by Meg Freer
The damaged seek you out
You would know their faces
if you were blind: the lonely,
the broken in spirit, mind or limb,
animals who offer their last frozen breath.
You hear the rag-and-bone man’s cry,
reach across social boundaries
to wipe them away, listen to those
who need to tell their stories.
Golden light shines on St. Vincent de Paul,
his gentle, stained-glass face surrounded
by a halo of red rosettes as he comforts
the barefoot children who come to him.
Shadows of leaves blow in a breeze
and red roses still bloom in late October
along the fence beside the chapel,
a touchwood of hope in these times.
A crow waits for you on the path,
vanishes like lake-born magic,
and you see bones and feathers
on a branch, flowers in roadside dust.
Timing, you say, smoke and mirrors,
and the earth drinks saints’ tears.
views from the ninth floor
in memory of Laurette
snow turns to rain, dulls the lake view,
and I remember when we skied alone
on the frozen lake below your country house
and you told me things I shouldn’t have heard
but I listened, just like I ate when you set
a huge plate of pierogies before me
the first time I met you, and the chatter
and food continued, more baking
in a year than I would do in a lifetime,
while the dynamics of your large family
continue to overwhelm and amaze me,
as we bear witness to your life
that fades away in this hospital room
where your oxygen bag reminds me
of countless little baggies of plain popcorn
you sent home with my children every time
they came to visit, a healthy snack
to go with the cake and cookies.
The award-winning poet asks
for my parents
“When do most people
write poems in their lives?”
He gives the answer
himself: “When they’re in love.”
Of course. In love
with words, books, paper
and pens, with life’s anxiety,
stress and tears, fears eroded
by prayer, this unending
birthday party of no return.
And poets in love sat
in our living room, some on shelves,
others on chairs—drinking, smoking
pipes—while Mozart’s gentle sighs
caressed their spines,
their words of power ever
on the qui vive for young minds
to impress, in this room
where a synergy of living
and dead worked magic.
It is said when the student is ready
the teacher appears, and the poets
came, ethereal voices from distant
lands beyond their sea of words.
The rest is in the hearing.