A Winter’s Retreat

Night Watchman
There is snow outside my window this time.
Gone is the green grass, the cosmos, the humming bird.
I will not hear summer-free revelers in the valley this night.
Might the scavenger bear return for a heady dumpster snack?
Quiet settles, as one by one, 
those searching for the Holy,
wander from the fire 
towards a deep and welcomed sleep.
But not I.
To the night watchman
this gentle slumber does not beckon.
Diminished lights guide me through deserted halls.
I rest in the transient drone of coal trains 
cradling me in mournful sighs,
reminding me of home.
Will I still be awake at the first glimmer of dawn
catching the snow’s smile?
Will the expected mule deer greet me stock-still,
my eyes meeting theirs through the window of my cozy cell
cranked wide to the chill of the winter morn?
I, as night watchman, will fashion a new identity
through the words of the Holies,
in a mantra sculpted with simplicity.
The poet and the spirit align with the Holy One,
and I, a night watchman, breathe deeply in their presence,
learning to trust, making a new home.

Morning Glory
Glory to You this day.
Your crescent moon takes its place
in the twelfth square of my tiny window.
Glory to your tipped up smile
offering me a gentle beginning,
assurance you are always with me.
Glory to wings threshing the morning air,
lifting into flight a body seemingly too large to soar
without strings dropping
from your fingers through the firmament.
Glory to your loving eye
blazing above the hill,
anointing the land with the
light of your grace.
Good morning.
The day is new,
the path is lit.
Glory to You and
blessed am I.

Author’s Note:

I am always delighted with the Jesuits at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House in Sedalia, Colorado. Well, I always delight in the words of most Jesuits, but those at the house are special. For some reason they always know what to say and how to say it. As a writer, artist, and one who appreciates a well-rounded education and a healthy respect for other religions, I seem to be in tune with the Jesuit.

This weekend’s silent retreat introduced me to Fr. Vince Hovley, S.J. and he is a delight. Poetry, architecture, art, film, stained glass, and great writers such as Annie Dillard, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Stanley Kunitz, not to mention the amazing words and design of the Gospel of John, inspired me all weekend.
I am never rested when I return from these retreats. My brain fills up and processing, writing, and planning bring me home exhausted. This weekend was no exception.

The grounds are lovely, the silence is greatly welcomed, and the food is yummy! There were no deer or rabbits to be seen, as there have been in the past. Nor did I hear the dumpster bear. But this weekend’s gifts were two glorious sunrises, the birds, and a glimpse of an owl. The photos below were taken from the window of my room. It’s a wonderful place to rediscover God’s love. 

St. George’s Eyeballs

Tonight’s Prompt from Wednesday Afternoon Writers:
Write a scene where an object changes in some way. 
Setting: In an institution of some sort
Object: a letter (We each had a different object)
Opening line: Have a seat, but not there…(We each had a different opening line.)

St George’s Eyeballs

“Have a seat, but not there,” ordered the matron dressed in white from head to toe pointing to the wooden chair I was not to sit in. She looked as if she had stepped out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Yes, she could be Nurse Ratched. I knew better than to disobey her.

As I settled myself on the metal chair covered in green slippery plastic that would soon be sticking to my thighs, I held the letter of order in my hand. It had arrived two weeks prior in a brown envelope that I had to sign and had to admit that I was who I am and that I had actually received it and that I wouldn’t say I lost it or that I never got it.  I opened the envelope with a kitchen knife slicing through the fold on the top being careful not to segment what was inside.

The letterhead was not what one would call welcoming. Large, boxy red letters announced the name of the hospital – ST. GEORGE’S SANITORIUM FOR THE INFRIM. It made my skin crawl. Was a sanatorium different from a sanatarium or a sanitarium? What had made them “infirm”? Why was St. George chosen as the mascot? Wasn’t he the one who slew the dragons? And what dragons were laying in wait for me?

The letter simply listed the date and time I was to appear in the main lobby. I would be met and shown to the appropriate room where I would receive more information. It was signed in a scribble I couldn’t read. Luckily underneath the signature was the printed name: Horace B. Hammersmith. Following the name were the compulsory letters that stood for something important like PhD or DDS. But those were not the initials gracing this letter. The letters, all in caps except for one, wagged their tongue at me issuing a warning: DEDu. I made a mental note to ask Mr. Hammersmith, DEDu, when we met what in the world those initials meant.

There was no clock in the room, only a ticking that made it seem like a bomb was waiting for the right person to arrive before it met its destiny. The walls were a sickly, fading turquoise with splotches of yellow turning green here and there in no apparent pattern. Two long skinny    windows reached from the ceiling to the floor and had bars, oddly, running horizontally with roll shades that could be latched down at the bottom. A small white table next to the window held some magazines that looked as if they were from the 1940’s. They were movie magazines featuring actors and actresses who were unknown to me from films I had never seen or heard of.

My breathing was just starting to return to normal, when I noticed a small shelf of tiny objects on the wall opposite me between the window and the table.  Standing to head-off a skin pealing from sitting too long on the vinyl chair, I realized my hand was clutching the letter, crumpling it between my palm and fingers. Thinking that I might need to show it to someone else, I flattened it out against my chest as I approached the shelf.

It wasn’t the fact that the objects were disgusting that made me gasp. They could have easily been in any science lab anywhere. What was disturbing was their size. In tiny bottles filled with some type of preservative were tiny eyeballs. People eyeballs. They were not baby eyeballs. They were adult eyeballs. There were blue irises and hazel. There were brown ones and, possibly, a black one, if there is such a thing. But they were small, to the point of minute.

How? Was all I could wonder as the door behind me slammed shut making me jump, bumping my head on the shelf sending all the tiny bottles to the floor with the appropriate tinkling as the glass sprinkled, the liquid spread, and the tiny eyeballs rolled around littering the linoleum squares as if it were some perverted pool table.

“Don’t move!” ordered the deep, velvet voice from behind me.

At this command, I simply attempted to straighten myself up. Moving too quickly I lost my balance. I knocked over the table of magazines sending them to the floor along with the letter which now lay soaking up some of the mystery liquid and began oozing red from the bold and boxy letterhead as if St. George himself had a hand in the debacle.

A Memory of France, 1982

It was there we met him, the man with the black beret
in the little car with his mother resting beside him,
her hair in soft silver curls
He waved us on to follow since they had finished
their picnic on the wrought iron bench overlooking the graves
of famous Frenchmen and forgotten soldiers
And our bicycles bounced down the cobblestone hill
racing behind the man with his mother in the little car
and were delivered safely to our campground
So as not to be remiss, leaning out the window
of the little car before departure, he inquired of us
Did you know there are emus in the Ile de France?
Author’s Note:
The evening I wrote this poem I was inspired by two works of art. The first was a clip of a movie that I can no longer find the link to. It was on one of my writing sites that just gave a long list of poets and what types of art inspired their words. I will find it and post it here so you can enjoy it as much as I did. (I found it at Poets and Writers. It is the Sans Soleil movie.)
The second inspiration came from a lovely poem by Robert Bly on Poem Flow. I was in awe of the depth and beauty in so few simple words. I must have read it, out loud by the way, twenty or more times.
These two pieces inspired me, as well as a faded memory of a bicycle trip to France in 1982.