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
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
David Reardon (January 23, 1951-November 21, 2015) You were there, David, with me. I was there with you. We were drawn together and pushed apart by circumstances, our souls, our yearnings, ignorant luck and fatal choice. Now you have left without me. I am left without you. Patrick T. Reardon 11.21.16 This poem originally was published by Silver Birch Press on December 6, 2015. It is also one of the poems in the collection Requiem for David to be published by Silver Birch Press in February.
Let me be clear: In the face of hate and fear, I choose hope and love. But what about the Ku Klux Klan? What about the yahoos in the gas station: “Watch out. We’re in charge again”? What about the man to the woman, “Bow down”? What about the weeping eight-year-old Mexican boy? I will not demonize. I will not stew in cozy bile. I will live with the complex pain of living — yeah, that slash and gash and throb and nerve-ending scream. I will act not on shadows and phantoms. I will offer cheek, coat, open wound. Yes, I want to curl up and close my eyes and suck at some convenient breast, but I choose to look into the face of each soul and — hard as it is — to show my true face, the face I am trying to find. I have seen fear kill — over the centuries and in a backyard in Oak Lawn. I know the nails were hammered into innocent wrists. He could have gotten up the night before and walked out of that fetid garden. Afraid, he chose. He died. And, […]
Caesar will do what Caesar will do. Do the lilies worry? Do the lilies give orders to the sun? The rain? The soil food? The rain does what the rain does. The lily stretches to the sun. The lily turns its face to the sun. The lily reaches out roots. The roots reach and reach and suck in the soil food. The rain comes. The soil drinks. The lily drinks. The soul of the soil is silent. The soil’s soul is as deep as the pain of breathing, as deep as the delight of the lily in the bright-white sun. Amen. Alleluia. The Lord gives. The Lord takes away. Caesar will do what Caesar will do. I am a lily among lilies on the mountainside, a field of lilies with roots that reach out, stretch, wrap and intertwine, sharing soil-food, the rain, the hug of the sun. And the danger of a hoof and the nibble of a rabbit and a passing stroller who takes a fancy to the bloom. It is autumn now. The snow of winter will come. Each flower will die and, in the spring, be reborn. Is this consolation? The […]
winter afternoon in the classroom a half-sleep the nun speaks and rests the eight-year-olds bow heads over loose leaf write in the row along the windows in the second to last desk a boy done early melts crayons on the ripple of the radiator redblueyellowgreen and on loose leaf draws side views of Lincoln in a world of clean-shaven men nosesuittieeyeshair and black beard nosesuittieeyeshair and black beard nosesuittieeyeshair and black beard nosesuittieeyeshair and black beard a psalm to the future redblueyellowgreen nine years later, grows a beard red-brown now white Patrick T. Reardon 4.28.16 This poem was originally published by Silver Birch Press on 3.7.2016.
Psalm By Patrick T. Reardon The Lord croons melodious tunes. Praise God. The Lord whistles cool breezes. Praise God. The Lord laughs deep from the belly. Praise God. The Lord knows humor as a faithful friend. Praise God. Garden dirt is under the Lord’s fingernails. Praise God. The grit of soil, the Lord knows. Praise God. Sweating, the Lord’s muscles strain. Praise God. The load down, the Lord’s muscles ease. Praise God. The Lord grieves. Praise God. The Lord weeps. Praise God. The weight bows the Lord’s shoulders. Praise God. The Lord’s shoulders take the weight in balance. Praise God. The Lord sings full-throated songs in congregation. Praise God. The Lord’s voice joins all the voices singing. Praise God. The Lord croons melodious tunes. Praise God. Cool breezes are the whistling of the Lord. Praise God. Patrick T. Reardon 1.29.16
Visions By Patrick T. Reardon I see the hand of God write on the wall the sins of the king. I see the bloody knife. I see the father lead the son to slaughter. I smell the burning bush. I see the furnace, three inside unburnt. I hear the walls fall, taste bitter herbs before travel, stand on sacred ground, see the salt woman, the honey and milk land, the river red with blood. I see the face of God I hear the Lord speak my name. I feel the touch of fearful blessing. 1.25.16
At the Mayor’s Funeral By Patrick T. Reardon Those boys stayed in the church until seven the next morning, through the night. Do you know what tough duty that is? That’s a mother who’s giving stiffness to the spines of her children. ….. A. Einstein By Patrick T. Reardon The woman walked naked around the room, and I could not think. She bore me sons with that body, but wore at me with questions. I saw the film of the camp and the women stripped and led, awkward, holding themselves from the cold and from the stares, to the ovens. I hate those men and all the uniformed men, buttoned to the neck, chaste. I hate them more than I loved her ….. Two Deaths By Patrick T. Reardon (Lincoln) His finger compresses the tongue of metal. The hammer strikes. The bullet crosses space, embeds. (Booth) The spur catches. The bone breaks. The fire rages in the farmhouse surrounded. ….. Home life By Patrick T. Reardon Faulkner would slap his wife, once, hard, when her mind would drift and her speech slur. He would slap her face without thought and resume his conversation. MacArthur spoiled his son with toys the […]
Baubles, bangles and beads lay jangled together on the kitchen table. The boy gazed at the flash of color and then out into the night sky at the blue moon. The mother did dishes and sang in a joyful voice, “Willow, weep for me.” For the boy, she was the most beautiful girl in the world. Later, he was a priest in the tavern where he said, “I won’t dance,” and they all laughed and beat him body and soul. Later, in the still of the night, he whispered, “Let’s fall in love.” She said, “I like the sunrise,” and looked past the breakwater, out to the horizon beyond the sea. Later, frail and failing, he watched each morning for that lucky old sun and said to Doreen, the worker, “I’m waiting until the real thing comes along.” Doreen wasn’t listening, her mind caught in a loop of the question: “What’ll I do?” Patrick T. Reardon 9.22.2015 Photo by Magic4walls