Begin

                                

           Brendan Kennelly

Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of the light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.
Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and future
old friends passing though with us still.
Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.

 

— From The Essential Brendan Kennelly

 

The Song of Wandering Aengus

W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939

I went out to the hazel wood,   

Because a fire was in my head,   

And cut and peeled a hazel wand,   

And hooked a berry to a thread;   

And when white moths were on the wing,

And moth-like stars were flickering out,   

I dropped the berry in a stream   

And caught a little silver trout.   

   

When I had laid it on the floor   

I went to blow the fire a-flame,

But something rustled on the floor,   

And someone called me by my name:   

It had become a glimmering girl   

With apple blossom in her hair   

Who called me by my name and ran

And faded through the brightening air.   

   

 

Though I am old with wandering   

Through hollow lands and hilly lands,   

I will find out where she has gone,   

And kiss her lips and take her hands;

And walk among long dappled grass,   

And pluck till time and times are done,   

The silver apples of the moon,   

The golden apples of the sun.

 

 

The Roommate

Thomas J. Rice

 

My college roommate drowned the day we first met. 

He was just 18, tall and blonde, with a shy smile, bright blue eyes, 

and a bone-crushing handshake. “I’m Bjorn Karlsson, Sioux City, Iowa,” he blurted. “Gotta run; swim test.” 

We were both freshmen, assigned to the same big double on the first floor of the ivy-covered dorm, taking the requisite test before classes started. “I don’t really know how to swim,” he tossed over his shoulder, laughing. “Just want to get the damned thing over with.” Then he bolted.

 He promised to meet up afterwards at the student union. 

But he never showed. Back at the dorm, I found out why.

  He dove in the deep end and never came up. 

 Seems no one noticed. But how could that be?

Oddly, I still dream of his fierce handshake and shy smile.

And I’ve always wondered how they broke the news to his parents.

 

 

 

Havel on Hope

HOPE

 

Either we have hope within us or we do not.

 It is a dimension of the soul and is not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world.

 HOPE is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. It transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. 

 HOPE in this deep and powerful sense is not the same as joy that things are going well or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not because it stands a chance to succeed. 

 HOPE is definitely not the same thing as optimism.

It is not the conviction that some thing will turn out well, but certainty that something makes sense

regardless of how it turns out. 

 It is HOPE, above all, which gives us the strength to live and continually try new things. 

 

Vaclav Havel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rites of Passage(an excerpt from novella)

 Six hours on a cramped red-eye from Boston had Donovan in a foul mood—jumpy and irritable. He’d resisted this journey for 18 years; never thought he’d find himself back in Ireland with this mission. Still, he reasoned, if things worked out, this would be the first and last time he’d have to make the dreadful trek. For a man who hated to travel, once was plenty. All the more reason to make this one count. 

            He’d been jerked from a semi slumber by the screech of the landing gear on the Aer Lingus jumbo jet, slicing through the dense fog over Shannon airport. His wristwatch—which he’d set five hours ahead—showed “5:45 A.M., February 3, 2005,” as he vaguely tuned in the faux-British accent of the young stewardess prepping the passengers for landing.

            Strapped pertly in her seat outside the cockpit, her short, green skirt showing off a pair of long, sexy legs, the stewardess rotely issued a litany of commands: “Please secure your tray tables and be sure your seats are in the upright position for landing.  Check the seat pockets for personal….” Donovan tuned her out, reflecting on the pitiful irony of native social climbers still trying—and failing—to mimic the upper-class accent of their former British colonizer, fifty years after independence.

From his window seat near the front, Donovan smiled grimly at the familiar mosaic of green fields, brown fences, and silver streams decorating the luscious landscape of the Limerick dawn. As they came in for landing and taxied down the runway, he retraced—for the umpteenth time—the chain of events that led him to this ‘homecoming’ moment.

 

It was the image of Archbishop Flaherty on national television, prostrating himself on the altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, that gave him the first cosmic nudge. He never thought he’d live to see a member of the Catholic hierarchy come forward like this—admitting the truth: “Today I stand before you as a sinner to take responsibility for the abusers in our midst, to offer an apology to all who’ve suffered as a result, and to commit to making amends.”

Tears welled up in the anguished, gray eyes as the Archbishop raised his open palms toward the crucifix, struggling to gain control, before going on: “The abuses happened on my watch, in our chapels, in our diocese. I make no excuse, for I have none; I should have known.  It was my responsibility to know, to protect  the innocent. In that I failed. I failed myself and I failed all of you. I am guilty of willful ignorance, at best. No less a sin, no less abhorrent in the eyes of God.  So today, I beg your forgiveness and ask Almighty God’s forgiveness, as I pledge to do better, to be a more worthy servant, not just for today, or for a year, but for the rest of what time God grants me on this earth.”

 

With that, the old man fell on his knees, bowed his head, and prostrated himself fully on the altar, arms extended toward the granite crucifix above his head.

When Donovan saw the news coverage of what was dubbed  “The Spectacle at St. Patricks ” by the media, it was as though he was being offered a new lease on life, one without the shame, panic attacks, and loneliness—hallmarks of his existence since that awful May morning so long ago . 

He still remembered—as if it were yesterday—the stained glass ovals and the crucifix bopping up and down through the fog of pain and terror. 

Now here was the Archbishop of Dublin, one of the most powerful men in the Catholic hierarchy, offering a genuine, contrite apology.  This, after everyone, from the Boston Archdiocese to the College of Cardinals in Rome, had closed ranks in ferocious defense of their pedophile brethren.

 Donovan’s next-door neighbor, Jimmy Brennan, put it best: “Jesus, Billy, those sonsabitches weren’t only guilty of harboring known child molesters in their ranks, they were  feeding ‘em fresh meat,  rotatin’ ‘em around to new, plum posts, keepin’ ‘em one step ahead of the posse.” Jimmy was just giving salty voice to what was now common knowledge in every Catholic community from Ballydehob to Buenos Aires. Donovan had not responded. He didn’t trust what he might have said, or how it might have landed.

That was before the rage took hold, propelling him across the Atlantic, like a guided missile, only to find himself once again moving at a snail’s pace through the customs queue. 

A suspicious official pulled him out of line for a pat-down.  Donovan groaned at the thought of another delay and the tedium of answering yet another set of questions designed for terrorists.  He was tempted to blurt out, “ What the hell is this! Do you think I’m the freakin’ IRA?” Instead, he stood mutely, watching the old man—his hands arthritic and shaking—rifling through Donovan’s faded shirts, slacks, underwear, and shaving kit. 

After closely inspecting every nook and cranny of the luggage, the official finally turned to Donovan’s passport. He stared at the photo taken almost ten years earlier and, with a slight stammer, asked, “How long have you been away?” Donovan, in no mood for civility, snapped, “Well, as you can see, it’s been 18 years.” “Right, I see that Mr. Donovan,” the official replied evenly, “And what brings you home at this time of year, business or pleasure?” 

“Oh, pleasure for sure,” Donovan said flatly.  “Pleasure it is. Isn’t that what Ireland’s famous for?  Can’t wait to get out of here to get started on the pleasure.” The sarcasm was not wasted on the customs agent, who nodded and decided to let it go. “Well Mr. Donovan, I hope you have a grand time of it and welcome home. Don’t leave it so long next time.” With that he smiled warmly, exposing a mouthful of blackened, rotting teeth, and Donovan suddenly felt ashamed of his own rudeness. 

(Excerpt from Rites of Passage, a novella published in Rites of Passage: Five Irish Stories (2016), available on Amazon and Barnes & Nobles.