Juvenilia: Vision of Tomorrow (1986: Age 15)

July 31, 1986

The world is restless under my feet
I haven’t seen the sun in days
Black clouds hover the ground I walk
Yet there is no one to see what I see

The world rots in universal entropy
No light finds the grass I walk
Heaven’s tears flood the pours of my dry skin
Heaven’s roars frighten the tiny children

Here in this isolated town sleeps a naive soul
Blind by youth to the world in his eyes
He knows none see his visions
He knows he speaks false words

Here in this isolated town I sleep
Blind by youth to the mad world in my eyes
I worry of love and other bittersweet passions
I will rise above to see the world

Over the Appalachians and through the pines
I long to have the vision of years
Yet only through time will God grant my wish
I will still dream of mares in the night, and white stallions.

Lightning flashes in my eyes
The princes and slaves, two-faced societies
The land ahead is covered by clouds
I run onward in spite of my blindness

Does she on the blue-green hilltop have sight
Are the stars above hers to gaze in a dreamy awe
Does she lie blind like the naive soul I am
She is one of the merry youth

A naive child searching through the attic
I look for the key to open my sight
Soon I will find it and unlock the door
Open my eyes to the winds eluding me

The key has been stolen
The door opens before my naive eyes
The wind’s howl threatens the lies in my life
Of sweet music and star filled skies

Shut the door- my eyes burn
My ears long for the sweet music
Reality is upon the blue-green hilltop
The stars are ours in a dreamy awe

Is this my sight?
Are these mountains only my visions?
Will you look with me or sit alone?
I, naive child dare to be an adult

There she rests alone on the blue-green hilltop
She has the stars in her gaze of dreamy awe
If only the stars were not behind the clouds
I would trap the stars in her gaze

The world rushes behind the drag of my feet
The light of the sky is hidden for me to find
I write these words never to be understood
Like the scream of a child in a moonless night

Please let me gaze at a starlit sky
One last chance to wish upon my naive falling star
Soon the truth will burn this naiveté
My child will crumble in the heap of an adult

She sits with me on the blue-green hilltop
The stars are ours to gaze in a dreamy awe
The sun will shine upon our new days
The blackness of night will pass

Will the world wait for me?
I gaze my dreamy awe one last time
Run from the hilltop with me, dream and weep
Soon the world will turn in the palm of your warm hand.

Image: Hilltop – Edward Henry Potthast

Juvenilia: The Child (1986: Age 15)

June 19, 1986

Bullets pierce and echo the air
Villagers abandon their flaming homes
The king cannot see, only the Lord sees
Reasons do not matter as bloodshed begins

On a hilltop the one flag quivers in the wind
Tears pour into the Child’s innocent eyes
His brother has died in the flames of war-
Horror from what was once so grand

Unnoticed, underfoot our freedom drifts
We, sightless, block our ears from the Child’s wail
His father has died in the ocean of war
Only to be as us- free

The fire rages across the countryside
The Child is shot in his tears
The memory of his brother burns
The memory of his father drowns

One man fills his jars with tears
His son fills dreams with fears
Both are dead, burned by lead
Nothing left, there is no son

Nothing left, there is no village
At dawn the flames consumed the last morsel
On a hillside the one flag quivers
The stars shine, the bullets pierce the air

We bury the Child under the flag
His father would have won the flag
They bled too long for
A reason too wrong

Bullets pierce and echo the air
The village burnt to the ground
Does any flesh mourn the Child?
Oh Lord…

Reasons do not matter when innocence sheds blood.

Image: Venitienne A Sa Toilette (Venetian Lady at Her Toilette) by Jacques Louis David

A Prayer to Mother (1988: Age 18)

In honor of Mother’s Day, I share a poem written for my Mom during Freshman year after receiving a letter telling of my family’s legacy at Notre Dame. She didn’t tell me before I left home, but wrote… “My father always wanted a boy, so he could go to Notre Dame. He was so proud of his Uncle Charles… he would be so proud of you.”

November 12, 1988

Mother
Open my soul to the music of the wind.

“The Virgin Mother
Blesses you
Carries you
Supports you
Feel her golden gaze.
One breath
She will guide you.
One prayer
An everlasting embrace.
One love
She will remember you.”

Oh, Madonna watch over me

“A precious heart lives forever with hope-
The presence of your eyes is fulfillment
Of our forgotten dream

Their eyes in eternity watch with you,
A smile on their resting souls.”

Amen

I always connected with the words “At Notre Dame” written by my Great Great Uncle, Fr. Charles Leo O’Donnell, CSC one of the finest Catholic poets of his generation. “Another singer down these paths may stray” he writes, someone who hears “Some whisper of a song in these old oaks” and who “may remember that I passed this way.” My songs may never match yours, Uncle Charles, but I hear you and I remember you.

Once a year I would hike to his modest grave at the Holy Cross Cemetery and say a quiet prayer for him, for the grandfather I never knew, and for my Mom. Now, Father Charles, Mom has been the singer who calmed a soul’s unrest after the grief of summer’s undoing. Grandpa Francis, I am grateful for her and I know that your eyes are smiling on her as she gives your grandson the strength he needs to bear the weight of his winter. For many more years, may I breathe brave air and whisper my songs, until, perhaps, some graced newcomer hears their faint echo.

At Notre Dame

So well I love these woods I half believe
There is an intimate fellowship we share;
So many years we breathed the same brave air,
Kept spring in common, and were one to grieve
Summer’s undoing, saw the fall bereave
Us both of beauty, together learned to bear
The weight of winter. When I go other where —
An unreturning journey — I would leave
Some whisper of a song in these old oaks,
A footfall lingering till some distant summer
Another singer down these paths may stray —
The destined one a golden future cloaks —
And he may love them, too, this graced newcomer,
And may remember that I passed this way.

Rev. Charles L. O’Donnell, CSC

Always Remember (1985: Age 15)

Always Remember
September 10, 1985

Summertime is gone
With it the sunshine
There will be a new dawn
With it new sunshine

Life does not end
With one season
Look around the bend
You will see the reasons

Don’t forget your new found friends
Or your old renewed friendships
Never forget our summertime trends
Be ready to sail on new ships

Life is meant for living and loving
Keep on learning and discovering

You must carry on
Without written lines
Because there comes a new dawn
And with it new sunshine

Remember trust and love
And with them patience
You will see a white dove
True love will make sense

Remember, Summertime is gone
With it the warm sunshine
Soon comes the awaited dawn
With it warmer sunshine

… and so it began…

image: Sheila Tiffin – Children on the Beach, Porthmeor, St. Ives