Poem from an Old Man

I attended a very brief convention of 42-year-old priests. One of them handed me this poem and asked me to publish it on my blog:

“Summertime 42”

The heat swells with the rising sun.
At 24, I slept. Now I get outside early to exercise
because it would prove unwise,
I think, to push things too hard in the afternoon.

Summer nights gape open like a tiger yawning.
18 and I had no thought of sleep,
but only driving, stars, and far-flung all-nite diners.
Tomorrow would come when it came
(maybe in the winter).

But now I have to consider
the week’s engagements, my mental energy,
and the monastic rigors of my morning prayers.

Shall I rue the year I went
from free to routinized? When
I forswore today for the Day to come?
When I closed the door on every pretty girl
and locked myself up in a tower
that only opens on the sacristy
and an altar stone with a martyr’s bones to kiss?

Shall I wonder what became of the fecund days my loins
might have had, if I kept my hands
on the steering wheel I gripped
when manhood came with June?

Twenty years now of muttering psalms
and going where I am told.

Well—the sun shines for us all, brother.
A good routine makes weeks flow by
like cool water in a creek.
Springsteen sounds good at 42, too,
and a digital jukebox works as well as the old kind.

Someday, after all, we will all lie down
in a dusty grave, and then…
Burning incense for a living
and kissing relics: this will
make the old basement couch
seems like an overheated tomb.
The revving engine of 18? A beat boring
as a metronome. And Today
will dawn in a new way:

The heel-calloused Christ,
younger than Eden, with a smile
prettier than the canyons
of Utah and Arizona
put together: He will greet
the shimmering bones, shaken
out of the soil.

Every time the alarm clock went off early
will echo in harmony like the stirring horns of a fugue.
Duty done will rock, like Santana on the axe.
The altar stone will taste like wine.
The wedding feast of the Lamb will begin,
and the disco ball will sparkle.

The alarm clock sounds for the middle-aged man.
Eternal Young kept a vigil for 33 years
–plus the countless millennia
He waits for the heart of man
to whisper, “Yes, Truth. Yes.”

Can I begrudge Him a decade or three
waiting through nice sunrises for
the unknown consummation?
Hardly—especially when He sweetens
every little day with at least one beautiful minute.

The tiger’s jaw will open and never close.
Eyes forward.

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