She broke By Patrick T. Reardon She broke my arm when I was a baby. It wasn’t my arm but call it an arm. It mended crooked, at an odd angle, thickened, clotted, stiff instead of supple, a wrinkled butterfly wing, an antelope limp. I could not swing a baseball bat or brush a lover’s hair. I still have the broken arm. My brother’s hurt was worse. He died of it. She tattooed her scripture on my spine, her gospel proclamations on the inside of my skull, her dire psalms on the bottom of my right heel, on the sweep of my right hip, black etched lines, leaking, insinuating. The tree grows out of my chest, another from my forearm, my jaw, my left shin. Syrup tapped, dripped, fermented, sold, re-sold. A forest where Abel kills, Noah drowns, the Messiah leper never gets the ghost back. Let me open the apartment door of her limping mother in the kitchen, baking bread, breaking bread, the afternoon sun jeweling soil and backyard dung and growing things and creeping things and the newborn and the dying and the dead. Her bread was sprinkled with flour. Two candles under a throat to bless away. […]
vigilante big flake snow covered the grave and the body they had left in their haste and the strawberry vine grew up from his heart over his neck and into his eyes entwining his ankles and forearms and winter sparrows flew down to wonder at the stain upon the sacred snow. Patrick T. Reardon 4.10.19 This poem originally appeared in Aardwolf magazine in February, 1970.
Out of the blue By Patrick T. Reardon Sure, paint the door with blood and get a pass. But, tomorrow, Death’s angel will again be on the lookout. Sure, read the litany of vitamins and sugars. But, out of the blue, the heart strangles itself. Sure, crouch away from the stranger here. But, listen, aren’t we all? Sure, stay between the white lines. But, you know, a steering wheel slip has no conscience. Sure, the best is yet to come. Sure, lover come back. Sure, someone to watch over me. Sure, all of me. Sure, it was a very good year. Sure, that old black magic. But, amen, amen, the numb mystery at the center of things is a kernel that can’t be digested. Patrick T. Reardon 2.20.19 This poem was original published in Spank the Carp 39 in 2018. It also appears in the Spank the Carp 2018 Anthology.
Photograph: Bullet Through Apple By Patrick T. Reardon The dark fashioned metal beyond impact, its line still true. The fruit drawn to the left as if it would follow. The shards of pulp — so many zygotes suddenly granted life. Patrick T. Reardon 2.13.19 Originally published in Seems #17, 1983
No Clouds The moon is a silver weight. A man walks his dog and smokes. Tides pull. The trees are saints: the old, the tested, those at peace. Patrick T. Reardon 2.4.19 Originally published in Lucky Star, 1986.
To Help Her Move She is told I’m like an elephant and calls on me to help her move, to burden her dressers and boxes to the truck and out of the truck to her new locked door. She is separating from the bearded happy farmboy of her wedding. I am alone. My back is strong. I look for weight. I take the box springs and carry it over my head, my arms extended as if it had a message for someone to read. At the truck, I slide it on its side into the crevice in the furniture and return upstairs to dismantle more. Patrick T. Reardon 1.16.19 Originally published in What It Can’t Save (Pudding Magazine), 1986
The still, small voice is still an itch in the corner of the skull, a catch of breath, a comma, a hesitancy, a heartbeat, a hush, a scratching at the edge, a bloom in the storm, a sideways glimpse, small as a spirit. Patrick T. Reardon 11.22.2018
How puzzle the prayer Walking seminary fields, silent-hour recollection days, calloused caress of color and blaze, sharp tender bright air slicing wet morning grass. Filled with wide light. How steel my legs? How blade the grip lack? How bell the jerk and jag of breath? How pipe the foreign? How altar the yearn? How street the knowledge of death? How ocean the benediction? How rosary the examination? How sculpture the confession? I confess. I crucify. I abjure. I sacrifice. Prophet’s blood off rawed skin to splat road dust, paste for blind eyes and full stomachs. Blessed are the lost. Lauds. Compline. Psalm-song. Psalm of David. Psalm of the great empty white. My God, my God, why? How architecture the touch? I will go to the table of the Lord. Break my bread. Spill my wine. Wash my sins. White my garments. Angel my innocent’s neck. Good news, good news. Call me blessed. How ghost the surrender? Patrick T. Reardon 10.5.18 “How puzzle the prayer” was originally published on 6.21.18 by Under a Warm Green Linden.
The lost tribes for Haki Madhubuti I found the lost tribes in America, eating fries with city workers at the McDonald’s on Western Avenue. I found them sport-shopping at Gurnee Mills. I found them in the bleak hours on Ecclesiastes Road, in the cathedral’s unused confessionals, in the self-help section at the public library, after the wait, under the weight, over the rainbow, up the street, dedicated to the proposition, under the gun during the workshop on neighborhood crime. I found them with Colonel Mustard in the library with the rope. I found the lost tribes in that river bend where garbage collects, amid the splayed newspapers and dead fish and truck tires and basketballs and plastic bags and condom snakeskins and lost souls and bitter winners and empty milk cartons and broken rosaries and gasoline sheen and abandoned virgins and abandoned promises and a single shopping cart loaded with rusted chicken wire, sodden stuffed animals and my sins. I found them hiding behind the talking heads with the sound off. I found them in the purple noise of the laugh track, hellbent for distraction. I found them staring […]
Blood and flesh You tell me to crawl into the ragged slash in your side and pull the raw edges of flesh together to enclose me in the gory warmth of your heartbeat, like a babe at the breast, like a love flesh to flesh on damp sheets, like reentering the womb, like surrendering to the formless white at the heart of water, air, ore, sky, plant, sun, star, cloud, moon, blood and flesh. Patrick T. Reardon 7.25.18 “Blood and Flesh” was originally published by Ground Fresh Thursday 9.23.17.
At the hill tomb At the hill tomb, she finds nothing. She tells the guys, and they run to find folded blooded linen. She sits on the grass of the garden, and the gnarled gardener is there, his sweat rich with grit- clumped dirt, his hair thisway andthat. She sees him take the innocent seed and thumb it into the maternal loam, and the bread is broken. Patrick T. Reardon 7.8.18 This poem originally appeared in Time of Singing, Spring, 2018.
Comment te dire adieu How to say goodbye on a gray-blue morning? In the end, turn and walk out the door, carrying the room on your back in a bag filled with camera clicks and sound grabs, looking ahead, always looking ahead, to the last closing door. Patrick T. Reardon 6.20.18 “Comment te dire adieu” was originally published by Spank the Carp on June 1, 2017.
Veronica Veronica is not a name given to many baby girls today. She wiped the face of Jesus at the side of the packed- stone street the condemned man trudged with his cross rubbing his shoulder raw on his way to the hill. He left behind the image of his face on the cloth, like the Shroud of Turin but no need for x-rays. Did she hang it on the wall of her home? Store it in a drawer? It was certainly an odd miracle in which no cure was executed. Did Veronica and Simon the cross carrier meet later to trade notes or maybe just to look into each other’s stunned eyes with no words to say — then, interrupted in their silent communion by the angry cry of a hungry baby, they turn to see the mother raise to the infant mouth her breast. Patrick T. Reardon 6.13.18 “Veronica” originally appeared in the Write City Magazine on 4.19.17.
The endless white around the corner I know it comes, not when. I am running to it, racing, straining, through the brittle leaves, the boggy mulch, deeply breathing in and out, alive to the breathing, to the muscles, to my sweat, to the rhythm, to the light — so much light. I walk the cemetery. I study the newsreel of the King’s coronation. He is gone. So are they all, gone, decayed, disappeared. I am Lincoln in the moment of the bullet’s entry. I am books unread. Books not written. I am the red-brick apartment building in the rising sun, more beautiful than Solomon in all his glory. I am the deep green grass of a child’s lullaby, a dumb green field. I am Earth from space, the stars. I am a wildflower downtown in a concrete curb. I am a sound, echoing. I am in the boat with others alone. Patrick T. Reardon 5.28.18 This poem was originally published on the Silver Birch Press online journal on 1.14.15 and was included in my 2017 book Requiem for David.
Forget the cross. I’m already crying like a baby. Why must I drink this fatal medicine? Why endure and then give up the ghost? Why, then, the scholars in the Temple? Why those fishes and loaves? Why Elijah and Moses on the mountain? Why all that light? That flood of light? Light is God, and God is the True Light. Why not a woman and children? Why not long years to breathe this air and see each morning the fill of light? Why put one step in front of the other? Why am I alone, now and always, even when those guys are awake? Why does the grass here smell of goat shit? Why choose? Why do it? Who will wipe these tears? Patrick T. Reardon 3.29.18
Beethoven’s Symphony #7 In A, Opus 92, Allegretto, is dread and endurance, deepening in intensity with each new phrase. down into the core. And, for just a few beats, somewhere near the end, I see a ballerina, not leaping, but, with her shoulders wide, striding, step by measured step, as all of us must, to the executioner. At the Museum of Fine Art, the glazed terra cotta della Robbia Mary holds her baby son with one large hand around his waist and the other over the top of his skull, gripping, with a raw ache, his hair through her fingers, holding for dear life, and, for a glimmer, I see the boy’s head move just slightly as if fussed by a bad dream and her lips bend to touch his forehead, as if to kiss away what is to come for her and for him after they return to their pose. Over my head, the electricity of eight younger bodies cracks from one side of the back yard to the other as the sharp-moved mother arranges the line of food and dishes and utensils on the table and the dutied father is firing the hot dogs, and I […]
In Boston, at the MFA, the faith, love and hope of the Della Robbia family art, glazed terra cotta, one hundred and fifty years of saints and Madonnas with their Baby Jesus, the colors, five centuries old, glow like the warmth of living skin. Then, with directions, I to the basement gallery of Olmec art to confront the huge squat crushing ugly boulder goddess that is shown in the museum guide and know it is the weight and threat of my mother and find, instead, a life-size jade priest mask, turned by fire from green to gray, delicate, deadly attractive but not looming. Not huge. Only maybe pained. Seeming as much victim as butcher, except, of course, to the one to be sacrificed. In the kitchen, she sang with Frank Sinatra about a surrey with fringe, and, in that moment, she was the most beautiful girl in the world. Patrick T. Reardon 1.26.18 This poem was originally published in Requiem for David from Silver Birch Press in February, 2017.
The pounding crush of the falling Rhine waters has no end unlike these tiny foreground figures who reach and stretch to accomplish their small tasks, muscles straining, reaching, stretching, yearning. A few feet from this Turner is one of Manet’s oils of the shooting squad execution of fake Mexican Emperor Maximilian, a fool if there ever was one, but aren’t we all fools who end in the vague smoke awaiting the coup de grace? What, though, is the alternative? The urgency, as Brooks says, is in the blooming amid the noise and power of the flood. We are all, victims and butchers, crushed by the same cataract, slain by the same bullet. You and me and David. Patrick T. Reardon 1.25.18 This poem was originally published in Requiem for David from Silver Birch Press in February, 2017.
(I) He plots movement, holds forces, makes strategy, wants high ground when the time comes. (II) You make a date. You place an order. You sit. You wait for the heavens to open, the bricks to crack. You climb. You avoid the rabid dog. You take your pulse. You open your eyes underwater. You find a coin in the dirt by the tree. You cut your hand on the edge of the box. You sleep late. You look for something to do. (III) My bones fill with smoke. It is night along the edge. There is no way to know. Patrick T. Reardon 7.9.17 Written 8.11.81 Originally published in Proof Rock, Winter 1985-86
I smell the dust of the ranch and the smoke of the hill still as I sit here and listen to congressmen. I feel the bruise of the bullet, the slam of it, into the folded speech. I see her sometimes in the corners of mirrors. I see her dead and smell the room. Part of me is watery and dark and filled with tinny echoes. Patrick T. Reardon 7.8.17 Written @ 1980.
July 10, 1981 On this porch, on this cool summer day, when the moon is benign in afternoon sky, when birds sing from wire to wire, I have no argument. This may be the milk-and -honey time, the fulcrum, the equator. I may be on my way down or past or into. This will change, and I will change, and the wood of this porch will rot. The birds will die, and I will die, and new leaves will grow under other summer suns. I have no argument. Patrick T. Reardon 6.30.17 This poem appeared in Requiem for David, published in February, 2017, by Silver Birch Press.
“Requiem for David is the heart’s howl, a passage through mourning, a lesson ultimately in learning how to walk alongside pain with grace.” — Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street. … “Detail by razor-sharp detail, perception by vivid perception, recollection by haunting recollection, Patrick T. Reardon’s Requiem for David gathers into the force of a cri de coeur.” — Stuart Dybek, author of The Coast of Chicago. … “Reardon’s poetry reminds me of the great poet and Catholic priest, Daniel Berrigan. I highly recommend this volume to all who seek uncommon answers to difficult questions.” — Haki R. Madhubuti, Ph.D., author of Liberation Narratives: New and Collected Poems 1966-2009 and YellowBlack: The First Twenty-One Years of a Poet’s Life, A Memoir. … “Your death/tore me/open like/the baby/was coming/out.” In his eighth book, Patrick T. Reardon wrestles with the suicide of his brother David and the pain they shared as the children. Requiem for David also explores the tight bond of affection that the brothers shared with each other and with their other 12 brothers and sisters. “They face life with/raw nerves. But they lean toward each other.” Patrick T. Reardon’s books include Faith Stripped to […]
At Christmas, there is me. Then David. Then Mary Beth. Then Eileen. Then Tim. Then John. Then Rosemary. Then Laura. Then Marie. Then Kathy. Then Teri. Then Geri. Then Jeanne. Then Rita. Every baby is the Baby Jesus. One Christmas morning sixty years ago, Mary Beth suddenly grabs a metal fire truck from my grasp, leaving me with a short, thin slice of blood on my palm. Nothing to be done but find, unnoticed, a Band Aid in the bathroom. We are the brothers and sisters of Baby Jesus. God hides, like a small child, for fun. Patrick T. Reardon 12.7.16 This poem was originally published by Silver Birch Press on 12.6.15. It is included in the poetry collection Requiem for David to be published by Silver Birch Press in February.
Absent angel Mary on the hill, her dying son, her aching bones and flesh, her flock of his friends looking to her for what? She endured. The next step is a step in any direction. The thirteen of us swim in the suicide of our brother. We can’t help but drink in the gall. A sister sends a text with David’s voice like Abraham’s blooded knife and no angel swooping to the rescue. Patrick T. Reardon 11.21.16