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
Magnificat By Patrick T. Reardon My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. — Luke 1: 46-55 I am God’s magnifying glass. My heart thrills. I am a worm and no man, but blessed. God of might, God of holiness, God of mercy. The proud scattered. The high brought low, sent empty away. The poor on the cliff at the chasm, looking down into the flames. The poor, fed. Patrick T. Reardon 9.10.15
July 10, 1981 By Patrick T. Reardon 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.
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 6.8.2015
He dreamed and saw her under the tree in the pink dress her mother hated. He felt a small hand in his in the darkness and wanted to escort the boy. He saw the sun of that afternoon on the circuit when the horse was lame and he had a headache. He heard the voices of the hecklers for the first time clearly. He saw the burned city and the white city and the prairie town Capitol. He smelled the market stores along the river and the fish there for purchase. He saw his father by the woodblock with an axe in his hands and the body of an animal at his feet. He tasted blood. Patrick T. Reardon 4.3.15 Originally published in the magazine Telephone Book, number 18, in 1983.
FIVE MYTHIC POEMS Dullahan Up Lake Shore Drive, I ride on my charger, black as a deep cave. You don’t see me, commuter, too dull with science. Onto Hollywood Avenue, then Ridge Avenue, then onto Clark Street. Children see me. Ignore me. They know. If you are a dancer, a painter, a singer, don’t look my way. You have eyes, but I will lash them with my whip of human spine. Onto Granville, then to Paulina. Up the street. I arrive. You die. Note: The Dullahan is a sort of Irish version of the Headless Horseman. I wondered how he’d do in present-day Chicago. Quite well, I discovered.
. I answer the door. The bear is there. He says, “Fear not.” He is cold and wants a fire to sit by. In he comes. Snow White raises her eyebrow as we brush the snow off his fur. We play with him. We tickle him. We cover his eyes with our small hands. He leaves in the morning. And comes back each night during that long winter. Mother likes him. “I must go away,” he says in summer. “A wicked dwarf is trying to steal my treasure.” Some days later, my sister and I find the dwarf caught in a tree by his beard. We cut the beard and free him. “My beautiful beard!” he yells. All summer, we find the dwarf in one danger or another in the forest and save him. He is always angry with us. Now, he tells us the bear is going to kill him. The bear appears. The dwarf says, “Eat the girls!” The bear kills the dwarf with a single swipe of his claw. Snow White raises her eyebrow as the bear turns away. Patrick T. Reardon 10.12.2014
(A) New born, I shine as gold. My blue eyes glow. Seven steps I take, a lotus in each footprint. Pointing to the sky, I say: “I am born for the welfare of the entire world.” . (B) The shock again. The pain, weight, edge of body. Seeing. Trek again. Find again the balance. Find again the rhythm. Find again. Chuckle at the impossibility. Chuckle at the simplicity. Chuckle. . (C) Let go. Patrick T. Reardon 10.3.14 NOTE: I’m Catholic, not Buddhist. Nonetheless, I found Little Buddha to be one of the most spiritual movies I’ve ever seen. It contains a charming and transcendent scene of the birth of Siddhartha, who became the Buddha. That story is repeated in a book I happen to be reading right now, Women of the Way: Discovering 2500 Years of Buddhist Wisdom by the wonderful writer Sallie Tisdale. These are descriptions of what those present saw. But what was it like for the baby himself? And how was his experience like mine, like everyone’s? (I was born on 11.22.1949.) I also find endearing the many descriptions of Buddha laughing and smiling.