Poetry for new dads

Grand plans will have to wait.
Time works differently here:
sometimes it hums,
sometimes skips, sometimes
vanishes.
You will think, “There’s a thought;
I’ll write about that-”
Only – catch the thought, before
nappies and necessity
make it dissipate
in baths at 8
and all that joy – the total joy
that nonetheless necessitates
that all grand plans will have to wait.
At end of day, the poem is this:
the breathing child
upon the chest.
Catch the moment while you can:
stardust spark in the grandest plan.

Poetic Translations: From the Aphorisms of Søren Kierkegaard

What is a poet?
An unhappy man who
deep in his heart hides
anguish, but whose lips
are so comprised that
when he screams
he makes sweet music.

I’d rather be
a swineherd of the hills
understood by pigs
than a poet
misunderstood by men.

***

I prefer to speak to children.
At least of them one may hope
that here will grow
a Reasonable Being.
But to those who think they have arrived already…
God have mercy.

***

Hear this marvel.
To the seventh heaven I was lifted,
and there all the gods sat together in council,
granting me one wish.
“What do you ask for?” Mercury spoke.
“Is it power, or youth, or beauty, long life?
The most beautiful girl?
Or any of what we have to give?
But only take one. What shall it be?”

I paused for a moment,
thrown by the choice,
then I spoke:
“I ask only this:
that laughter might always be on my side.”
Silence. Not one of the gods said a word.
They only laughed, and I thought it was apt.
It would have been crude to say,
“As you wish.”

Spring Cleaning (II)

I go to prepare a place for you.
We do too;
with unsure anticipation, we make a space
atop the stairs, with bunting and books
and animals on the walls,
a cot, tiny clothes,
a place for your toys.

We also prepare
our days, our thoughts.
They too make space
for the big rearrange,
this reordering of selves,
this exchanging of grace.
We sweep out old cobwebs, air out stale pride.
Not only our home
but our hearts must be fit.
We prepare a space for you.

While eternity yawns its welcoming wait,
our big brother making a place for us too,
checking the time, vacuuming floors,
eagerly listening to knocks at the door…
Does my heart have room too
for eternity’s home?
We wait. We are waited for.
Time to make room.

Spring Cleaning

There are many lurkingplaces in the mind and many nooks… The old man is covered up in a thousand wrappings.
(Lancelot Andrewes, Preces Privatae)

Open the door. Let sun expose dust,
moth-eaten wool and mould around cornices.
Years of grime collect on window frames;
you forgot that the sideboard had an underneath.
And there too is the memory chest:
that also needs dusting;
and the bed of your childhood could use some air.

Let in September. True, comes in fits and starts;
opened windows welcome rain as easily as sun.
Yet nothing transfigures when the blinds are all shut
and nothing stifles dying like life.

Broken Syllables

We know little of the creature, till we know it as it stands related to the Creator: single letters, and syllables uncomposed, are no better than nonsense.
(Richard Baxter)

Al-

In the beginning was the Word.

Pha

And we too were words,
the sounds of breath from His lips:

Adam
Let us make
Image
Likeness
Be fruitful
Increase

All sounds consonant with
the cosmic sentence,
no clause displaced.

In the beginning
was Alpha.
The whole DNA code begun
with A,
the chain of being linked
phoneme to phoneme.

And then
the dislocated sound:
the will punctuates the purpose.
Image becomes willful noise.

O

Return to purpose, man.
Return to the endless string of perfect sense.

O
Sing the perfect word, the song.
O me.
You were made to speak, to be
Between the A
Between the grace of Alpha and
Omega.

Little Brother

Will this be your first? they ask.
So what do we say?
That before you was another
who got lost on the way?
Unviable, out of place,
yet loved, oh how loved.
How do we name the agony
of hidden loss, and a treasure
held only by us?

No: not only us. For
before there was you,
or me, or your mother,
there was Life.
And what Life: older than stars,
yet one of us,
made flesh among us.

What a journey this Life made,
across multiverse to wait
nine months like you do now
to come out to this atmosphere,
to beat and to breathe.

What truths this Life knew,
our little lost one now knows:
Eternity’s arms, the comfort of perfect
face-to-face knowing,
the absence of tears.

What tears we have shed.

We will tell you, one day;
one day hold you, and show you
how Love can remain.

Retreat

…yo​u will not find my actual life in these pages so much as my thoughts on the graces Our Lord has given me. I have reached the stage now where I can afford to look back; in the crucible of trials from within and without, my soul has been refined, and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm and see how the words of the Psalm have been fulfilled in my case: “The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall want nothing…”

St Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul

My brother led me to prayer,
a child, afraid in the dark.

My sister taught me, downcast, to say,
Why so downcast, O my soul?

My parents taught me to ask and search
yet not be controlled by the heart’s wild waves.

My teachers fed my questions
and books sustained my mind.

Lewis taught me magic
and Love deep, deep in time.

Robert Frost was early rhythm;
Eliot and Herbert came later on.

Auden taught me the happy eye,
the sober perspective on the folded lie,

Kierkegaard the lily’s glory
and the grace that strikes in anxious thought.

Bunyan and Luther and Thérèse
knew the scruples that strike, and the way –

the Little Way at Jesus’ feet –
so once again I’m led to pray.

My wife has taught me the open heart;
now my home and hearth expand.

O Love that finds me everywhere:
Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.