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Lenten Poems - 2007

Most of these poems were written during the retreat and reflect the meditations. Some were written earlier in Lent. Some began as fragments I carried around in my email notes to myself or on the backs of junk mail envelopes and scraps of paper. An aging poet needs these bits of permanency to record images and hints of images as they occur--the memory can still be plumbed, but it helps to have some cues along the way. A word of caution: these poems are all early drafts, subject to change as I review them with my writing group and editor. So you may not see the same poem twice. Such is the nature of unfinished work.

This edition includes the poems only. If you prefer to read the poems with a commentary, please click here.


Contents

Ash Wednesday
Cool
While listening to a meditation on dying, my eyes wander out the window
Passing beauty
Pop
Mom
Through the sea
Communing
Much is spoken
Versicle
Whistle
Annunciation
Announcing the artist
The circling of the postal vans
Answer to prayer
Barbara


Return to the Preface

* * *

Ash Wednesday

While intoning the returning dust,
a piece of black ash falls
from my forehead
where the priest
in white cowl,
rope cinched about his waist
makes the sign
of the reminder--
the fragment falls to the floor
between my shoes,
where I stare
at the polished wood
on which I stand.

21 Feb 07



Cool

I have been putting off
this walk--
now the weekend
is on my chest
and the winter melt
has turned the path
to mud--
my hiking shoes stick to the terra,
tenacious briars stripped of green
catch my legs and hold my jeans;
progress slows
so it is no longer progress;
a fellow hiker crouches,
points to the water
bubbling up from the sodden ground,
“cool,”
he says.

3 Mar 07



While listening to a meditation on dying
my eyes wander out the window

There in the middle
of this broad porch
of painted planks
is a square column,
paint curling
from its base,
cracks sprouting,
gray wood
bleeding through--
yet this trunk
stands for now.

9 Mar 07



Passing beauty

On this pedestal porch
a snow drift turns to ice
under a sun that sets;
grooves and shapes
wear in the shadows
from the wind rendering
a sculpture of essence
that will not be here in spring.

9 Mar 07



Pop

I am looking in the mirror
at my grandfather--
we called him Pop--
a name that is forever father;
I remember his round ruddy face
white brushed back hair
widow's peaks exposed--
usually stone silent, unknowable,
he laughed with a single syllable:
huh…
I can see determined eyes
reflect ancient stars.

9 Mar 07



Mom

She visits each
son and daughter’s family
for a week or two
each summer after he died;
once when I sat with her,
she broke her grandmotherly serenity
and kindness,
looked at me troubled and stern:
“sometimes,” she said,
wagging a finger at the empty chair,
“it is as if he is sitting right there.”
For a boy of twelve,
it frightened me,
fascinated me--
how much she wanted,
and now, how much she had.

10 Mar 07


Through the sea


While hiking
on a lonely winter trail
rich with barren trees and brush,
a dozen ghost-like deer stop
to have a look
at the hiker with gray
beard and baseball cap
mark time in a rhythmic stride.
I stop and return the stare
raising my walking stick
as a staff of blessing
and, in Cecil B. DeMille fashion,
stomp it to the ground.
The does jump and dart apart,
White tails rising as a wall of water--
at this end of day journey,
I pass through on dry ground,
alone.

10 Mar 07



Communing

In this silence
seated about a table
of those who have come
to listen,
there is no relating
how cold the morning air was,
or the trickle of water from the showerhead;
there is only being--
and in this common humanity,
there is communing.

10 Mar 07



Much is spoken

How many ways of smiling,
of nodding gesture
are there
passing others in the hall
who are keeping the silence?
There is hopeful
and cheery,
solemn,
perfunctory,
bashful,
awkward,
relaxed,
peaceful--
without a single sound
much is revealed,
much is spoken.

10 Mar 07



Versicle

The instruction in the prayer book
says a versicle may be used--
a fragment of text,
that hangs like half a rhyme,
an icicle root
from an eave in winter sun,
dripping new water
a drop at a time--
a child stands beneath,
head tilted back,
tongue outstretched
to catch the chilled refreshment--
it is an opening.

10 Mar 07



Whistle

Hiking along the train tracks
whose wheel-polished rails
mirror the cold river
running along side--
I pause to put my foot
on the iron bar
to feel for a sign
of the afternoon train--
I do not know
when it comes
or where it goes,
but last year
seated in the stone chapel nearby
I heard the whistle
in the distance.

10 Mar 07



Annunciation

I stand here
next to a frozen stream
and hear the water
gurgling beneath its
white ripped roof--
what is so hidden
speaks in a familiar voice
and names an image of rapids,
rocks that block the way
and are consumed--
this small river that runs
in the wood near an open field
of withered grass
is announcing a change in the wind,
a turn in the path,
whispering:
I am here.

10 Mar 07



Announcing the artist

He is as playful
as his sculptures--
their embrace of wind and sky
dancing as his eyes do now--
art announcing artist
long before I knocked on his door
and he gave our pride of pilgrims
a tour of the barn and workshop
brimming with wire frames and fishing weights,
the limbs of an unassembled god
dangling from the beams.
To the stringed bass built around a mannequin
he quipped, “it is a baser instrument.”
The wheel of psychedelic waves
was two: one of white straws,
the other red that disappeared against the ruddy barn walls.
The small panels of aluminum and Lexan
caught the draft and moved
as if letting a ghost pass--
so clear that these were his joys--
the models of work to be hummed
like phrases in a libretto
yet to be written.

10 Mar 07



The circling of the postal vans

What are the postal vans doing
circled in St. Pius’s parking lot
on Saturday afternoon?
I wonder if they are
exchanging mail,
opening the scented envelopes,
or thumbing through the Victoria Secret catalog
passing it on to the next driver
and the next
before completing their rounds.
Perhaps they are discussing the liturgy
for the evening Mass
or the choice of hymns,
wanting something a bit more pedestrian;
or are they collecting the weekly contribution
for the lotto tickets to be purchased as a group--
we do not know.
Yet this incongruous assembly
causes me to slow down
as I drive by
and scratch a line or two on the junk mail
on the passenger seat--
for that ever pregnant pause,
I am guardedly grateful.

10 Mar 07



Answer to prayer

On the third day
of the retreat
there is fog--
so thick the river’s
senses are gone.
There is suppose
to be clarity,
sunlight,
blue sky
and spring.
A bird sang two notes
at dawn,
but he is quiet now,
stilled.
We should have planned
better.

11 Mar 07



Barbara

She is telling us a story,
hands folded across polished wood of a walking cane
that has become a companion;
as she speaks her eyes stare out across the terrain of time
to a grandfather she did not know,
fiercely faithful, he sat up in his bed
stared out at no one and everyone
saying "I knew you would come for me,"
then laid down and died.
She admires his faith, aches for it
with a sadness that is at once deep and passing--
it is punctuated with a sigh;
her openness becomes our openness
we draw closer to each other
like wagons circling a campfire
whose light still bright, flickers;
we hunch over, hands outstretched, backs to the night,
a distant sound of wolf faintly howling--
and sing.

16 Mar 07


Good Friday and Easter lie ahead. As in Advent, we watch and wait. More poems will follow as this Lenten wandering unfolds.

* * *

All Poems © Copyright 2007, E. Granger-Happ, All Rights Reserved.

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Document last modified on: 03/29/2007

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