Dear Colleagues and Friends,
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Tuesday, August 21, 2018
The Vatican released a letter Monday from Pope Francis directly addressing for the first time the latest accusations of sexual abuse by priests
Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
"If one member suffers, all suffer together with it" (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient.
Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.
1. If one member suffers...
In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced.
But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands. Mary's song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: "he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty" (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.
With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: "How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ's betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison -- Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)" (Ninth Station).
2. ... all suffer together with it
The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history.
And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is "a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness.
Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for 'even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light' (2 Cor 11:14)" (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul's exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen 4:9).
I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.
Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: "If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified" (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help.
I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord's command.1 This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says "never again" to every form of abuse.
It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God's People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualties and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives. 2 This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church's authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that "not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people".3
Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say "no" to abuse is to say an emphatic "no" to all forms of clericalism.
It is always helpful to remember that "in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people" (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church's members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change.
The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God's People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For "whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today's world" (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).
It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.
Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people's sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combating all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience. In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be "a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race" (Lumen Gentium, 1).
"If one member suffers, all suffer together with it", said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son's cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus' side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, "to insist more upon prayer", seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.
May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.
Abused and disadvantaged mothers and daughters are being honed into a squad of sharpshooters to save wildlife in the Zambezi valley
“The black metal of the AR-15 rifle has worn silvery and shiny in parts after years of use. More manageable than an AK-47 in close-quarter combat, the weapon is precise enough to bring down an enemy target at 500 metres. Used for decades by anti-poaching units throughout Africa, today this gun is not carried by a typical swaggering male field ranger, this one is cradled securely and proficiently by Vimbai Kumire. ‘This job is not meant just for men,’ she says, ‘but for everyone who is fit and strong.’
“Kumire is a 32-year-old single mother whose husband ran off with a younger woman while she was pregnant with her second child. She is practicing setting up an ambush in the early morning in Zimbabwe’s lower Zambezi Valley, nestling deep into the green undergrowth like a dappled shadow.
“This is Africa’s poaching frontline, and these are not just regular female game rangers. If the team behind Kumire’s new job have anything to do with it, these women are a growing squad of environmental shock troops for a new type of community development offensive.
“According to conservation biologist Victor Muposhi of Chinhoyi University of Technology, the lower Zambezi Valley has lost 11,000 elephants in the past 10 years. But he believes that hiring and training female rangers such as Kumire directly from the local communities is a game-changer.
“‘Developing conservation skills in communities creates more than just jobs,’ says Professor Muposhi. ‘It makes local people directly benefit from the preservation of wildlife.’ And that, he says, can save not only landmark species such as elephants but entire ecosystems.
“Women’s empowerment is at the core of the program, named Akashinga, which means the brave ones. ‘This is a true empowerment program,’ says Muposhi, ‘because you are dealing with a highly vulnerable and damaged group of young ladies.’ Sitting on a rock looking north over one of Africa’s last great wildernesses, Muposhi explains that his early research shows the five-month-old program is helping change these formerly unemployed single mothers into community leaders.
“Primrose Mazliru, 21, stands in the gathering dusk near their camp among the new grass, bright green with the recent rains. Ramrod straight, shoulders back and proud, she smiles despite the vivid scar that runs across her upper lip, where her ex-boyfriend beat her in a drunken rage. ‘I can testify to the power of this program to change my life, and now I have the respect of my community, even as a young single mother,’ she explains.
“Mazliru has already bought a small plot of land with her wages as a field ranger. ‘I don’t need a man in my life to pay my way for me and my child,’ she says, a glint in her eye.
“Like most countries in southern Africa, Zimbabwe uses game management areas around famous national parks such as Victoria Falls or Mana Pools as ‘buffer zones’ to protect the animals. These buffer zones are huge tracts of land much larger than the parks themselves, originally created to benefit the surrounding communities by allowing limited trophy hunting by high-dollar foreign clients such as Walter Palmer, the American dentist who attracted worldwide condemnation after killing Cecil the lion on a hunt in 2015.
“There are no fences between the hunting areas, or between the wildlife and the estimated 4 million people living on the borders of these protected lands. Some profits from the hunting have gone to support the communities which live in the wilderness areas designated for trophy hunting – almost 20% of Zimbabwe’s land.
“According to Muposhi, these precious ecosystems are now under grave threat due to the collapse of commercial hunting, in part because of a growing ethical backlash. ‘Cecil the lion marked the birth of the greater debate around the issues of morals and ethics in hunting and whether it is sustainable or not.’
“Revenues are plummeting and human populations around parks growing. ‘Five years from now,’ says Muposhi, ‘if we do not have other options, then it will not be viable to save these areas.’
“Damien Mander, the founder of the Akashinga initiative, is a tall, Australian, military-trained sniper, who would look very much at home in the centre of a rugby scrum. Mander was inspired by the story of the Black Mambas, the world’s first female, unarmed anti-poaching unit, who work near South Africa’s Kruger National Park. Having met some of the women on a fundraising trip to New York, where they were giving a talk, he saw the international support and interest they received and thought a similar project in Zimbabwe might be a good way to raise the profile of his own project, the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF). What transpired went way beyond those modest ambitions.
“‘Thirty-six women started our training, modelled on our special-forces training, and we pushed them hard, much harder than any training we do with men,’ he explains from his tented camp at a secret location in the Zambezi Valley. ‘Only three dropped out. I couldn’t believe it.’
“From the very first day of the women’s training, he saw that something very special was happening. He realized that women were the missing link to successful conservation and anti-poaching initiatives. ‘We have turned a security need into a community program,’ he said. In only five months, according to Mander, this pilot project is already putting more money per month into the local community than trophy hunting did per year.
“Important people are noticing. Tariro Mnangagwa is a 32-year-old professional photographer who is visiting and training with the International Anti-Poaching Foundation’s Akashinga field ranger unit. She is also the youngest daughter of Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. ‘These women show me hope,’ she says. She heads to a beaten-up Land Rover to visit a community in search of a former poacher who wants to talk.
“Annette Hübschle, a senior researcher and post-doctoral fellow at the University of Cape Town, believes that the Akashinga model could still be a great solution. While many western governments and conservation organizations take decisions in London, New York and Geneva, the people most affected are usually women in communities adjacent to protected areas in Africa. Community-driven conservation programs based around empowerment and training for women such as Kumire and Mazliru offer a potential solution to the end of hunting.
“Mander, and all his rangers, live on a vegan diet. His TED talk on veganism has been seen by millions of people around the world. He stopped eating animal products five years ago. ‘I was wandering around in the bush, protecting one group of animals and coming home and eating another. I could not live with the hypocrisy of that anymore.’
“The Akashinga have embraced it with gusto. ‘It’s great,’ says Kumire with a huge smile, as she stands in the light of the cooking fire steaming with pots of beans and spinach-like greens. ‘I don’t miss meat at all, when I go home for leave and people try to feed me meat I can’t eat it because my stomach hurts if I do, and I tell people no, don’t give me meat, I am vegan!’ The women around her smile and nod in agreement.
“Muposhi, himself a vegan for 13 years, argues that showing communities they don’t need bush meat is about setting an example, one that stops poaching and reduces the need to farm animals in wilderness areas – a driver of habitat loss. Muposhi is excited to see the project grow. ‘It is happening right in the middle of nowhere in the Zambezi Valley, and it is part of a greater movement,’ he says. ‘We are going to develop it to become one of the best models of conservation of wildlife based on women’s empowerment.’
“As the training exercise unfolds, the female rangers are hidden from sight, the muzzles of their AR-15s poking from tufts of grass. Slowly the two scouts designated as ‘poachers” walk down the animal track. When they get to the right spot the women explode into action, shouting Get down! Down! Now, now, now!’ Within moments they have the suspects handcuffed. When asked why the pretend ‘poachers’ are shaking, Kumire says that suspects always lay ‘shaking on the ground,’ she laughs. Mander ends the exercise, the women help their friends up with smiles, and together they quietly fall into formation and disappear back into the bush.”
Monday, August 20, 2018
“A new study has alarming findings, but is probably not surprising to anyone who knows a teenager: [Students] today are texting, scrolling and using social media instead of reading books and magazines. In their free time, American adolescents are cradling their devices hours each day rather than losing themselves in print or long-form media, according to research published Monday by the American Psychological Association.
“In fact, 1 in 3 U.S. high school seniors did not read a book for pleasure in 2016. In the same time period, 82 percent of 12th-graders visited sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram every day.
“Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and one of the authors of the study, said the lack of leisure reading is troubling. For her, the most important discovery hidden in the data is this statistic: In the 1970s, about 60 percent of high school seniors reported reading a book, magazine or newspaper every single day. Four decades later, in 2016, 16 percent of high school seniors reported doing so…
“The reason for the concern is that the skill set and attention it takes to digest concepts in long-form writing are quite different from glancing at a text message or status update, she said. ‘Reading long-form texts like books and magazine articles is really important for understanding complex ideas and for developing critical thinking skills,’ Twenge said...
The study, conducted by Twenge and two colleagues at San Diego State, Gabrielle Martin and Brian Spitzberg, is based on data culled through a survey project called Monitoring the Future that has been ongoing since 1975. Run by researchers at the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institutes of Health, Monitoring the Future surveys high school students across the nation quizzing them on their career plans and drug use, among other things.
“Twenge, Martin and Spitzberg analyzed self-reported reading habits of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders between 1976 and 2016, representing a total of more than 1 million teenagers. The researchers compared high-schoolers’ consumption of ‘legacy media’ — books, newspapers and magazines — to their consumption of ‘digital media,’ which includes the Internet, cellphone texts, video games and social media sites.
“The decline in reading rates of legacy media began in the early 1980s and accelerated swiftly after the mid-2000s, when smartphones and high-speed Internet access became widely available. At the same time, high-schoolers’ screen time, including television, began to rise — nearly tripling between the late 1970s and the mid-2010s, according to the study.
“In 2016, 12th-graders reported devoting about six hours of their free time every day to digital media. Tenth-graders reported devoting five hours, and eighth-graders reporting devoting four hours.
“Twenge said she and her co-authors think that the trends are intertwined. The data shows that, given an hour to themselves, teens would rather pick up their devices than a book. ‘Does digital media displace the leisure time people once spent on legacy media? We find that the answer is yes,’ she said…”
Yes, teens are texting and using social media instead of reading books, researchers say by Hannah Natanson (Washington Post)
Friday, August 17, 2018
The following poems were published in Spoon River Quarterly:
Since youth I have hoped to hear it—
Music, shifting in the trees,
Through the trees,
Like wind across the lake.
Some old men can find the words
To say they’ve heard it—but
Even the wordless ones, sometimes
Especially the wordless ones,
Know it’s there when they push
Their boats out in the morning
And the ribbed, carved sand
Is made smooth by the tiny waves
That correct everything
Beneath their feet.
A Broken Branch
I can see it now. Some boy
had a few minutes after closing
a school book in the quiet
of his room, there with the light
in the upstairs window.
Darkness was closing its hands
around the throat of day.
He needed the feeling one more time,
the sensation of being surrounded
by the light air at the top,
the satisfaction of touching
the black bark, the breath separating
this world and the next.
The Secret of Gardening
The neighbors saw us out in the back yard
in the early mornings,
our hands working the soil,
scooping then watering,
the drops from the hose trickling
over the youthful plants
that reached for something
we knew might not be there.
Strange how we kept knocking
against each other like clods,
trying to make things right,
giving it our feeble best
to take a single breath,
or make one movement,
to show that we belonged together
because everyone else believed it.
And so what finally made the difference?
Did we catch ourselves up to our wrists
in the moist earth and feel
the insulation rubbing
against the insulation and see
the effortlessness paying off
in an unspoken, perfect way?
Or did we reach for the roots deliberately,
gripping something substantial
we had been a part of all along?
We sit in odd positions now,
on the front step or
behind the screen,
rocking in the uneven shade,
watching the blades
of grass turn against
some of them
folded tightly, creased
as if by a gardener’s hand,
lying flat, pressed
beneath the children’s feet,
where a private path
leads into the womb
of the seasons,
into the trees where
the laughter is.
The Way We Grow Older
You believe you have closed the last door,
wrapped the final gift and placed it
on the doorstep before leaving town.
Your bags have been packed for some time,
socks together, underwear stacked,
shoes stuffed with money.
Plans are written down.
In the final minutes, everything slides
around the corner and comes to rest,
heaped along the curb.
Then one evening the car won’t start.
You have always slept on your left side,
and suddenly you are on your back
in the morning. The man mowing
the neighbor’s lawn develops a limp,
his shirt sleeves torn at the elbows,
revealing the truth about work,
the dangerously sharp edges of method.
The angle of the hill behind your new house
has gotten steeper.
It isn’t until Labor Day
during some uneventful year
that you claim to have discovered
a better way to grill the steaks out back.
In November you tell your wife
that the wood in the fireplace
must burn just so if it is going
to last the evening.
Your daughter decides to quit
playing the piano forever.
When you notice that the debris
outside the door
has been disturbed by the wind,
been mixed really, a single pile now
with a rounded shape at the top,
you hope that the family house
is still standing, that the tree fort
in the oak will be able to bear your weight,
that someone has been watering the flowers
The following poem was published in Cutbank:
Becoming a Miser
Suddenly the world stops turning.
And every crack in the ground collapses
within itself. Tiny pieces of bark fall
from the trunks of trees, tumbling
upon each other at odd angles,
causing the birds overhead to circle
again, look out of one eye,
and fly toward something secure,
an old nesting place
or the sturdy branch above
the river, where the wind
is always from the east.
It is this way with so much.
My mother used to speak of an uncle
who wore only one pair of suspenders,
the same pair to work and to church,
who drove his sputtering truck
on empty, for miles,
to sell his dead wife’s shoes.
And there was the lady down the block
who had keys for everything:
the garage, the cupboards,
the heavy drawers in her dresser.
In the end she couldn’t escape
from her own house.
The smoke had crept up
from the basement and turned the locks
while she slept.
You, too, have seen it all happen,
the smallest things turning on themselves,
leaving you with your arms extended,
your eyes on the ground, looking
for a footprint, a single leaf,
a broken twig.
And finally you tuck your hands
in your pockets and move toward
the open field, searching
for the pile of rough stones
someone else has assembled
The following poem was published in Black Warrior Review:
The Truth about Drowning
The only parts of you that matter are your arms and legs,
how fast they can move, if they have what it takes,
their strength. For one brief moment, you think
about church, the way you used to fold your hands
as a child, the beauty of the sacrifice, where
the priest mixed the water with the wine, and
the white thread disappeared into the cup
before everyone’s eyes looked to heaven.
And now you finally know what all of that meant.
You would give anything for one sweet breath.
You wonder who will find you, if your legs will be caught
below the surface, your swollen hands finally touching
the shore, your fingers pointing toward the road.
Perhaps some boys fishing will notice the lightness
of your hair as the water filters through it,
or some teenagers with a six-pack will be walking
along the bank and discover you making love
to the shallows.
Before the water floods your mouth
and your head falls back into the cushion of current,
you believe you feel your father’s quiet grip on your arm,
the way he would lead you through a crowd
or into a strange room where the lights were dim.
But you realize that the next touch you feel
will be businesslike, someone’s fingers
in your armpits or around your ankles.
And when you are lifted toward the sky,
your eyelashes drying in the wind,
every part of you that your parents loved
will be laid bare.
The following poem was published in American Scholar:
The First Signs of Spring
The house has finally stopped falling in upon itself,
and the corners of the bedrooms have softened.
You do not bump into things in your hurry
to find daylight, in your search for the stairs.
It is a time of doors opening smoothly,
into the hallway, from one room to the next.
The drain in the bathtub is clear again,
and all running water has a destination.
The tile feels good to your bare feet,
and your ankles do not crack
as you enter the shower.
You begin to notice the length
and coarseness of your hair, the curls
behind your ears. You remember why
you are fascinated by the colors of things:
the soap on the mirror, the lime on the walls, skin.
No one knows why it all comes down to this,
why we always seem to look somewhere else.
We make some easy comment about fresh smells
drifting in through the screens
or the different shades of green out back
when it’s really just time to figure out
what we’ve been missing and then get up
and make something of ourselves.
The following poems were published in Poetry:
Waiting to Adopt a Child
You begin to think there is nothing left
for you. The air neither comes nor goes
in the room upstairs, where the dust forms
tiny balls along the floorboards,
the fresh colors on the walls turn pale,
the new furniture begins to creak in the night.
Your wife knows beforehand what simple phrases
you will utter, how you will move through
the carpeted rooms of the house, looking
at your image reflected in the windows,
studying the sharp line of your nose,
talking aloud to yourself about heritage.
You have seen your neighbor’s trees bear fruit
even in the wrong seasons, and the soft rain
of evening dampens the earth wherever he walks:
to the garden, to the mailbox, toward the ball
and bat lying next to each other on the lawn.
Each time you turn on the post light, even the moths
fail to come. The music you play in your car
floats out the windows before you hear it.
Memories do not lie. Every image you own of childhood
becomes clearer at night. When you reach over in bed
to comfort your wife, you see the descending hand
of your father, feel the way he stroked your hair
in the moments before you slept. You hear your own
breathing against the pillow, the coming and going
of life, and try once more to repeat someone else’s
truth: Your loss may soon be your gain.
My son treats me with his swagger,
a bounce in his step I wish were
Clever at seven, he understands
what adopted means but knows we share
the same blood, really,
man-to-man, fingers around the bat,
talk of hard things on the surface,
I can see him at my age,
holding my hand
as I sleep away what’s left,
whispering in my deaf ear
the words we have both come
Suddenly you’re holding such a thin rope.
Here you are, things going right,
the kids are safe, and some lousy flashback
or one look in a shadowy mirror,
and you wonder if there’s time
for something else, a chance
to find out if your shoes
really fit or if your car
will ever start again.
Maybe tomorrow you will find yourself
sitting in a corner, your knees
drawn up to your chin,
your elbows shaking stiffly, like leaves,
and all the lights will go out.
Or you will realize that flames
could end it all, and there will be
no way out the back door.
Who can say?
We’re getting there, both of us,
all of us, aren’t we, taking
those long walks now
but feeling as though we’ve
never left the yard, the muddy boots
by the door reminding us of where we’ve been?
And all of the forgetting, the disappearing
words of the sick people
in our dreams,
those who told us it would be like this,
the long finger of some distant uncle
pointing down the road.
A Loss of Memory
You are frightened
when you first realize something
is gone, when the strings that hold now
to then are snapped, leaving you
somewhere above ground with nowhere to land,
nothing to hold onto.
It has gotten so the keys in your pocket
all look the same. None of them
will unlock the car or the suitcase
you have packed. Not one of them
will lock the front door. You do not
remember if you have turned off the water,
if you emptied the trash yesterday
There was a time
when you could hold your palm out,
a few inches from your face,
and marked how some lines joined
one another, how every crack sprang
from the lifeline or searched for it
or finally touched it
when you slowly made a fist.
There was a time
when you thought things
like that mattered.
When you thought everything did.
Soon someone will come for you.
In all of your hurry to get things done,
to find that one comfortable spot
for the two of you, to finally raise
the kids, you had believed that now
would never arrive. And here you are
looking out the window, studying
the glass and the way a streak
can smear the green of the front lawn
or twist the sidewalk where
it had always been straight.
Here you are feeling gravity
in your shoulders and the ache
deep inside, reminding you that life
all comes down to this:
It’s not what you have known,
but what you have forgotten.
(for my father)
Here the water reaches
and flows endlessly,
giving a touch to motion,
until it finally grips
and they move beneath the current
that takes me where it must,
away from myself,
across the sandy bottom,
toward the one figure
who will take me home.
James Langlas (May 16, 1951 - August 13, 2018)
Former teacher, poet, author, Taekwondo Grand Master, and department chair at Wheaton North High School and professor at Florida SouthWestern State College, James Langlas earned his degrees at University of St. Thomas, Northwestern University and Northern Illinois University. With the help of his wife, Michelle, he founded Langlas Taekwondo in 1980 and Pathways for Achievement in 1996, which combined after-school tutoring and community service with Taekwondo instruction. were published in , Spoon River Quarterly, , Beloit Poetry Journal, Cutbank, The Indiana Review, Cumberland Poetry Review, Swamproot, and Black Warrior Review, among other journals