An Irish wake…

An Irish wake is simple enough to observe
In summary it takes one and a clan, all devoted
Or should I say, one willing to die, the others to wake
Which requires a disproportionate sacrifice indeed
Like a pig and chicken to bacon and eggs
One sacrifices and the other just gives
Such forfeiture is an Irish wake creed

The deceased must die, unexpectedly deserved
Without diagnosis (that would require a surgeon)
And a male subject seems to be an absolute necessity
For men die younger and more often of course
Leaving some to wonder if the women ever pass
Or if the Irish wake is mainly a misandry liturgy
Retribution for hardship with no divorce

Let’s say Seamus failed to awake one day
Not through any fault of his own this time
The drink didn’t keep him asleep but death killed him
And he wasn’t noticed to have taken his leave
Until bean chéile scolds the deceased harshly
Upbraiding him for laziness while she labors on
Then in fault her anger turns to a guilty heave

To the window, new widow, to the window fly
Open it wide for his spirit has been cooped in
All superstition and lore are intense at times such as this
And it’s believed that an escape he must make
You in his state must remain the man’s servant
With the wake just begun you’ve still much to do
He’s out for the day and he won’t be home late

Having begun now wait briefly to shut it again
Lest he repent and wish to return, lock him out
Sadly he leaves but now and forever he must stay away
And her true gift must now can be observed
To telegraph the news to friend and kin alike
Crying he’s passed just as one would expect
But certainly not as he or we all deserved

Next to the clocks if there be more than one
And stop time in respect for it seems poetic
While everyone else hastily prepares the house for visitors
‘Tis no better time to make the appearance clean
Cover the mirrors throughout the house as well
In fear that someone might spy death itself
And the next demise would be foreseen

It is necessary that the body be prepared
And shaved to make the man presentable
Whether as such he appears more handsome is debatable
His one suit never fit him right and now as well
But out of respect he’s dressed and tied together
Older women do this because they’ve all seen
There are no surprises with an Irish swell

After the man’s body is bathed and freshed
Handy women would also band his jaw shut
Lest the lout gape back at them as if he’s trying to speak
They’ve heard enough and’ll hear no story
He’s sent off well and well silent he be
They’ll be no drawing attention to himself
As he waits patiently in dear purgatory

The table is for today his place of repose
Oddly sacred but in an unusual fashion
And all gather to remain attending this reserved vigil
Cross oneself, prayers silent but well versed
Friends kneel, but family must kiss his cheek
All pray for his soul as they’ve always done
And they’re respectfully quiet at least at first

Quiet is not a room nearby kept for keening
This wailing is bitching at the man himself
They wouldn’t complain so to the Lord or blaspheme
Loudly screeching  these banshees in grief
A true Irish symphony of widows and wives
Pausing only to sample meal and tepid tea
With no proper meal only eating in brief

With these formalities having been filled
We turn to the heart of the gathered throng
Food and drink as in meats and breads and alcohol strong
Conversation comes much easier with such prying
Lies flow as freely as drink in pleasant memories
Raising the glass encourages rounds of affection
Toasted with fondness forever undying

Candles are lit, a dozen with one Judas put out
For even the Lord had a neighbor ill tempered
Tobacco and pipes, lard and hard spirits were men’s share
Always plenty since there’s no woman to warn
And they’d give them rest and something to do
Rest was allowed but sleeping lacked respect
As the watch carried into night and new morn

Games fill the hours not to pass the time
Playfulness mocks death but not the deceased
This hoolie is underway and will carry on without guilt
As the door welcomes but no one departs
And none contemplate what done him in
Knowing what doesn’t send death to flight
So they dance to show the ache of hearts

The blessed rosary is recited mid-night
A decade signaling the end of the vigil today
But simply a respite in the country as they await the morn
The Father and Mary are made to attend
Invited by the women but observed by all
And stories are woven by the teller of tale
Binding living to dead to grave transcend

All the debts of life are due the widow now
This dying fails to undo anything done
For all the good such men are for, fightin’, bonin’, drinkin’
The scars are deep, the children horde
And friends take up the pub where left off
Sell what she can, no sentiment to afford
Save us from his sins, our merciful Lord

Promises are made but needn’t be kept
‘I’m sorry for your trouble’ is solace enough
Only deeds have value and of course ordering of the coffin
It matters that you show forgetting his mistakes
It’s remembered more than you can imagine
For this is the Irish way when words are many
Only rivaled by the number of our wakes

The keening fades as the morning dawns
When undertaken away the reason to gather
Saddest, last of all farewells this exit will not be undone
Forced to send-off this cheerless bier
Roads no longer rise, breeze is stiff afore
The sun now hides and storms drown all joy
We may meet again, but there not here.

 

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The stream that’s never the same…

That stream – the one that’s never
the same stepped-in twice,
at the same bend, with the same
sameness – will not refuse my dabbling
toe; she will yield to me, and I to her,
not out of pity or sheer desire,
but because we have
agreed not to continue the charade
of indeterminate, transient mockery
that idles youth, corrupts good
and haunts the aged.

There are nouns after all – persons,
places, things – that are, not because
of forms but in sentences which are
like streams with dabbling toes
and bubbling eddies, shapely bends;
so inviting and seducing, calling
with her come hither of comeliness.
Yes, the waters flow, the bed and silt
are stirred and is upset by every touch
of my foot but I step into the flux
and flow nonetheless, I stoop to
cup her cool waters and sip contentedly
for she yields to me and I to her,
but unhurried, unchasing motion
in symbiosis as we move together
in rhythm – our panta rei –
joined freely in flow.

Let those who scold and chide
these many, many years continue
their fluxing prater of fuel and flame,
for we, my stream and I, have come to
an understanding and will agree to
agree that this day we are the one;
her cool waters are as real as
my weary step – sensations rippling
in her as much as me,
as tangible as the rush and tingle which
tickle my limb and stir her bed in swirls
of sediment twisted awake from slumber
dancing along current and wake we have
made together in our covenant today.

Too young, too soon, too sad…

Billy You’re Gone Too Soon

It never occurred to us
that you’d be so quickly gone,
so quickly stolen away, too soon,
too young, too sick to stay.

From that young Billy boy
all toothless grins, always bouncy,
never still, never quiet, until
asleep finally, ’til morning.

Mama’s baby boy, her
favorite, her only, her child
of tireless days, tireless plays,
tireless dreams of joy.

And now you’re gone,
gone too soon, gone to where
bouncy Billy’s go to be young,
to be true, to sleep until morning.

 

When Leukemia is Life

Can it be what is deserved
by a four-year-old child?
The cells distorted and
deteriorating inside, from
inside her bones still soft in

youth, but fragile from birth,
some signal isn’t working,
white cells that won’t mature,
too full and crowding life from
within; the word everyone
uses is ‘acute’ – a bad and
unwelcome thing with too
many synonyms to count,
all bad and unwelcome things
with a mysterious origin than
no one knows so there’s no
one to blame, except God;

she only has strength to
smile through dry, cracked lips,
her skin is taunt over thinning
features and only her cheeks
show her adolescence, while
adults are masked to protect
her from what’s always worse,
more tiring, more frightening;

it hardly seems right she is
unafraid and just needs to
rest, while everyone around
her is just terrified and can’t.

On this day in history…

On This Day

On this day in history
absolutely nothing of consequence
happened, to anyone, anywhere;
no ships sailed, no princes born,
discoveries in science, medicine
just didn’t happen on this day,
yesterday and tomorrow are
filled with life-changing people,
events, battles that turned great
wars into peace, even the subtle
alterations to the fabric of everyday
life made by once anonymous people
which reverberated into time and
made history; remarkable things,
great consequences, overwhelming
tragedies and brave exploits
all happened on other days, just
not today; of course some were born
on this day, babies loved, wanted,
even prepared for, but they remain
nameless to all but their mothers,
unknown to school books and
will never fill-in-the-blank’s of
literacy exams for they just were
and are no more; and the closest thing
to notoriety they’ll enjoy is that on
this day in history they’ve been
written about, sort of.

Meanwhile…

Meanwhile

Meanwhile everything’s the same,
fish swim downstream as well as up
so don’t be fooled by cliché’s fame,
because virtue’s virtue will corrupt

itself and all who still pretend
there’s a something beyond it all,
thus refusing to bow they ascend,
proud as Icarus they rise to stall;

meanwhile the rest of us plod along
doing what must be done less airs
allowing a dream of being so strong
but saddled with every day cares.