Monday, November 24, 2008

The Monday Scene, again...

- Vestry meets tonight (aka Session, Parish Council in other jurisdictions).
- we have 200 nice new chairs, and one of the two most cantankerous and difficult members of Most Holy and Undivided (not counting the Rector) is delighted with them; this cuts the endemic grousing off at the knees, so to speak (what's a few mixed metaphors among BlogPals?)
- Funeral on Wednesday, this week. The family have asked me if it would be possible to "have a quotation from St. Paul." I waited to hear what "quotation" -- but no. Just "a quotation" -- because "Paul was one of his favorites." As we read most of First Corinthians 15 at an old-style BCP funeral, I confess I was Wholly Bemused by this request. (Not to mention, "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life...") So I think this is going to be a Teaching Homily moment.
- I really really don't know where people are coming from, any more. Are they Unchurched, Dechurched, Open Dechurched, Closed Dechurched...what? One of those moments when I realize what is meant by the "evangelism inside the walls."
- tomorrow the Knit-Wits will gather -- and celebrate the 90th birthday of one of our matriarchs...a retired head nurse of Scandinavian extraction = a truly formidable character. I will be honoured to share their coffee and cake.
- Friday night was an enormous treat -- Eldest Son and Comely Lady-Friend and I joined SIL's parents for a production of Handel's oratorio "Solomon," which SIL was conducting -- Prairie Metropolis's Big Choir (100+ singers) and a Baroque orchestra, and five exemplary soloists, three imports of international standing and two local singers who more than held their own in the company they were in. During the intermission I encountered a former parishioner (another parish) who up until eight p.m. Friday night had never even heard of a counter-tenor. She was in deep shock, but bearing up well.
- baptisms yesterday -- two little children whose parents were married here since I came to the parish...the younger child has an older brother whom I also baptized. The service went well and the babies were adorable and lived up to the Parish Myth that they stop crying when the Rector gets her hands on them.
- and then a run to the supermarket while the rest of the nation was glued to the PRE-GAME SHOW, and finally #1 Son and I settled down to watch the annual Gridiron Classic, aka the Grey Cup (think SuperBowl, only...well, um... better, actually).
- the beautiful and virtuous half of the country, i.e. the West, was triumphant. We try not to notice that it was embodied, this year, by the team from Rival Prairie Metropolis. A good game, nonetheless.

Bring on the rest of the week!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Five

Over at RevGalBlogPals, songbird has posted this Friday Five in honour of the Sadly Belated Thanksgiving celebrations to the south of the Longest Undefended Border in the World. Thanks, songbird! Good ones!

Please answer the following kitchen-related questions:

1) Do you have a food processor? Can you recommend it? Which is to say, do you actually use it
No, I don't. One was semi-offered to me, back in a previous regime, but it looked like Too Complicated and Unnecessarily Hard to Clean, and I turned it down.

2) And if so, do you use the fancy things on it? (Mine came with a mini-blender (used a lot and long ago broken) and these scary disks you used to julienne things (used once).)
No, but I have a pretty scary hand-thing -- I think it's called a "mandoline" or perhaps a "Veg-a-matic" which cuts up vegetables and will take the knuckles off you as quick as a wink.

3) Do you use a standing mixer? Or one of the hand-held varieties?
Yeppers; had a hand-held one when first married, and something jimmied the beaters early fairly soon after that I came into possession of my mother's Original Sunbeam Mixmaster, 1950 gave her, and me, 50 years good service before it had to be replaced. I think we went through 3 set of bowls in the meantime -- the originals were white Pyrex, then she had a steel set, and I had a steel set. There was a way-cool juicer thing that fit on top too.
And my brother made me an excellent Lexan cover for the big bowls, with a slot for the stems of the beaters, so that the mixer wouldn't throw mashed potatoes all over the kitchen.

(And isn't that color delightfully retro?)
Actually it's avant-garde compared to what I started with.

4) How about a blender? Do you have one? Use it much?

Yes, also a Sunbeam and it's 40 years old, 3 speeds; fast, slow, and off. I replaced the original glass container with a plastic one. I notice a couple of small cracks, but I press on. Have replaced the rubber gaskets countless times. I use it to make cole slaw and carrot slaw. And I have Peg Bracken's priceless recipe for Blender Hollandaise, which I make fairly often. And from time to time a milk-shake or some such.

5) Finally, what old-fashioned, non-electric kitchen tool do you enjoy using the most?
I have a couple of good black iron frying pans, very trustworthy, from long-defunct foundries in Self-Satisfied Central Province. And I have a proper, tinned metal, Mouli grater for cheese etc., which I bought for fifteen cents in an Opera Guild thrift-shop...never to be replaced, this one. And I have a "flat spoon," an invention of my grandmother from the Show Me State. She would take an "odd" silver tablespoon out to the chopping block, and tap it discreetly with the back of the axe until the bowl was completely flattened out again...reasoning that you don't need a Great Big Thing to lift your poached egg out of the pan, just a little spoon-sized lifter. Some of my friends would call that a "spatula," but to me a spatula is a rubber thing you use to scrape batter out of your Mixmaster bowls.

Bonus: Is there a kitchen appliance or utensil you ONLY use at Thanksgiving or some other holiday? If so, what is it?

I think it would be the big dark-blue-enamel turkey roasting pan...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday, as ever was

Back at the old lemonade stand doing all those things we learned about in seminary like proofreading vestry minutes, ordering in cases of "bathroom tissue" (the first one to say, "expecting big things at MH&U" will be sent to time out), shifting tables and chairs, measuring out coffee, drinking my own, nibbling my cinnamon bun, and wondering what in heaven's name local retailers mean by not opening for business until TEN A.M. For pity's sake, the day's half over, you guys!

I have to do intensive telephone patrol here in a minute...

Bi-monthly meeting of Prairie Metropolis's Council of Churches here at 11:45, and no agenda written yet.

Lovely interlude last night engaged with the "social utility" (is that the term?) that rhymes with "space-hook," chatting with one of our ordinands in another city far far away. We went from our shared appreciation of pumpkin beer through mutual disclosure of where we were born and grew up and how we spent our summers and the wit and wisdom of the Archbishop of Canterbury, thence to what she's doing at present and what her plans are and what her husband's doing (he's also a theolog), and I wound up with an email of the paper he's co-presenting today in a seminar on ecumenical's a proposal to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (acronymed around here to WOP4CU or "wop-for-cue") with an ecumenical eucharistic fast, in our own churches. Various liturgical suggestions of what this might look like, in the various traditions. On the rationale, approximately, of "Until we authentically CAN do this altogether, we will from time to time symbolically abstain in mourning for our scandalous divisions" -- cf. Holy Saturday practice.

This young man, whom I really don't know well at all, is much involved with the Anglican-Orthodox dialogues that have gone on. I plainly have to dig out my notes from NAAE in St. Louis and get them to him in some readable form.

It did not feel like a wasted evening! Even though I went home and fell asleep under the spell of the idiot box and didn't rouse up properly until nearly 5 a.m.

Okay. Agenda, here I come.

Monday, November 17, 2008

in which the Rambler is, plainly, accursed.

...which is worse, somehow, than just being "cursed," and definitely much worse than just being "cussed," which I've quite gotten used to in the last "mumble mumble" years.

At any rate! When I took up ministry at Most Holy & Undivided, the sitting-needs of the congregants at occasions other than worship (for which we are provided with fairly penitential pews of great antiquity) were met, so to speak, by a great many Horrible Stacking Chairs with metal legs and plastic seats'n'backs in virulent hues, i.e. burnt orange and bright turquoise. (Pause to let you visualize this)

Two things about these chairs...every. single. last. one. of them already was cracked in the plastic aspect of its being. And every. single. last. one. of them had been "repaired" in the previous year by a parishioner who had (UNASKED, mind you) replaced the screws holding the repellent plastic bits (cracked, as I mentioned), to the metal frames.

(I have looked and looked on Google and can't find anything even approximately as ugly as these chairs.)

Although they were uncomfortable, dangerous (I mentioned the cracks, right?) and destructive (their gnarly little metal feet, or leg-ends, chewed up floors something wonderful)...they were by virtue of all the screw-replacement work done on them, SACROSANCT FOREVER.

Some years ago, we were offered replacements...not much newer, but chairs with laminated wood backs and seats -- not cracked! We took the offer (which was free) and we attempted -- since we were FORBIDDEN to consider disposing of the plastic jobbies -- to put the new wooden chairs in stacks IN FRONT OF the Plastic Horribles, in the storage room.

This mainly served to stimulate the chair-mending parishioner to rearrange the storage whenever he got the chance, so as to bring his handiwork to the fore.

At any rate...after much argle and bargle...other parishioners have given us some thousands of dollars worth of brand-new comfortable stacking chairs.

And arranged to have the Plastic Horribles carried away forever to some Place of Eternal Recyclement. This work was supposed to happen today. I arrived in the early afternoon to find, becalmed in the parking lot under my office window, the large Junk Truck, loaded with chairs...and its hood open, and battery-paraphernalia lying about in the middle distance, and jumper cables much in evidence.

I thought, "That's it! We're stuck with these...blessed...chairs forever and ever amen" -- but I see just now that they did manage to get the truck re-started, and it, and the horrible chairs, have vanished into the hinterland.

Thanks be.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Parable of the Talents

Pentecost 27
The parable of the talents is probably one of the best known in the whole range of the Gospels – and even so, one of themost troublesome. A common response to it, in Bible study, is the cry, “that doesn’t sound like MY Jesus!”

When this happens it is an open invitation from God to dig deeper, to go below the surface.

We get into trouble when we mechanically assign a meaning or an identity to each of the participants in the parable: the landlord or the master “is” God and the servants/slaves “are” you and me, and so on. And in this story, if we decide from the very beginning that the master “is” God, “is” Jesus who is about to leave his disciples with the promise that he will come again, then it isn’t surprising that we should fail to recognize “our” Jesus in all this talk of being flung into outer darkness with the usual amusements of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

There are a couple of moments in this story that need us to pause for a bit…the obvious one, I think, is that the third servant doesn’t seem to be on the same wave-length as the other two. It’s astonishing how readily we assume that he has “got it right” about the master who is master of ALL three – just because he is the only one that stops to characterize the master…as a hard man…a profiteer…an exploiter of others’ labour…there is absolutely no evidence anywhere else in the story to justify that characterization. On the contrary – if you look at what the master DOES, and what the master SAYS, you have to wonder where that servant’s head is.

And yet the phraseology is familiar…we not only recognize the characterization because we are used to the kind of people the servant describes – maybe we ARE the kind of people the servant describes, and that’s why – but I think we mush-wittedly go on assuming that the servant is RIGHT about God too, just because we have previously decided we KNOW what this story is about, it’s REALLY about God and ourselves; therefore, “Yes, that’s right, God is just like this, mmm hmmm” – and then we are left in that “Jesus said WHAT?” position.

Which is a sure and certain signal that we need to back up and look at our assumptions. Surely one of the things that parables are meant to do is to unsettle our assumptions.

We have already heard what the master says to the other servants – and there’s a lovely little phrase in there that tends to slip past without catching our attention – “enter into the joy of your master.” Maybe we don’t notice it because it sounds so archaic and ceremonious and “Middle Eastern” that we dismiss it as just “oh yeah, some more BIBLE TALK.” But it isn’t! It's the second thing we need to attend to.

The master has praised the servants – “How about YOU! Look at YOU!” he says. And then – far from taking away from them what they’ve reaped, earned, he promises them more to be working with – and then he says this neat thing about the “joy of their master.”

I tried to think how to put this into more recognizable words – and I remembered a moment in a movie – not too long ago – called Master and Commander – I don’t know whether you’ve seen it or remember it (it’s not a chick flick) – it’s a kind of a Wet Epic about British Navy Adventures in the Napoleonic era…and there’s a wonderful moment when some amazingly improbably heroics have just happened and the Captain – Russell Crowe – accosts one of his junior officers and says, “Now tell me that wasn’t fun?”

And I think this is what the master says to the first two servants, when they come tottering in all bent double under the weight of their earnings – “Some fun, eh, guys? Shall we do it again, only louder this time?” So we have every reason to REJECT the third servant’s description, because we already know better about the master.

We KNOW BETTER than this about God, as a matter of faith – especially from our vantage point on the far side of the resurrection – and if we can recognize that the third servant is most particularly ill-advised (trying to find a more dignified word than DUMBER THAN CHEESE), ill-advised, to behave this way with regard to a master who is just humanly generous and lavish…how much MORE ill-advised would it be to behave that way to God, who if anything is even more than humanly generous and lavish.

Now the moral, if you really want a moral, is that getting God wrong is NOT a good way to start making decisions about what to do with what God has given you.

The fancy way to say this – I’m borrowing it from an anonymous preacher – is that it is very hard to create blessing, or give a blessing, or enjoy a blessing, when you live in a culture – especially a religious culture – that is founded on the idea of scarcity!!!! And this casts quite a new light on the fate of the third servant. He’s flung into the outer darkness et cetera for one very good and sufficient reason – he has chosen it, and he’s already there. You can even hear the gnashing, in what he says to the master after his return. It’s his native habitat. He can’t be anywhere else, because he doesn’t recognize anywhere else – he can’t even IMAGINE anywhere else to be, except in this kind of darkness.

What then about these talents? If God is “something like” this master…what is it that he gives us to invest, so that it will increase? I think, whether you read the talents historically as very large sums of capital – or rest in the accidental pun on the word in its modern sense – gifts, capacities, skills, aptitudes – the talents he entrusts to his servants amount to the capacity for action, the capacity for choices. Another shorthand way of saying it might be – liberty to act – to choose blessing, to choose grace, to choose life, to choose PRAISE OF GOD – the thing we do in liturgy that we call DOXOLOGY (the Glorias e.g.). And we are to make the choices that he has emkpowered us to make, in such a way that other people’s freedom to choose – to choose all those good things -- is magnified and multiplied. Not out of fear of the darkness and weeping and gnashing, but just because the joy of the master is such a glorious, exhilarating state to be in.

And what our master entrusts to us is independent of market conditions or any other external factors at all. In fact…if I may borrow a slogan from the world of chartered banking – they don’t seem to have used it in advertising much in the last month, perhaps they won’t mind – in terms of what has been entrusted to us, in the freedom to live lilke the servants of a loving, generous, faithful, joyful God – “you’re richer than you think”…or can ask, or can imagine.


Saturday musings.

The sermon is hanging fire, a little -- MH&U had a heavy schedule of meetings this morning including a gathering for Pastoral Care...most of those attending have been Pastoral Visitors in the past under some aegis or other, one or two were neophytes. One, at least, was parlaying her expressed interest in pastoral care into a rationale for complaining about her neighbours' morals, manners, mode of life...this will need to be addressed. Next meeting -- in January -- we will talk about our own areas of need and how they can subvert our visiting.

But I feel as though a good, new, (re)start has been made on our visiting ministry at MH&U.

I read a column by Maeve Binchy from Dear Maeve, about how the "code" for visiting the terminally ill has changed in her lifetime. It added another dimension, perhaps, to our contemplation of what we are all about.

Meantime Sanctuary Guild were doing their thing, and mid-morning the diocesan hospital visitors opened their meeting in an adjacent space. The various activities managed to co-exist without friction, which is good. 'Tisn't always that smooth.

I am going out for a treat tonight to hear/see Monteverdi's Orfeo. Most exciting.

And tomorrow I have three services -- and voila, it's Monday again. A heavy week before us, but the worst of the pressure is off -- aside from this pesky sermon!

Friday, November 14, 2008

the groove...

The unsmiling Tsarevna

(Not actually the Rambler!)

What with one thing and another or three, the acedia has receded, and a fair amount of work has been accomplished this week. I think this is because of renewed zest for the year to come and for some new, that is, additional, ways of being church in this place which are being happily explored with a congenial colleague--ways of being church that have found quick, happy echoes in the consciousness at MH & U. We are looking at expanding our ministry in terms of the creative arts, and of the community, the folks whose lives are centred on and in the arts.

So there is some excitement in the ministry again...and some conviviality, even some renewed cyber-conviviality.

I am happy that the new energy has overflowed into Least Favourite Tasks such as making phone contact with people, sending out mass emails, setting agendas, vetting minutes, and so forth.

Tuesday and Wednesday were days of serious meetings...that went well and with good energy, on into the evening...Thursday was blessed with a series of no-shows and cancellations which freed time to rush about in the city attending to banking, post office... Otherwise Thursday was pretty flat -- some days I can generate streams of prose, conversation, decisions, communications; other days, nothing but facial hair and methane. (Go ahead and laugh, you young'uns -- you'll find out!)

Today has been all yee-haw again. Just about two serious tasks left and then home I go, with sermon notes and lectionary in hand. "We can do this" is our cry, again; thanks be to God.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I see England, I see France...

(not actually the Rambler)
...and where the HANOVER do they get off, charging ten dollars retail for a pair of ordinary underpants?

Just askin'.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

November Eleventh

When I got home last night the Rowan Williams book on Dostoevsky was in the mailbox. I've only got to the back-cover blurbs and the title-page, but I notice it is part of a series out of Baylor UP, "The Making of the Christian Imagination."

This morning at our 11/11 service, in lieu of a sermon, and in support of the Christian imagination, I'm going to read the passage near the end of Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks, that includes these words. (Stephen is an English soldier, a sapper, who has been buried by his own explosion; he is being dug out by Levi and Lamm, who are -- not -- English soldiers. It is eleven in the morning of November 11th, 1918.)

"It was Levi's work, not Lamm's, that had loosened the earth sufficiently at the end of Stephen's coffin for him to be able to drawl out of it, over the fallen body of Jack Firebrace.
On hands and knees he moved back among the debris his own explosion had made. About a yard further along he could see where the tunnel was still intact. It was here that Lamm had broken through. Levi pushed Lamm back and climbed into the British tunnel himself. Tricked by the echo of Stephen's tapping, he turned the wrong way, and began to walk away from him.
Gurgling and spitting earth from his mouth, Stephen clawed his way forward, shouting as he went. He could see light from some lantern swaying in the tunnel ahead of him. There was air. He could breathe.
Levi heard him. He turned and walked back.
As the tunnel roof lifted, Stephen moved up into a crouch and called out again. The lantern was on him.
He looked up and saw the legs of his rescuer. They were clothed in the German feldgrau, the colour of his darkest dream.
He staggered to his feet and his hand went to pull out his revolver, but there was nothing there, only the torn, drenched rags of his trousers.
He looked into the face of the man who stood in front of him and his fists went up from his sides lilke those of a farm boy about to fight.
At some deep level, far below anything his exhausted mind could reach, the conflicts of his soul dragged through him like waves grating on the packed shingle of a beach. The sound of his life calling to him on a distant road; the faces of the men who had been slaughtered, the closed eyes of Michael Weir in his coffin; his scalding hatred of the enemy, of Max and all the men who had brought him to this moment; the flesh and love of Isabelle, and the eyes of her sister.
Far beyond thought, the resolution came to him and he found his arms, still raised, begin to spread and open.
Levi looked at this wild-eyed figure, half-demented, his brother's killer. For no reason he could tell, he found that he had opened his own arms in turn, and the two men fell upon each other's shoulders, weeping at the bitter strangeness of their human lives."

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday ponderings

The cartoon is from Dave Walker's Guide to the Church.

who let this man into my office?

There was a curate at MH & U, back in the day, who was under the impression that "ponderous" meant "thoughtful" or "reflective" (given that "ponder" means "think," right?); he came perilously close to getting himself thumped from time to time, suggesting to the Rambler that she "looked particularly ponderous" at certain moments. Eventually his bride enlightened him. Hilarity ensued.

Time for a mall-walk this morning with a good friend...time to push a bit of paper to and fro on the desk ... time for lunch with another good friend: and now as there is no actual precipitation falling, but there's a significant thickening of the atmosphere on the horizon that whispers "...snow....snow....snow...."

So I am headed back to Tether's End to begin dealing with eight-full-sized-poplars' worth of fallen leaves. Because we are living on borrowed time as regards yard work, in these parts.

Returning later in the evening for the opening session of Marriage Prep. And tomorrow morning again, I make soup for the participants.

And somewhere in here I put together some homiletical thoughts about Joshua and the Thessalonians and the wise and foolish bridesmaids and Remembrance Day ...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I have beeeeeen to the mountaintop. Or something.

Well, wow. I have to admit, I did not feel perfectly confident that the American voter, en masse, had the degree of gumption that was exhibited in the results of the presidential election yesterday. I had an awful mental image of goodhearted folks going into the voting booth, and reaching for whatever technology was offered them, and then thinking..."a black man? well.... maybe not...this time..."

Then last night I stayed in the office in case anyone showed up for Bible study (they did, both of them, bless their hearts), and in the meantime I got into watching the live feed (AP via the CBC), all those mesmerizing little red and blue blotches, oh dear. Also in the meantime one of my far-flung nephews bobbed up on "meebo," as he was watching results on Fox TV, back in the Mysterious East. So after Bible study was over I resumed computer watching, and he and I burbled at each other instantaneously for a couple of hours -- we were getting different info at different speeds, of course.

So it was very late when I finally got home, with soup yet to make for the Clericus (regional clergy meeting) here at MH & U today. A double batch of Curried Pumpkin from -- starting with 8 Macintosh apples. I could peel and core them in a bowl on my lap while I watched TV news. That was OK.

But one of my colleagues notified me he can't handle peppers, tomatoes, or onions. I don't understand how a person can survive "no onions." I mean, heavenly days, an onion is what you chop up and cook gently while you're deciding what it IS that you're going to cook, right? Right?

Eventually I found a recipe for home-made cream-of-celery soup, no onion. By now it was just ridiculously late. I got the celery chopped and simmering and while I waited for the liquid in the pot to "reduce"...fell asleep...and did not wake up until I had, candidly, burned the ass off the whole project. I set the pot to soak and went to bed.

Up at 5:30, choppity-chop, got the second try completed successfully and toted soup to church and met with parishioners who are devising Christmas Eve pageant and picked up sandwiches and dessert from the deli counter and got everything to the table, mostly, by noon. I had RSVP's from only about 6 or 7 colleagues and we were, finally, 14. Even with good soup you can only add so much water before Remarks Are Made, heavens.

Got it done, had our lunch and a bit of Bible study for next Sunday and some in-house info around the table and then I had a crew kindly stay behind to load the dishwasher and deal with the pots etc.

Away to the auxiliary hospital for a communion service, plus communion for another patient too ill to come to the meeting place.

And now I am going out for supper.

And that's all.

Monday, November 3, 2008

election frenzy

Hard to think about anything much this morning except what the next 36 hours will bring on the other side of the World's Longest Undefended Border (pause to snicker). One of my Facebook Friends has posted a status line that she is away to one of those states with a vowel on both ends, to assist with her favored candidate's campaign in these final days and hours. I didn't quite know what I thought about the propriety of that; and then I reflected I'd have no trouble at all making up my mind about an "equal and reciprocal action": i.e., an incursion of visitors from the U.S. A. to "assist" a Canadian political campaign. Love y'all, you know that, but that manoeuvre just ain't on, 'kay?

And amid my cogitations I came, via several other blogs, upon this Voting Prayer. I think this is lovely...and practical...and I plan to adapt it freely to our uses in this, the True North Strong and Free.

Baptism yesterday was wonderful, two baby girls in the under-six-months category and therefore unable to show much in the way of fight. They slept blissfully through the proceedings. Thank you to the Sanctuary Guild who remembered that the baptismal ewer should be filled with WARM WATER, thank you!!!

And then over coffee we had an impromptu Corporation meeting and sol-ved the problem of the complete suite of new-ish overstuffed furniture heaped in the narthex (ever since Rummage, despite protestations that the purchaser was coming to get it, any day now). We simply appropriated it, some strong backs were recruited from among the saints present, and the furniture is now installed in our Upper Hall, thereby increasing its chic by several orders of magnitude.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

life is good

...or at least, it has very good moments.

A baptismal interview this morning, and then rehearsal for the two families with little people to be baptized tomorrow morning...

While I was waiting for them to arrive (one of the moms was actually conducting a stamping and card-making workshop downstairs)(that's stamping as in "rubber stamping" not "rubber boot stamping" you understand)...a parishioner dropped by with a poem.

We likes poems, my precious.

All Souls' Morning

Rain splatting wet leaves; citrine light; the cat
Scratching the sofa; the house dead quiet but for
The furnace thumping in the cellar; that man, my
Neighbor, out on Locust Road as he is each morning
No matter the weather, walking his dog--bent shoulders
And heavy head, cherry-red leash dangling from a
Pale hand, his dog the dark tan of oak leaves when
They turn and hang and enter the depths of winter. I see
A huge patience in his stoop, in the ghostly cigarette
Limp between his lips, in the stiff tilt of his head,
The treadle action of his passage, the orange surprise
Of a golf umbrella blossoming from his fist, the loll
Of the dog by his side as they return up Locust, both
Eater to be in again out of the cold wet day that's
Breaking round them. I'm thinking how, bound to
One another, they've been at this for years,
When my father comes leaning, as he always did,
Up Clareville Road, not far from where he's buried,
Bent against the bitter wind that always tunnelled it
In winter, his black umbrella furled, our small
Black mongrel, Brandy, straining the leash toward home
Where my mother fusses the tea together. Five o'clock
And Dublin's dark already, it being winter, fat raindrops
Scudding the wind and mixing with his lost thoughts
As he hastens after his dog, home to the wife who, when he
Leaves her behind him, will run aground with grief
At being no one in the world. This is the bottom line,
I guess: we button our habits to the chin and set out
Walking very fast with death. A bluejay's screech
Rattles the skeleton of our locust tree; the road
Outside my window is empty again, and rain gives way
To sky-bright weather, gray aquarium light making
Luminous the air, coating the dark tar with mirror-pools
Of periwinkle blue. A rising wind tides among the
Surviving leaves, and a swallow flock of dead ones
Joyrides down Locust Road, cold no more, borne off. All
you said, when we wakened warm by one another,
I was seeing shapes widen round the room, hearing them
Whisper in the wall.
This minute my hungry children are
Clattering to the kitchen for breakfast. The house quickens.

--Eamon Grennan.