greater, for the few who manage to claim them. More wealth, more power, and more fame—certainly in combination—than any mere movie star or politician could ever dream of.”

The Frivolous Valley and Its Dreadful Conformity

After this, you may, return here.

My wife and I took a very short two night trip to that area almost two years ago.  She had been recruited by some doctors at one of the medical schools in Stanford University who were interested in the kind of cancer she had, an interesting kind and “tricksie”, to use a word made famous by Tolkein. They payed, so we went.

The first time I went to that neck of the woods was shortly after I left high school in 1960.  I remember, water, a large bridge, a small island still open for business  I have been back there several times, the last time being to say goodbye to my brother who had to die.  He was doing that in Healdsburg which was both in the opposite direction from Stanford and on fire.  In addition to that, my wife had not yet become an item of interest for the doctors at Sanford, so she stayed home, and my sister accompanied me.

During those fifty or so years, the whole place changed.  You will have learned that from reading the article I recommend.

I remember that Stanford had a decent football team, some time ago.  And, I remember when the Giants left New York and moved to SF.  And not much more.  Well, there really was nothing to remember.

Several things impressed me about this trip.

The weather.  Lovely.  But, monotonous.  I might have enjoyed a nice blaze engulfing a few thousand square miles.  At least the caravans of fire trucks would have made the excruciating traffic surrounded by thousands of slow moving vehicles costing tens of thousands of dollars; and built for speeds in the near tens of thousands mph I suspect might have made driving more interesting.  Well, maybe not.  I was able to rent a very zippy and almost totally automated, very expensive, up to the minute German car, at a drop dead cheap price.  I was scared out of my life driving the thing.  Life on the road in California is different.  Well, life in California itself is different.

So: The traffic:  Utterly horrible.

I suspect the traffic is a result of the size of the industry that has taken over from farming down in the Valley.  I can tell you that aside from the airport, the cleanest and neatest little thing I have seen, I saw little else that might be called industrial architecture in the place; unless that term takes in the manufacture of bits and bytes.  I was surprised to learn that the drive from our hotel to Sanford was perhaps two dozen miles, and took, both going and coming, at least two hours.  A mule could have done better.

There were an awful lot of restaurants, though.  They served an awful lot of stuff I had never heard of before.  And, I have been about everywhere but the South Sandwich Islands; even Hoboken.  I thought about that driving back from Stanford to our hotel in San Jose.  I thought about everything else I have ever thought about, I think.

And when the plane taking us back to Los Angeles, another place that doesn’t know when to stop; perhaps the first such place, I gave thanks to Almighty God I was going home.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | April 14, 2020

Reading at the End of the World

With not much else to do, I have begun to read two novels by two different authors, both of which oddly enough deal with Far Eastern cultures and their interactions with the West, specifically with the good old USA. Neither one, especially in our current parlous circumstance, is about a walk in the park.
One of them is Philip K. Dick’s “The Man In The High Castle” which lent itself to a close to terrifying TV series, a weird mixture of alternate history and out of this world sci fi, all wrapped up in Japanese cruelty, Nazi cruelty and American defeat, and treachery and fear. I am only about a ten or twenty pages into this tale of dread.
The other book is John Hersey’s “White Lotus”. I bought the book about forty years ago, and only picked it up last week. The thing is nearly 700 pages long, and is no day at the beach, which does not mean it isn’t worth reading and thinking about.
For one thing they both deal with this country and it’s people after a crushing defeat, and great loss. And the difficulties of life in the aftermath is interesting to contemplate, and compare within each of the books, and with the difficulties we face now…quite small compared with the fictional ones…And the ones we may face in the not too distant future. In many ways neither book is too good, right now anyway, for the active and easily disturbed imagination. And, at the same time, both books couldn’t be better.
Has anyone read either of these, or both of these interesting novels? If not, you may want to get hold of either one; better yet, both. After all, you ain’t doing much else, but sitting, wondering and worrying.
Posted by: Peadar Ban | April 5, 2020

This Might Be A Poem

This is long.

Despite having written some thises and thats which sometimes rhyme, and have long or short lines, I am not sure that I have ever written a poem.  I have read many of them in books; while in school, or on the subway, or at home in the morning and the evening.  I have even done that in a park on a quiet day.

The things I wrote I am not really sure they fit the description or definition of a “poem”.  I am sure about the others things, because folks who should know the difference between a poem and a shopping list have said so.  And, who better…

A little more than a month or so ago, a fellow Iknow and like, who is a Fellow at a nearby small Catholic College mentioned that he would be teaching a class of young scholars all about a poem by none other than T.S. Eliot, a poet I keep getting mixed up with about seven or eight other guys, Englishmen all, who write poems.  And, he’s not even English.

The poem he was going to be teaching these kids about, he said, was /is “The Wasteland”, a thing that, I think, never goes out of style; well, at least the title and what it signifies.  So I tell my friend that it interests me.  And I ask him if he would mind my sitting in…way in the back…and listening to what he has to say.  It’s fine with him, he tells me.  Then he asks if I would mind giving the class my own opinion of what The Wasteland is all about.

Now it has got to be a good half-century since I read this poem; which I always mix up with The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, another thing that Eliot wrote.  And Iknow he wrote something about Cats.  In any case, against my better judgement, a thing never to good, I say I will do it.

We part still friends and I run home to read The Wasteland.  Which I do, and then spend an hour or two reading explanations about the thing.

And then our gift from The East drops on us and I am allowed to escape from my crazy adventure.  But, I still think about reading about the poem Eliot writes, and the man himself, who he was, what he did and how he thought.  I really haven’t learned very much, but I did learn about…a very little about…what goes on in his poem.

I also thought that “wastelands” come and go, and have been doing so for a long, long time.  For instance we built a doozy not a few years after Eliot’s poem was published.

That kind of thinking prompted me to do my own imitation of Wasteland which is a more private thing than his was; I mean Thomas Stearns.  I had thought I would bring it along with me whenever, if that ever comes, I find myself sitting in on my friend’s resurrected class on the real wasteland, which begins to look like it is happening anytime soon.

So finding nothing better to do in a world now shrunken to my living room than think..a wasteland in itself…I decided to share it with whomever is having a hard time falling asleep.  I don’t consider it a poem, mainly because I don’t really, as I have said, a good idea what a poem is.  That is unless I come across it inside a book which has a tiele  that includes the words “poem” or “poetry”.

Enjoy it, or not; here it is:

 

READING ELIOT

(For Mariellen)

 

THE BOOK IS OPEN BEFORE ME

April, still to come, is waiting in the wings.

March has trampled much to long for everyone.

Embarrassed it sends waves of beauty

And all the bells ring in a warm Spring breeze

While April, next, endures the wait.

 

I sit reading all about it. A poem

Almost a hundred years old in my hands.

Prophetic, if I can figure it out

But little more than mystery to me.

Brow wrinkling, mouth gaping strange: mystery.

 

I’LL NEVER UNDERSTAND

So, Mama Me Sosoteris sits somewhere

In the nicest room in the whole wide world.

Do you think that for one minute I care?

That sweet girl named Hyacinth came my way,

Pole, whose parents once from flesh to smoke

Rose on thick currents to coffered black sky.

Oh, sooted ceiling! Oh, coffered Polish sky!

 

Sooted was the ceiling! Beware Laquerea

But more, laquearius bearers at home.

(The Bandersnatch has no claws to match.)

Unless one has a larger home than mine,

 

I NEVER THOUGHT OF THIS

Four small rooms on the ground floor in the back.

Cooler for that, sheltered from noonday sun

With concrete-brick alley mere steps away.

All manner of sport among friends was had

And life was tried on for size, which some found

Too large then or for any age to come.

 

I have played chess, of course. In the alley

With Martin. Marty, my short Hare-lipped friend,

Liked the game.  His false teeth were ill fitting,

Sometimes slipping out part way when he spoke

Making conversation juicy.  We joked

All of us when he wasn’t nearby.  Poor

Marty was arrested some years later.

Sent away for his part in a weird scheme

For trying to blow up a Post Office.

Life…too large for Marty then or ever,

Merely a laquaerius target he.

 

Short sharp knives cut deep the net covered ones

Of cruel circumstance, waves of poison,

Sweet poison, nets of happiness and woe

The gray river, lazy, lethal, lonely

A path where prints previous disappeared

And thus, no path at all, no one knew, no one cared

Because the best thing to have is fun.

 

But time, time, time stepped in grime on the roof top

Below in the alleys where cats chased rats

Each night and stray dogs sniffed at sacks of waste

We pitched pennies, we all played cards, and threw dice!

The things all growing boys wanting to be

Men do on the way. There were casualties.

There were, and we knew who they would be.

Billy Gedry, rode atop the train but

Lost in the contest between train top and

Tunnel wall, never again to stand! To

Sit, drink, piss down a tube, die a drunk.

 

Joe Duncan was another, watching as

His father beat to death his mother

Drowning in her screams and tears.  It took years

For Joe to get over it, dying slowly himself

In the most delightful way, unconsoled

For they were both dead. Who was there to hold

Or would, who himself drowned in filth and booze?

Now, what does he see looking down from high?

 

THE CENTER DOESN’T HOLD

One summer one man, The Son of Sam, ruled

The City of Seven Million Stories.

On a mission from God the two young men

Sat in the car.  It was well past midnight.

Two more sat behind them for other reasons

All four eying the car across the street where

Two others sat.  “We buy heroin,” he said

To me when I took an oath the same

To do, thinking then of what that might mean.

 

And slowly one man left the car we watched.

Back to us as he moved away, turned and ran

In our direction, faster every step.

Before he could get too far, he was shot

And fell between tracks on the empty street

Cradling him, collecting his blood.

The car behind us moved.  I moved to halt

Fired once, and wounded one in flight.

Fear took hold, but work to do conquered fear.

Before it happened, it was over.  Work

Was done by men as work had to be done.

Trying to hold what did not want holding.

 

PLANNED

To kill is easy.  To keep alive hard.

Margaret is dead so she now knows

How being dead feels.  No doubt not surprised?

Overwhelming, on a scale unheard of is Hell!

It is filled with untold horrible sights

Unbelievable mutilated mountains.

Piles of rotting corpses everywhere

Death on scales that were never before thought,

Mountains, civilizations, whole continents!

Mengele blushes shame, humiliation

Covers Stalin, Mao runs from the burning pit

While Hell itself laughs though no sound is heard.

Never a sound in Hell but silent screams.

Margaret, dressed well in her own offal,

Is royalty in hell. Treated that way

She’s cut to pieces ten thousand times each

Day by Gosnell, merely a minor stooge.

Who says Satan has no sense of humor.

 

 

IN A LIKE PLACE

On a quiet morning the three drove from

The fine hotel through the sleepy city

To the meeting place, a deserted lot

In a torn and tattered slum beyond the

Tall shining silver monuments to gold

And there met the one waiting for them to

Do the business he had come from far to

Do; the business being Cocaine or death.

No matter!  No one died that morning clear

But, he fell and flooded blood like a dark

Red carpet on the ground, a small blood lake.

What is that!  Millions more slowly do the same!

 

 

 

NOW IS THE EXCEPTIONAL TIME

Fast forward a few years and see how sweet

It all is.

 

In Healdsburg by the Russian River, near

The peaceful ocean I cleaned the glass

Of all the windows while the world burned

On the nearby hills and my brother died

Inside, slowly.  My sister washed walls.

No longer may he go to San Francisco

To leave his heart there high upon a hill

Nor run to leave his heart behind

Though he could not know. The children would know

They who never are enough were enough.

It has not rained and so the flames eat well

On nearby hills; hearts and homes and hopes

Above the burned-out river filled with dust,

Dry beds, dry bones, dry lives, dry eyes, dry hearts.

Old Indians whose land this was once walk

About wondering how it happened

While the new Indians open stores, build

Hotels and change everything not changed. Yet

He dies inside.  Outside I look for a priest

And wonder when or if the rain will fall

Watching through the smoke the mad mountains glow

Smelling in the day the sour scent of death.

 

Soft the rain begins, tiny drops walking

Before the door with food for him. I stand

And drink for my sister.  The priest will come

Today and bring my brother home; and us too

The most true thing.  This for us priests to do.

 

A CANTICLE FOR LIEBOWITZ

Fly away cross the country.  Leave at last

The western wastes.  The flames, the dust. The death!

The older death and the small hope, tender hope

Growing in the old places, hope by hope. And

From a river’s edge look toward the old

Mountains, the old trees, the old people

And their children in this quiet time

Just before spring, as birds fly in

Far to near, as cold sifts and snow disappears.

Death is a thousand miles away

Does he dance his last dance with all his fools?

Will what death loves end as sure as night?

 

THE END IS NEAR?

So, laughing day comes dancing over hills

Across the oceans, down from heaven’s fire?

Few are here who still believe all of this.

The rest dance and sing at the Salt Pillar.

 

Gone, almost everything is gone that was

The bad , the good, the worse, the best.  All gone.

Washed away in booze, or risen to the laquerea

Where the Pugio waits cutting damned from just.

That is the gate now through which we all pass

While the churches are locked for safety’s sake

And Mighty God from another day’s Work

Rests in peace.

 

PEG 03/31/2020

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Peadar Ban | March 11, 2020

What Better Time

Dear Reader,

Last night a friend asked me if I would read Eliot’s “The Waste Land”, and let him know what I think of it.  I haven’t read the poem in several eons, but I said I would.  He is teaching the poem over the next couple of days to one of his classes.  This morning, an hour or so ago…maybe more…I started my assignment.  As I read the first couple of stanzas, I also looked out the window, and stopped reading to think a little.

And, as I thought, and looked at the day, this fell out.

 

WHAT BETTER TIME

 

It is April, what better time!

Rentaro Hashimoto, Ph.D., in his chair

Smiles with childish glee and says,

“Insights!  Give me insights, you must have some”

The slim book before me on my desk is blue.

Outside the maples on the Quad are still bare.

The maples here are bare too, and snow

Patches wait in fear of heat to come.

Will heat come before the cool green leaves

Are fledged and waving it away?

Around the dying one, in the open now

Where I can see it plain, a great snake twines

Its wood up and up the dying trunk to light

As quickly as an age.  Rentaro smiles unseeing.

 

He is young, and so am I.  And it is April

A time of hope and glory, and the world is young

Even though we know the truth that it is not

And Wittgenstein is dead.  Despite the fact

The  world lives on, and the tea grows cold

In my cup on the desk, and Rentaro waits.

He will get an answer, I pray, before he dies.

But it isn’t he who wants to know at all.

No, he is more interested in Hegel.

Big things are in his sights high in his chair.

 

John Moran, who has a son in the other room

“Doing “This!”, is the one who has one eye

On Wittgenstein and one on the son.

Two men, two books. They are all dead!

 

And, I am still alive trying to answer

Their questions, “What Is this? Who is doing it?”

One April morning under the waxing sun,

The leafless trees and a dying Maple

Being slowly squeezed to death.

 

PEG

March 11, 2020

Posted by: Peadar Ban | December 23, 2019

A Quiet Morning

A quiet morning.  A quiet little town.

A time just before first faint light of dawn.

Nothing stirs; though night’s long sleep prepares

To take it’s leave behind her still closed eyes.

 

Suddenly now light swells within the room

Fills every corner, banishes all gloom.

No graceful day here hints sweet shades of

Rose and blue.  This is Heaven’s hint of Love!

 

Awake now, sitting mantled in the light

Poised on a frantic point between pure fright

And ecstasy, she holds herself, contains

The flood of fear, and joy so much like pain.

 

And waits, suspended in eternity.

 

Light bows profound before this peasant child

Softening from bright majesty to mild.

Address from graceful and shifting swirl

She hears as words and feels deep in her soul.

 

“The Lord is with you, Child of Grace,” she hears.

Yet while light continues she feels no fear.

The message? Hope for all! This light imparts

As love and childlike trust live within her heart.

 

“I am the Lord’s handmaid.  Let it be so.”

Her quiet words releasing it, Light goes.

And on her simple answer given rests

Creation’s pivot and the death of Death.

 

peg 12/23/2019

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Peadar Ban | December 14, 2019

WALKING WITH HEIDI IN COPENHAGEN

 

My wife and I are more than used to seeing a place we travel to through the windows of a bus, along with 30 or so other folks.  I have yet to get a window up front and spend the time just looking straight ahead, instead of from right to left and missing what is going by on the other side.  It’s the best there is much of the time, isn’t it?

But there are better ways, you know.

We love to walk, too.  Walking through a place one doesn’t really “know” yet is always an adventure, and often a delight. But you see, the great drawback to that is not knowing enough about where to go next, and where, let’s be honest, not to go at all.

I remember a very long time ago when I took a bunch of visiting police officers on a walking trip from the Battery in Manhattan uptown to the UN.  We were all there for a conference of some kind, and most of them hadn’t ever been to the city.  I got the job because I had grown up in New York.  It was the hardest part of the day keeping them from places I had grown up in.  But the rest was lovely.  And, I was able to answer the many questions.  We stopped a lot, and that was great!  Questions should be answered.

The fellows were all very, very happy with the expedition.

Recently, my wife and I were exposed to such a walk, just three of us, myself, my wife, and her first cousin’s good friend Heidi, on a very lovely excursion through Copenhagen, a much more compact city than New York, but just as exciting for its history and its culture.

Mariellen’s cousin personally brought us to meet up with our guide, hostess, and new friend at a busy Metro stop on a busy street, and after some brief introductions we three got down to a very pleasant, always interesting, fully explained and definitely user-friendly stroll through “Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen”.

How much is enough to see of “wonderful” Copenhagen?  Our guide, I thoroughly believe, was both careful and concerned that she would neither overwhelm us with detail nor wear us out (she being considerably younger and clearly more fit than we) with an endless journey.  In fact, we took time out to stop in a delightful café, which I would return to tomorrow if I could, for some delicious hot chocolate and a pastry.

Then we were off again, not forgetting to stop into an exciting store where our guide loves to shop for gifts, very high quality workmanship all over the place.  Were we tempted?  Oh yes.  But we resisted.  All the while, in the most pleasant way, most friendly, and most casual, we wandered and listened, questioned and learned.  And when it rained – and it did!  Several times – she knew where to duck under an overhang or into an unexpected courtyard, within which, too, Heidi found things worth pointing out that evoked yet more knowledge of the city’s history in her mind.

I remember the quiet square, the old buildings, the very technical descriptions of architecture always readily offered, and the happily answered questions.  Reminiscing with my wife about Heidi’s very thorough and enlightening explanations of the university and the great tower, the churches, and, after a mad dash through heavy rain into the area,  our final walk through a (sheltered, thank God) outdoor market, all ending with a celebratory beer back in company with Mariellen’s cousin makes me yearn to spend another such, dare I say it, enchanted afternoon.   I got the feeling that day that all this was almost as much fun for our delightful guide as it was for us. I keep thinking of Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music” and the lovely song, “My Favorite Things”

PEG Dec. 14, 2019

 

 

 

Posted by: Peadar Ban | November 6, 2019

THE NIGHT AND THE SKY

One of the things I most liked about sailing on a slow boat around the world a little more than half a century ago was sleeping out on the deck at night. I wasn’t the only one.  Many of my shipmates joined me there on cots we would put up on the covers of the holds at the rear of the ship; behind the mid-ship “house”.  The sea would gently rock us back and forth all night long, and the soft splash of waves, the hum of the engines below, and occasional bird calls were sweet sounds to go to sleep with.  These were old ladies, these ships we sailed on, old Liberties, or Victories from W.W.2; rust buckets, but faithful, and slow.  That was great.  No one was in a hurry.

 

Of course, before sunset there would be a little conversation.  But, most of the guys were interested in sleeping, especially the deck hands, who would be going on watch at intervals through the night.  The engine room crew, too.  I was different, working an eight hour day down below keeping things clean.  Talk was for the fantail, and, sure, muffled voices would be heard coming from there. Those guys were quiet, though.  Their mates were sleeping.

 

And, so, I drifted off each night counting stars and dreaming about them.  The link below will take you to a little video about some satellite exploring the Southern Hemisphere for NASA.  The nice lady will describe what you will be looking at.  I appreciated the narration almost as much as I appreciated the clip.  While I can remember some of the “sky”, I no longer know their name, nor can I for the most part find many of the constellations in the places I left them years ago.  But,  as she ticked them off, their appearance brought me back to those pleasant nights “back aft” far out at sea rocked gently beneath the stars like a child on it’s mother’s bosom.

 

It’s a very common reaction I suspect.

 

We recently spent some time at sea on a tour.  The ship was a monster, not much smaller in size and weight than the latest super-carrier.

 

I was only on one of those old ladies, long ago, with not much more than thirty other guys.  On this ship I was in the company of nearly 4,000 of my “best friends”, and the sea, that gentle rocking mother of younger days, was very far away.  Even for that though I was grateful; though there was no room back aft for a cot and a night on my mother’s breast watching the stars sway to the wind’s soft song; a whispered lullaby.

 

Anyway, I thought about those nights sitting here in front of my device and listening to the nice lady talk about all the names and places as the short “film” progressed.  I knew them all, and learned them growing up.  Before I was sixteen, a couple of years before I found myself on a cot on the Number 5 Hold somewhere in the Pacific, or a number of other places, I could have been the narrator of that thing.  Now, I had to pay close attention as she mentioned Betelgeuse, and Fomalhaut, and Orion.

 

These fellows I knew so well.  Still there.

 

My brother, Tom, was a sailor, too.  He spent much more time at sea than I did, and knew it well, too.  And when he died he returned to the sea somewhere off the coast of California.

 

I’ll not do that.  But in my own heart, I never really left it, the lonely sea and the sky, especially the sky at night.

 

On the way to bed at night, every night, I pass a small painting on the wall.  A friend did it at gave it to me, a little watercolor of a row-boat, waiting.  Below that boat I copied John Masefield’s lovely poem:

 

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

 

Well, that’s good.  It really is.

But, these days my journeys are more on this level:

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe,—
Sailed on a river of crystal light
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring-fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we,”
Said Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe;
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew;
The little stars were the herring-fish
That lived in the beautiful sea.
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish,—
Never afraid are we!”
So cried the stars to the fishermen three,
Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam,—
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home:
‘Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed
As if it could not be;
And some folk thought ’twas a dream they’d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea;
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one’s trundle-bed;
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:—
Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

I remember my mother and father putting me to bed and softly reciting that poem to me as I drifted off rocked in their arms.

 

 

 

Posted by: Peadar Ban | October 27, 2019

Beginning of the Beginning: The Way

 

 I have been there, Gethsemane. Yes, there

Not far from Jerusalem’s ancient walls

Still barrier, bulwark thick and tall, watching

Sun’s slow slide behind those walls’ massive bulk

While I wandered the old ways laid among

The ancient Olives, mute witnesses, gray

Leafed sentinels of salvation’s long night.

 

Inside the nearby church I kissed the stone

Which received the offer of bloody sweat

And tears, heard soft acceptance at the end.

He was ready when they came for Him

Who knew they would before the world was formed

And looked into each one’s eyes lovingly

As they dragged him to torture, trial and Death.

The silent trees in the still cool night

Mute witnesses to His brutal passion’s

Black, cold, dawn where pure love is a stranger.

 

Yards must have been miles to Jerusalem’s

Ancient Lion’s Gate beaten up the rough

Rock strewn road, shoved and dragged along in turn

Pain a flood with each stumbling step taken

With those whose only work was fear and hate.

Pummeled into agony, alone in pain

All the while the gray green leaves left to hang,

To weep with his few friends, all still as trees.

 

The way from Gethsemane winds uphill

To the Lion’s Gate.  A way not too hard

For the fit.  Not so for Him that dark dawn

Beneath the sun’s blistering red rising.

Evil seems in times like this most eager

To reproduce and spread like a mad plague

Like a message gone out across the land

Growing more powerful where good has flown

Beyond all hope of being seen again.

 

My own pain up that long incline on legs

Old and lame brought tears as I thought of Who

Both felt and saw pain now and pain to come,

Knew what waited yet walked bloody into it

Toward His purpose from the world’s beginning

The death of Death and victory of Life.

 

What were His thoughts on the way to the cross

I wondered walking my dolorosa

To keep pain away that bright afternoon.

Turning into the Holy Sepulcher,

We waited in line to pay Him homage

While the Greeks’ tiny bells rang closer as

I worried it would not happen at all.

 

At last, almost in their sight, the young priest

Beckoned us hurriedly to the Tomb

“You are the last today,” his whispered words

To us, and urged us swiftly, softly down

Three steps I remember. The tiny space,

The slab.  Here lay Almighty God at rest

I thought awed, and we both knelt and worshipped.

I kissed the stone where God lay down His head

And my wife did kiss the stone herself.

 

Dolorosa, sorrow in another tongue, is

The way.  The way past darkness into light.

Eternity, endless, immediate

Knows what I did not, but learned on that Way.

Sorrow may be what we see, but sorrow

Flees.  Only joy, truth, light eternal stays.

Light eternal stays.

 

Peter Gallaher

October 17, 2019

 

 

 

Posted by: Peadar Ban | October 18, 2019

All The Way To China, Pt. 2

In our last Chapter we learned that the trip to China via a “chunnel” dug right through the earth by Josef and yours truly was postponed until a team of scientists could check out the hole for more T-Rex fossils.  Since then, I understand that Hollywood, where fantasy is fact, has been thinking about a reprise of the 1935 Gene Autry serial “Phantom Earth” and want to begin work as soon as the paleontological team of renowned Scientists and Diggers packs up and leavesIt should be good, especially now that Gene himself is  dead and has been so for some time, gore being a major ingredient of anything with holes in the ground and stuff like that in movies.  And, things can be done now that were only wild dreams years ago in movie land.

Anyway, after the decision was taken, my friend and I wondered what we should do next, beyond making sure the “site” was not disturbed further.  Putting our heads together, and realizing that we had a lot of “digging” equipment in good working order within reach, we both felt it necessary that “digging”, an activity so popular with males from five to somewhere near eighty. should figure into our decision.

We thought for a long time, at least a minute, and remembered that we had, during the early summer begun to build ourselves a house…house building being another wonderful way to fill a boy’s day…in the woods on the other side of the ball field, between it and the stadium; a long ignored and derelict mass of weeds, tumbling trees, swampy lowlands, bugs, and the occasional wandering monsters, lions, tigers, dinosaurs and bears.  It looked as if it had been planned at one point to be a little shaded sanctuary for folks on a much more quiet disposition than wild “house building”, “all the way to China digging” young boys and their tag alongs.

It had seen better days, I am sure of that, and was now fenced in by a fence whose own life had seen better days, too.  Else how would we have been able to access its hidden wonders.  So, there we went, having put together a mass of tools which would be the envy of any construction crew from here to New Orleans.

My friend, I have learned, much prefers running to walking.  That is what he did, instantly, as soon as the new project was proposed and agreed on.  He ran to get his wheelbarrow, returning with it.  “Poor wheelbarrow,” I thought when I saw the sorry thing.  It had a wheel to be sure, but, it’s “barrow” needed surgery, life restoring surgery.

Nevertheless, what I saw wasn’t seen by anyone else of the “builders”, and the device was soon loaded with all the necessary equipment. What went into it would have been just a bit more than enough for a dump truck on its way to a real construction site.

Well, never mind.  It was, of course, not the only wheelbarrow.  After my weak objection to the amount of equipment we were going to bring on our expedition in this crumble, Josef pointed out another “wheelbarrow” not much bigger than a decent casserole dish…with wheels, of course…that would be mine.  This I refused to consider.  When I dropped to my knees to show him how far I would have to go to move the thing, and how little it would carry anyway, my friend agreed that it was less that perfect for the work and cheerfully told me to carry what he had originally wanted me to push, on my knees, which included his father’s spade.

We settled on a longish toy spade and its companion toy rake, and I gave thanks that no one I knew would see me.  Oh, and the toy rake was mostly a bunch of tangled and bent tines at the business end.  Nevertheless, it fit the boyish definition of tool.

Thus outfitted we began our trek to “The Swamp”, Josef’s preferred name for our destination.

To reach The Swamp from the house, it is necessary to cross an open field that is used for baseball and football, finding worms, chasing birds and, one of the little kids greatest pleasures, making designs with feet, bikes, sticks, fingers and anything, really, every time the fellows in the Parks and Recreation Department come by and combed out the last set of ornate designs in the just combed-out base paths.  With great delight, as we got near to the base paths, we discovered they had recently been combed and polished, and were ready for our depredations.  How nice, I thought, that word rhymes so closely with decorations.  It was exactly the word Josef used cautioning me not to destroy the work he was at that moment engaged in on the smooth and waiting sand.

Going back and forth, turning and twisting across the virgin sand, anyone of a certain age, mine, his, might feel as our ancient fathers might have felt in the caves, in Lascaux or Altamira; or facing the untouched cliffs deep in Australia.  Well, not really.  I think of that now.  Then, I felt as if I was five years old and simply having fun.  And, “Fun”, is the best thing to have, at any age.

Warning each other not to step on our designs we continued for several minutes strolling and scrolling across, around and back again on the base paths.  Then we headed for “The Swamp”.  And found the gates locked!  Some “suit” downtown had probably ordered the gaping holes in the fence gates repaired and the biggest locks in town affixed.  Josef, and our equipment managed to make it through.  But, I was not able to squeeze inthrough the thin custom squeezing room for five year olds.  The trolls at headquarters might not have thought of little boys and their joys.  But they certainly had me in mind.

He suggested I climb over the fence, and I tried to tell him the reasons I thought that would not work.  Picture an elephant telling a squirrel he was not equipped to climb the tree.

But, there was another gate!  So, having restored all the tools and Josef to the wrong side of the fence, we set off to give that a look.  And were soon disappointed.  In a rare, I thought, burst of attention to details, the Fence Department had done for us completely.  This one was closed tighter than Fort Knox.

Josef did not want to give up, but, I was not to be moved from going back.  He even argued that his father would not mind if we climbed over the fence.  Once again I explained that his father might indeed mind if he climbed over, under or through the fence and I simply sat and read a book on the other side; for there was no way I was going to try fence climbing twice in one day.  Besides, by that time I had most of the equipment and was on the way back.

He came along.  Soon, though, The Swamp and its darned fence was forgotten.  With all the equipment we had we could start a farm between the service road and the fence at the back of his property.  And that was the very idea that occurred to him.  He found the best spot to do it, too.  Dropping to the ground just off the driveway he started preparing the place for planting; which with five year old boys may be done at any time of the year.  This I know from my own experience as a five year old boy.

Soon, though, a search for spiders in the weeds took precedence.  I would like to tell you we were quite successful, but, alas, the spiders must have a good signalling system.  We left without another pile of pets.  The rest of our afternoon we spent bike riding.  I watched, politely turning down the offer of his father’s bike, while he rode along the quiet service road.  We went to the playground nearby, and even tried our hand at completing the decorations in the base path, especially pleased with the way the bike’s tire tracks looked.

And, then, not much more needing to be done with me, we went back home.  My last sight of him was my friend going lickety-split up the stairs and disappearing into the house as I tried walking after him…slowly.

THE END!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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