Torture, tangible, daily, inflicted on his body and mind. Resulting in disbelief, optimism in the face of, at first, then, numbness, outside of it all -- the defense mechanism takes over.
Then moving into the space within with imagination, 'imaging'
the face of his beloved.
Drawing on a deeply ingrained, emotional experience, positive, strong feelings that he could use to move into the inner space. So powerful that they shoved aside the road blocks created by the personal hell.
He found he had the choice of moving into or staying outside the inner space. The door through which he moved was the strongly remembered image of love.
How big the love, how little. Enough just to tap it in some small way.
If love is the doorway into the inner space what difference the size or depth of the imprint of love. What difference does it make if the love was expressed as caring or respect or concern or helping for the sake of or Frankle's deeply felt, physical, mental, consuming and total involvement in his beloved.
The door swings open on hinges of love and that same love is the bar
behind that shuts out the hate, humiliation, despising and other feelings
that belong to the personal hell.
Jacaranda on Fridays
I delivered the food, enough for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a special meal for J.C., a Chinese lady, who the first time I saw her the Friday before was disheveled and gaunt. But today she answered my knock with a bright face, clean and combed hair and a neat dress.
"I brought the food," I said. Always difficult to sound casual and positive and bright.
"Thank you," she responded in accented English, but clear and strong.
"What a beautiful tree", I pointed across the street trying to stretch the conversation and off her some contact with the outside world. "It's a jacaranda", I said.
"Jaca ra da ....," she replied softly.
"No, Jaca ran da."
"Oh, jacaranda," she whispered slowly caressing the word.
"You are so lucky, I said, "to have such a beautiful tree in front of your house."
She smiled, taking in that profusion of lavander blossoms, bursting now with color.
Perhaps that tree will speak to her with the words it spoke to Victor Frankle outside his prison cell...... "I am here -- I am here -- I am life -- eternal life."
I went to Cristo -- the first time put off a little by his softness and brilliant smile and warm 'Thanks for the food.' It's hard to respond to the sensing of a needy calling for closer contact, or perhaps, for conversation or at least a word or two of warm-friend talk.
Something maybe gone now from his life in the isolation of growing weakness.
I hadn't noticed then what I saw today -- his deep set eyes, big and round but sunken in the wasted face and thin body. So small but still cheerful with steady voice today "Thanks for the food," he said. "Have a nice weekend," I replied, a little anxious to get away from his projection of the feeling of need for contact.
Then quickly he said, "Will you shake my hand?"
Tears welling up, "Of course I'll shake your hand," I said as clearly and strongly as I could. I walked away and in my heart I said and next time I'll hug you too.
I'm going to add something from me on my Friday rounds. I'm thinking of a small flower in a little pot -- one in floom, like a bright yellow. Something to grow, to take care of and to love. Something from me to say what I can't find the words for.
And now at midnight with tears flowing as I write "Deliver me, God, from ever taking life for granted."
The last call on the Friday rounds to the frail PhD who always has the door open, who last week because I reversed the route and he was last instead of first responded to my apology for being late, "Never mind, at 2 o'clock I made a peanut butter sandwich."
Today the door was closed. I knocked twice, a little anxious with a
little dread till I turned to the planter beside the door and under the
windows. There it was, such a relief, a white styrofoam cooler box, just
big enough for the Friday and Saturday meals. On top of it written with
exclamation points, "Hi, Angel! Love James!"
I need a place to lay my head
A place to embrace the fear
And let it melt into 'noplace'
Along the shore against the rocks.
Then again with empty eyes
And hollow heart I turn
Again to the light along the shore
And remember now the softness of the rock.
The pleasure of your hands on the hide.
Your knees giving the signals,
Quick turns, balance.
God, what control, what achievement to feel yourself
To be like one with the horse.
Fantasies now of riding,
Gracefully, a part of the good picture,
Calm, certain, in control, self contained
But daring enough to recapture something
That got lost a long time ago.
But what did he say today?
It's a joining when it wells up and overtakes.
Hurt feelings from way in the past
And a hurt today in now time.
The feelings joined, but only half real.
I can reject and turn off the old ones
And deal with the now one
And it may be real or not.
"Bless these faces, Lord
Fill them with your Spirit.
Where you lead, Lord
Let them follow.
Where you pause, Lord
Let them rest.
Where your face shines, Lord
Let them offer love."
We leave our sister, Martha, then
Her eyes sparkling like candles in the dark
Taking with us just a glimpse of the face of God.
(On leaving the parking lot at All Saints)
I remember distinctly the day I was born,
When the future began
Each day another beginning.
And wonderful, wonderful remembering.
All future, all past.
But where am I now?
Grabbing every moment
Not wanting to let go of a single sunset.
No thought for the future, none for the past.
Where am I for goodness sakes?
Preface to the Poem
It was surely this very hammock in which I was lying on that Thanksgiving trip in '96. But a lot more wind this December day, blowing in my face. The last time the hammock barely moved on that hot, hot day.
Now the sun is going down and the light is changing on the rolling waves -- totally silver, making a silver pathway which widens out to sea. And I think, all of us with the same view available, but perhaps none of us sharing it at the same moment.
So, here is the second poem from the hammock.
Return to the hammock with me
And I'll show you
That ever-expanding light.
Surely, this is the way from here to there.
What, you don't see it!
You see the birds flying low
Over the sea, rising and falling
In graceful curves and sudden dives.
But I want you to see what I see.
I want you to feel the wind the way I feel it.
Count the ships on the silver path.
Still? It's only the birds you see?
Wheeling in those great long arcs
Across the sky.
You love the way they fight the wind
Then use it to soar.
I wonder then, is it my eyes or yours
That are really in this place?
Is it your brain or mine
That has truly caught the moment?
But, do come closer.
I want you to see the shining path.
And, if it please you,
I'll look again for those wheeling birds of the sea."
Hold a mirror in front of your face
And look at your eyes.
Are they lifeless, dull and spent?
Or, are they filled with joy
Glistening with light,
Dancing with expectation
Glowing with warmth?
This light, expectation and warmth of joy
Where do they come from?
Are they generated from some uncontrollable source?
Or, do we, in some way, control the light,
Turn on the expectation and
Create the warmth?
I have been looking inward
And I haven't found any switches for joy.
No magic way to become in a moment
Some happy joyful person.
But, I know the reflection in the mirror is me.
I recognize the outline of the face, the hair, the empty eyes.
They groan a lot and grimace
Feel sorry for all the aches and pains
They wish and wish .... for everything.
So little joy.
Ocassionally, something happens
From time to time the light goes on.
I've tried to recapture the moment
But it's very elusive.
I've said to myself
"This time remember the joy, why you feel so great.
And then you can recreate the moment whenever you like."
But that doesn't seem to work.
I quickly slip back into the old morass.
And can't even remember where the switch is
Much less how to turn it on.
So, this time I think I'll write it down.
And then, later, take it apart
A bit at a time.
And see if I can find the joy in it.
But, that doesn't seem to work either.
It doesn't come apart.
It may be something very subtle, very casual.
Like yesterday at 6, sitting on the porch
In an old chair
Watching the changing light of the sunrise.
A trickle of joy and a lot of awe.
Then later, small gifts
A 'thank you' from Trini
A gracious word from Clara.
A smile from Ana. "Berto likes these. Thank you, Richar."
A small glow from the smile, warmed by the graceful acknowledgment.
Just trickles of joy
Small glows of warmth
In a sunrise, a gift?
I thought joy would flood over me
All by itself, spontaneous, free.
Is this what it comes down to?
If you want your eyes to fill with a little joy
You've got to take some time and look around
Or give something to someone?
And if you want your eyes to fill and flood with joy
And glisten, dance and glow
Maybe you've got to wake up a lot
And give something to someone, to someone else
Almost like a flood...
Something like the torrential rains of Agua Verde
That begin one drop at a time.
It is a cloud which as you watch it
Becomes a mountain, a grove of trees
Or your mother's face.
It is the sunlight piercing dark clouds,
A moment later to become the dark clouds
Framed with brilliant white
And then pure light.
Only expect joy in the changing.
Fill up with seeing and taking in.
Warm to new forms, colors and sounds
Excite to the possibilities.
Find it all in the face of a child.
Joy always lingers in the loving.
Walk a mile along the road.
There need never be a turning.
The road's as straight as your heart is kind.
You walk another mile
And meet a friend who has fallen.
Did you offer your hand?
That mile and then another of heavy going.
Not a test, only an opportunity.
Did you perceive the distinction?
A mile to walk with a small one
To offer and nurture grace in living.
Did you pass the torch?
A final mile for a friend
To suffer and bear the pain.
Did you say, "I'm here, I'm here?"
No rules to follow along this way.
And only one question in the end.
Did you love well?
It's easy to think it's impregnable,
Something graceful, yet apart.
But it too answers the call to give up its treasure
When the time is right
Or when a strong wind blows
Or when a small boy climbs the tree
And claims the cocos as his own.
The smallest act of kindness
Such quiet joy.
The headiest love of your life
A bursting, brilliant sharing.
Where do you place the value?
Can you take either with you?
Do you remember one
And forget the other?
Do you know my home?
Have you seen it too?
I turned the bend
And came upon the place
But it was dark and lonely
The trees black shadows
The alfalfa cut and dried and baled.
Then at the door the brilliant light
And laughter from within,
The warm embrace and 'How are you?'
Home is just . . . . together.
If you're out there, in here and all around
You've got to know.
And if you love me......
It isn't fair, I know, to ask such questions.
There are such things as secrets.
But, tell me where to look,
I will do my best to find me
No matter what it takes.
And time's no object.
I want to be me, the me I am,
Even though I find
In finding that it hurts."
And the Master said,
"A good beginning.
There are no secrets.
You are me and I am you.
And I will meet you there
And show you the way
When it hurts."
I turn my eyes
To not reveal the unsaid line.
For looking straight into those eyes
Can start a welling up
That wants to be articulated.
But, I know it's better left unsaid
Or marked politely with a 'Thank you,
You're the greatest friend."
Perhaps, another day, another time
The words will tumble out,
"You know I'll always love you."
And you will say, "I know, I know."
How I do remember
My easy friend
The friend like I had never had
And would I have again?
Friends for adventure
St Paul de Vence, Maui's sands
Barcelona, Paris, Rome.
We had it all!
You can't imagine
How he grew
We met there in the ruins
Everything he loved was painted black.
But, he started again
To build a life from the beginning
And leave his legacy,
Mark, Francoise and Gaby.
Is it over now? No, never.
For the two of us
It's over 'when the fat lady sings',
And she's only just begun.
I'm still kicking and
He's here kicking too.
I won't forget,
I may move on,
But not alone.
He's here, in me
And ready for adventure.
"Come on, Old Friend, 'One more for the road'!
May you remember me as I remember you,
Always, always, mein Lieber, mein Freund."
NEW POEMS - 1997
AT CASA DE MARIA - 1997
Walking so slowly, the six of them in a single file On the narrow path, separated each by 2 or 3 paces. Each with hands together in a prayerful attitude, heads down, Only one, a woman, looking about at the magnificent oaks and hydrangeas And the statue of Mary that marks the Casa de Maria. Slowly, slowly circling the hillside court like a silent procession Mourning a fallen leader. In their silent, painfully slow walk Do they hope to find themselves more fully in the moment Or, do they merely seek to pass more slowly through this time?
On the swing thatís hanging on the oak tree bough And seeing up twelve flagstone steps into the chapel. The lifesize crucifix of the sacrificed son hangs high--beyond my view. Do I have anything like that to give? Can I even contemplate the price? And would I pay the price if the gift were asked? No, rather let me swing and later join the penitent mass, head bowed, waiting. Taking all that is freely given, carefully unmindful of the cost. Itís so much easier never to look up, swinging.
(Written July 1997 in Huntington Hospital)
Empty Spaces of My Mind
Was I standing there? Was I in your arms? A thousand shadows dancing in the empty spaces of my mind Light and dark, warm and cold, no form, no substance. I am awake now I see your face You hold me with your eyes and they ask a question. But I do not know the answer. Where have I been? Were you with me there? Or have I crossed to this place on my own? These thoughts lighten my empty head But we must leave the questions there. Itís not important now. What I know is I was standing there alone And it was you who came to me And wrapped your arms around my shaking soul And held me close While I was standing there And the darkness quietly gave way to light.
I thought it was a rope That lashed me surely to the deck And laughed at the pitch and roll of the sea. Green the sea, and grey the grieving sky And oh so long the distance to the farther shore. I watched the waters rise and splash my face It matted down my hair And choked my throat like salty wine. Clouded east and west and all around No up, no down to tame that terrifying time Only the howling wind and the rain. And only the thinnest thread To lash me surely to the heaving deck..
On the Shore at Emmaís Beach
On the shore there is another name for quiet Charlie finds it there, as the sunís going down Standing on the end of his dock His arms folded across his chest With his golden retriever. Just feeling the wind thatís in his face And watching the white caps for the longest time. Charlieís put up two windsocks On either end of the landing And theyíre laying flat And two white plastic chairs and a table guard the entrance to the dock. And for me itís another way to sense this peace. I like to sit in this special chair on the glassed-in porch Protected from the wind Aware of the rolling motion of the water in the Bay Excited by the sound of its slapping against the sand, And the rhythmic repeating. I look again and to the left I see a sign Nailed to a long, thick driftwood branch. Itís ĎEmmaís Beachí it says. Thank you Emma, itís a wonderful place.
For Mother on Motherís Day-1997 And What of the Rose?
What of the rose I planted by the bridge a long, long time ago? Soft velvety yellow, the petals carressed by the scent, Awesome, rich and fulfilling. Nurtured and revered like the fields I planted when I was young. What of the Spring and the joyous reborning when I take the luscious roses in my hand Or just love them from the swing? I love to watch them grow; I love to glance at them in the midst of the heavy going. But then itís summer and the petals dry in the heat and fall to the earth To wait for another Spring? And now itís Spring again and Iím moving on. I donít know the words, the why or the where......... But what of the rose I planted by the bridge a long, long time ago? WEBB FAMILY HOMEPAGE FAMILY POETS