Friday, February 1, 2008

War and Canon for M.L.E.

The following is a prose-poem I wrote when my father died almost twenty years past. I was nineteen. He is buried in the town of his birth, Ada, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, just east of the border with North Dakota, the Red River Valley. My father used to repeat a number of humorous cliches, one of which was "What do you know about war? You never fired a cannon." This is a deeply personal poem, but I share it with any who care to read it because I am intrigued by my young, naive, theological thoughts, blended, as they were, with philosophy, and even pagan ideas. I was trying to work those things out. I guess I still am. Anyway, maybe you'll find it interesting too.

War & Canon for M. L. E.

I don't know much about war and
I've never fired a cannon, but
I know what it is to be 19 and
to lose a man I did not realize that
I was just beginning to want to know.

Often required is just such a shot straight
between the eyes to wake the dead;
it is a most unoriginal theme, after all, death
giving rise to life.
It took your death to begin my life;
I did not want it to happen, yet I have benefited.
Shall I be thankful?

Where is my family? Scattered south, west;
You have made your home in Northern Ground.
I would not pretense nor blaspheme that
your voice is heard in the whispering of wild rice;
but what is it that sombers my soul driving
north highway nine?
For, now I am drawn.
To my father, yes, but to my father's land.
I find no physical footing upon where I stand;
I am drawn to a spiritual footing in this Northern Land.

Mother is fine. She has found second love and another
in her.
Second love, less not than first, nevertheless, second.
Happy, now, and complete.
Your children struggle. Yet, this is good.
Your firstborn is successful, a wonderful mother with
two marvelous children.
I know not her struggle, yet, she grows and learns,
possible not without struggle.
Your second lives struggle and struggle has lived her.
At times it seems she has not been dealt a fair hand
in life; she does not complain or ask for pity,
she is strong.
I am your youngest, the one who knew you least.
I struggle mostly with myself.
Childhood was pleasant and without incident;
highschool was not as bad as it might have seemed.
But I was dead.
God shot me straight between the eyes and woke me up!
You died, and now I live.
Am I thankful?
I thank God that His mysterious will is done.
Thank you.

What have you taught me; to be a lover and not
a fighter? I am neither.
Yet, I do love, and passionately. Patience, gentleness;
thine virtues, now mine. Thank you.
I have neither your work nor your strength yet,
I have my mind because of your work
and your strength.
I have your will, now, to love God;
His gift to us both.
Yet, still, I know little about war and
I've never fired a cannon.

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