So Close to Losing You

Today, thought I just about made it
When the sand felt so soft under foot.
Surf as gentle as she has ever been
Kind, she tasted my toes, an offering.
The Bay as still as she has ever been
Called my heart ready, an offering.

So I swam, free style, each stroke
Reaching as far as it could, elbows high,
Until there was nothing left to reach for.
Stories tell of the peace felt the moment
Water rushes inside remaining voids
Releasing oxygen others need more.

Today, just about made it across the bay
When the bottom, littered with rocks
Called me its offering, gentle and kind.
So I swam until there was nothing left
Water rushed in like a baby yet born,
I closed my eyes, close enough to losing.

“Son,
Are you awake?
I’m right here.
Hey,
Are you awake?
I’ll watch you.

Today, swim with me,
Son, so close…
Your
Eyes:
I am not losing you
Not today.“

My voice:

This week’s song of the week finishes The National back-catalog with a response to the stunning melancholy of “About Today” formally released on the EP Cherry Tree, made more powerful in its live version on the Virginia EP. A conventional reading of the lyrics tell of a man next to his wife realizing he is losing her. An unconventional reading of the lyrics is more self-reflective, a man looking at himself so close to losing everything. Today, the 25th of May, both readings speak to me. My response, however, ends with the hopeful, yet pained voice of a Father, perhaps The Father, who watches over his Son, not yet ready to lose him. This cathartic poem has been brewing for some time, now, and at last finds its voice.

The Song:

Original version, a powerful part of the film The Warrior:

This live version, however, rips my heart out every time:

The Lyrics:

About Today
Songwriters: Aaron Dessner / Matthew Berninger

Today
You were far away
And I
Didn’t ask you why
What could I say
I was far away
You just walked away
And I just watched you
What could I say

How close am I
To losing you

Tonight
You just close your eyes
And I just watch you
Slip away

How close am I
To losing you

Hey, are you awake
Yeah I’m right here
Well can I ask you
About today

How close am I
To losing you

How close am I
To losing

About Today lyrics © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

220px-cherry_tree_28ep29 220px-the_virginia_ep_cover

Up, Up, Up Into His Sky

I wake, having forgotten to look up
To see how god shapes his story for us
If only we had the cypher to the clouds.

I ask the trees, having watched Him longer,
If they have a code, they say, “no man,
Made up our own, more fun that way.”

I smile and move along to speak with birds
They all laugh together, “silly man, always
Thinking God does everything for you.”

I smile and look past them at the blue
Wanting to unlock the dictionary, and name
Every corner of the sky in between clouds.

Just then the birds’ silence stills me
To these pieces of universe we surmise
Are ours to discover and name.

Names that will be forgotten
Once their meaning dies and with us,
Drift up, up, up into His sky.

Image: Sky 2, Creator’s Celebration by Roxanne Dyer
https://roxannedyer.com/sky-oil-painting-art-gallery/

Standing Inside the Continents’ Drift

This morning, the rains practice their rhythms on the skylights
That had let the day inside all night long, but somehow a dream
Found me.  Now with the rains I practice my craft of singing
Words over emotions and memories as they fall down to earth
Looking for a puddle to gather and be stomped in by a child
Who wants to see what mud splatters will say, dried on the wall.

The dream that found me had been sitting like a solitary soul
Somewhere on the broken landscape inside Thingvellir Rift
When the playful child god inhabited my solemn grey frame
And taught me how to play again with my children. Hiding
In a cave that stank of piss, lurking like a tiny monster to scare
The first youth who dared walk past my home, unsuspecting.

Too late, they had become suspecting of their playful father
Recalled from Tiger Wrestles and indoor basement camping
And out-seeked the hider. Before they became aware of fatigue
Sitting alone inside the stench of my own piss, I walked out.
This was not the dream. From behind the rift wall, a tectonic
Movement occurred inside, pulled apart 2 centimeters a year.

In the gap the ocean had filled, glacial melt so clear yet so cold
You could see the bottom 46 feet down, it looked like a hand
Could reach inside to pick the lucky coins now a part of earth’s
Slow history. Someday, tell the story of how God’s patient rip
Tore open the flesh so called perfect gods hid behind, aware
The fissures in the facade were cracking like broken porcelain.

In seconds, though, God wrapped his hand around my heart
Began to squeeze so hard to make me stop and listen to Him.
Look out across my broken landscapes, Son, and see beauty:
Each crack in the earth, the sharp uneven rocks, every weed
Awaits your naked feet. Be brave. I unbuttoned the costume
Seeing in front of me the first rock that looked stable enough.  

Robin-bird Hopped

We await You in flannel and fleece
The wind cutting through the crying sun
To remind us and Her that winter,
The warlock of our discontent wins.

Robin-bird hopped just yesterday to eat
Thawed earthworms that emerged from dirt
Like us, sun-smiling, believing in its moment:
Arrived! But the warlock cackled a whisper.

“No! Not yet, Smile, not yet.”

We await You in flannel and fleece
A smile cutting through our crying heart
To remind us of our beat we knew worthy,
Its moment, our content, at last, comes.

Image: American Robin, Audubon

God Giggles

Finally,
They begin speaking the words they had been collecting from their stories.
Words that no longer have any real meaning, because,
Perfection cannot know everything.

I pause to ask God, “Choose one or the other:
Omniscience or Perfection.”

He says, “One or the other, Friend?
For you, I chose to be a man;
Though it was a woman you wanted, right?
So perfection seems to be too much,
But I do know what you really need.
This broken conversation that you knew would
Hurt…
Does.
Have it, though,
Like a debt that needs paying.
Someday you will know everything, too
And agree that nobody’s perfect.
Something so obvious,
Those who know nothing at all
Will chuckle.”

God giggles as he meanders away.
Then they continue the conversation
Looking for meaning in their story,
Finally.

Image: Saturday Evening Post
http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2017/04/11/post-fiction/classic-fiction/faithful-lovers-margaret-drabble.html

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

On a Hill in Wales, Father and Son

For my Father, for my Grandfather, for my Words

1.

To the beginning son, go back with me
Remember how I stood beside you when…

No, you only remember my absence.

Here we return with precision, an arrow
Fired by the great Tell who reveals us.
The apple on our heads, the gift of Eve
Who saw in us the beginning of Love.

2.

On a hill in Wales, Father enters me
Not with punishment, but with his sadness.
Fills me with a beauty that consumes me:
Simple sheep graze on green grass on green hills, 
Too many verdant hues to name. The blue meets us 
Compassion like the sky hosts metamorphs: 
Clouds, lurking innocent children of beasts 
Whose anger gave us this green, gave these sheep.
Gave us wool that warms us in winter.
Gave us mutton that fills our hunger.
Beauty these gifts represent enters
Me like Father returning to the land 
Of his own. “Get on your knees, son, sorrow,
You must feel it now.  These gifts given you 
Lie in waste like blood in scaled veins. Look up!
Through tears, I show you once again! This time, 
I will humble you and you will know Love. 
With it, do good like storm begets spirit. 
Rise up, face the life I called you to live.”

3.

I got off my knees and climb the mountain
To toss the precious that ruled like a curse
Masking my Soul, invisible to me,
Led me to the river to steal fish
From mouths needing food,
Kill those whose only crime:
The place of their birth.
I became Monster
A monster does not know exists
Until 
The mirror sees past the blush,
Through the mascara of a mask painted 
In green rooms of youth only to be smudged 
By the tears of life’s stage.
Now, the Father 
Who returns to me, kneeling in supplication, 
Yells,
“Get up! Climb, son, climb. Go find the path
To treasure granted by breath that fills lungs,
Breathe out songs only one Soul will echo,
Love that will be the melody of Life.”

The Four Chambered Heart

Now, where are the words
The heart needs?
Sort through its four chambers
To mix blood for the body to keep moving,
If not forward,
Any motion is better than none.

From chamber to chamber
Soft walls,
Trim dangles,
Ceiling cracked,
Windows frosted with dust.
These images attract hope.

Like the frail old man who hobbles around
Believing he will golf again… someday.
We doubt. He doesn’t.
That matters.
The chambers still pulse,
Hear them hum.

A voice outside says,
“You are not alone,
Inside: something bigger.”
A window tap invites,
“Come out and play,
You are not alone.”

Buckets of blood
From each chamber
Like an Aztec
Bled out
Sacrificing
What little remained of the soft vessel.

Hope,
The old man still clings,
“Let’s go.”

Image: Girl at Window, Salvador Dali