In vain…

Without pay, without return, without praise are so many

simple things rarely asked and rarely given; in vain

are they demanded and in vain are they acknowledged.

A recipe for recipes…

There were certain days for shopping and other days

for baking – this was the lesson I gleaned while watching

my mother when I was just a child and only asked

questions without waiting for answers; I’m sure there

was a reason, and she may have told me why this plan

was preferred, but if she did, I didn’t listen to her;

 

it was the same with flour and sugar and butter – all

of a particular type and types for types of baking but

not at all universally so apparently, and it was more than

a brand and expense for some inexpensive types were

preferred for preferred treats because they were better

for better this or that was all she shared  with me;

 

and then there were the inherited things, things she’d

learned from her own mother and these she’d learned

from her mother’s mother and on and on I imagined

stretching back to the old world and ancient places

and now they were just habits passed along without

recipes or measures – they were just known, just known.

Always autumn…

Even from the start, there’s an end to see

and that most don’t is because of the pain of denial

because we’d rather imagine things aren’t as they are

and believe in saviors and old-aged children forever

fresh as time is suspended in snap-shots of happy days

while we seldom document those other days, the boring

days, normal days, and especially the sad days

because our lives are like a forever fall as ripening

sugars turn luminescent colors of our always autumn.

 

My life, the musical…

If my life was told as a musical it would begin with

a mild celebration and several questions that couldn’t be

settled, followed by getting lost in the crowd of

a large family and not living-up to my potential, the tune

will obviously be childish and with a hint of upbeat sentiment,

and then a disappointment followed by another and

more questions of where this all came from and why

would I act this way and by this way I had no idea

what they meant because it was just me being me

but no one seemed to like the me of me being me with those

sudden crescendos of anxiety and excitement but

without explanation with some crying and mostly shock

followed a period of conformity and a semblance

of normalcy which pleased most but I wasn’t trying

to be normal because I was chasing things I’d never

known before and I realized that understanding

came later to me than most, but some thought I was

unique and following my own drummer but I

couldn’t hear the beat and then it stopped but I

didn’t hear it stop until it was too late, and that

is my life in a musical – melody to follow soon…

 

Catholics ever since…

But they still didn’t have their own priest and wrote to the Archbishop about how they built a nice little church, would be happy to rent a nice house nearby for a parsonage, and even the Irish and Germans were Working together in perfect harmony. –But even that miracle wasn’t enough to persuade the Archbishop, until they went with the guilt angle in a follow-up letter and said

What we now pray for, most venerable Archbishop, is that you send a priest to live with us, and take charge of our church and our souls. We live twenty miles from our priest in Savanna.

The Road is a rough country road, almost impassable sometimes and it is hard for a priest to travel in all kinds of weather good or bad.

There is also a stream of water between Savanna and Elizabeth which after heavy rains is so high that it is impossible to cross.

A person being sick and dying at such a time would die without holy sacraments, however strong the desire of the person or zeal of the priest may be.

And that, along with the railway through the town and a significant promise of a growing community, persuaded the Archbishop to send a priest to live in Elizabeth –a man named Father Joseph Ruetershoff (to further test the ability of the Irish to work with Germans, obviously).

He had a rectory built that survived two fires, but still is in the area known of North hill where a nice brick building was built in 1914 and that’s where the Catholics have been ever since.

If god is good…

The oldest problem with the most pain

is why, why, why my own are good but sad,

it’s a mystery to some and to ask is a sin

but the real people who love rather than obey

 

wonder if god is all anything, good or loving,

and how to live through tears at night’s dark

and brave to rise when the sun calls,

and the god they need to do both with hope,

 

but if the question never mattered to you,

if you’ve never buried your own without wrong,

if you’re too busy to stop and life hasn’t stopped you,

your god is good enough for you.

 

Reading obituaries…

It’s called ‘bonus’ or at least is should

because this wasn’t expected, nor

should have been; I’m Irish and male,

for the sake of Saint Patrick, and

I should be dead by now but I’m not

and that makes this a true bonus;

I’ve outlived my own father who

saintedly passed before fifty years,

and all his friends it seems, or so

I read in the obituaries in Sunday’s

Chicago Tribune as I scan the pages

in a sobering ritual of paying homage;

now it’s only a matter of what to do

with these extra days and years.

Once or twice upon a time…

Yes, it was once upon a time that I would tell stories,

well, make them up is more like it, and they’d always

start with Once upon a time, in a land far, far away

there lived… and off we’d go on a trip not knowing

where we were going but depending on the hour

and how tired the children were and how tired I was

we’d always wind up back in the bedroom with

everyone tucked-in and ready to hear rejection

when they asked for another story (and they always did,

even when they knew the answer would be No

and they’d laugh that they made me say No every night

so it became part of the story of our stories.

 

 

We may meet again…

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.

I think I understand…

Overconfidence is, well, something I’m very confident about.

How I can see clearly enough to understand, I think, what I want to

but lately this gift seems to be slipping or becoming slightly

less reliable and that I think I understand – it comes with age

and I’ve got more of that than before, mixed with some

disappointment because no matter how much I understand

I don’t want to acknowledge some of what’s befallen me

and my own, and then there’s the unknown quality of

dimmed expectations, and that might be the most difficult

to grasp in the incessant need to understand just about

anything I decide I need to understand to sleep at night.