30 August 2007

For Sean

There he bows,
Weak from his fast,
Dressed in white,
And soon the colors of blood and earth will follow.
His life from this point is the honor he keeps
And the purity he holds is the banner with which he leads.

The games of the pages are over.
The servitude of the squire is a recent memory.
Now the battle is his.
There will be leading by a hand on a page’s shoulder,
Or a quiet ride on horseback.
There will be leading by battle, too:
The grisly severing of tendon from sinew.
The dreaded orphaning of the unseen.
The armament dreads the inevitable.
The knight must swallow the fear.

As one whose sword is tarnished
From blood of battles long forgotten,
I pass these words to you:

A soldier is a soldier until he retires.
A knight is a knight until he dies.

28 August 2007

A Request

Unlike me,
I am begging forgiveness.
I read Romans 1,
But did not go on to Romans 2.
I danced judgmentally on the grave of your sins
While resuscitating mine until they lived on infamously.
Wiping the slate clean for myself,
I kept record of your wrongs.

I did not believe all things.
Now I beg for grace.

You would be within your rights—
Rights I took pride in denying you—
To judge me by the same standards I judged you.
I deserve to have my sanctimonious hands nailed
To the cross I hewed myself out of pew-bench pine.
And I would not voice a defense if you brought my offense
Up on judgment day.

Gracious, He forgives us both,
But it was I who splashed in that grace
While assuming you had chosen the shore
When actually you had learned to swim.

26 August 2007

Shelling Peas

They sat in the breeze of the window unit air conditioning
That made a rattle throughout the house,
And father and son watched television
As they shelled peas on a hot summer day.
Comfortable in their frayed cushioned armchairs in front of a black and white tv.
The routine was efficient:
1.Snap the top off.
2.Pull down like a zipper.
3.Peel open the sides of the pod.
4.Run your thumb along the inside flicking the peas into the bowl.
5.Keep the empty hulls in your hand as you begin again.
6.When you have several empty hulls in hand, throw them in the brown paper bag at your feet.
7.Dump the hulls in the compost pile when the bag is filled.
8.Blanche the peas in boiling water so that they do not grow roots when they are placed in the freezer.

Sometimes they listened to the din of the television.
Sometimes they listened to their own internal din.
They sometimes spoke at each other—
To answer a quiz show question or to comment on a sitcom plot.
Shelling peas was largely a practice in isolation.

As a son, I wish it had been as easy as shelling with us.
I wish I could have, or would have,
Peeled open my pod for you to see.
Even if you had blanched
My ideas in anger.
At least you would have seen them.
But reaching the inside
Involves breaking off the top,
And that can be painful to a boy of ten.
Or thirteen.
Or nineteen.
Or thirty.

And the compost pile,
Although nurturing of so much life,
Seems rancid and dead when you’re so green.

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