Guest Post: Poem By a Survivor

[The author uses the pen-name B. Phil. He wrote this poem ten years before he began to process the trauma of having been sexually abused as a child, by two priests of our diocese. He is now trying to find a hopeful future… Thank you for sharing this with us, B. Phil.]

Not ask “Why?”

Thoughts of suicide have run in my mind
as long as I can remember, that is what I find.
I have always thought of ways for me to die-
for most of my life I have always wanted, for good, to say “Goodbye”.

I had never realized that daily thoughts of death
were not common for others, until I talked to a nurse named Beth.
The thought of having Peace, of being happy, loved, joyous and free;
I honestly felt I didn’t deserve it, NO, not me.

I have tried to die many times and in many ways;
a few attempts put me in the ICU for numerous days.
Over most of my life, I can’t remember many times of happiness
unless I was on the soccer field or in post-orgasmic bliss.

The first time I ever tried to take my own life,
I wasn’t even a teenager and yet had that much strife.
I was so ashamed of who I was and wanted to die,
I put a 12-gauge to my head but couldn’t reach the trigger…God knows why.

The ineradicable feelings of shame and having no worth or value…
not even my own family ever really had a clue.
Being swept under the rug, bullying and numerous types of abuse
were ingrafted into my life; they nearly destroyed me while trying to seduce.

The next few times were quite feeble attempts,
that is why I don’t count them, they are exempt.
I don’t discount the shame, worthless and hopeless feelings,
for they grew and grew, infiltrating almost all of my dealings.

Next came the times that no one can understand
why I lived through them…I have NO doubt that it was God’s Hand.
I overdosed two times on meds because I didn’t think that I could face
the shame and pain; ideas of the future, I never could embrace.

There is a Divine reason behind why I am still alive
for six attempts at suicide, I should not have survived.
I despised God, for a time, for not letting me die…
From now on, I am going to Love Him and others, do His Will and NOT ask “Why?”

“Three Silences”

A silence reigned, before Abraham.
Blank heavens never spoke.
They just aged, above the clamor.

Holy Saturday.  Christ entombed.
A second silence: a question.
Will heaven answer the Lamb’s final cry?
Vindication?  Or just a dark maw,
arcing heedlessly to nothing at all?

Now, the unending Eighth Day, our Age of Grace,
silence speaks comfort, o lamb.
The Spirit speaks, because He lives.
The heavens say love.

Another Early-June Poem for You


How big is the world?
Does it have a limit,
or go on and on?

Seven continents only?
Seven seems like a number
that just begins.

Let’s start with one of them,
the familiar, wide America,
criss-crossed primarily by highways,

individually numbered, and of varying widths
and drainages. Some swipe
at the pump, some still have no wifi.

Forty-eight continental states; we have got to
narrow this down, though the interstate
exchanges appear largely similar.

But no. That’s how big
the world is. Exxons have differing sounds,
and not everyone likes

the ambient dance music
in the same way. Kansans like it.
Nebraskans like it, too, yes—but not like Oklahomans like it.

So narrow it down, we must.
The Carolinas. How big?
Charleston has twenty-five years

of history at least. I can
attest to that myself, and books
books books reveal more: Rhett Butler, etc…

Eden, in Rockingham County, NC—
How big? Used to be two towns,
but now it’s big enough to be one.

People die there, and get sick,
and get visited by a Vietnamese priest I know,
and that’s really just the beginning,

because the Whistle Jacket Grill on
the Dan River has a history of young love,
going back two generations at least, and the water

just keeps rushing by in the riverbed,
never dries—the river, which itself
makes a tributary for another

which, yes, does empty eventually
into a serene bay. But we
have not reached any edge, my friends,

because the bay has
an eminently dramatic past, and the future
likewise promises some drama.

You could sail from here
up to New York Harbor,
like people I know have done (in a sloop).

And one year, of many,
it could be the Fourth of July.
Watching from the deck, fireworks light up

the Statue of Liberty, which came
from France, where they cook
eggs in more ways than I,

for one, can conceive—so, NO:
this does not constitute a limit, though
an individual egg does, indeed, have

a fixed volume, and matter is
neither created nor destroyed, they say,
but cracking an egg does

make things interesting. For breakfast,
that is, and we haven’t even
had our coffee yet.

Cluster Sonnet + Poem Compendium

News from Brooklyn: Hoyas beat top-20 UCLA Bruins, advancing to the championship game of the non-tournament Legends Classic tournament. Which means we play currently-AP #1 Indiana Hoosiers tonight at 10:00 pm!

…Rooting through a few old things, I found a sonnet from last year’s parish-clustering negotiations. I think the loopy pastor may have written it:

How do I love the cluster? Let me count
the ways, like Will Shakespeare of old would do.
The first: a five-speed, four-wheel steed to mount
and burn the road between the parishes two.

The second? These two fine towns to explore:
Both Piedmont villes, of character diverse.
In one, lake and farm folk both shop the stores.
The other is the NASCAR hero’s nurse.

Throughout the rolling counties, I descry
fertile fields for the sewing of the seed,
and a band of eager discipulae,
attentive to our Church’s every need.

O Lord, how great You are in every act!
May we, like You, great many souls attract.

Which reminds me that a few ridiculous poems have appeared here. I herewith collect links for your possible amusement.

G’town Hoyas 08-09-season Sonnet

Woes, Rues, Lamentations

Summertime 42

Assumption Day on the beach

Jennifer Ehle’s Voice

Behind McAfee’s Knob (scroll down)*


On the Silver Surf

For St. John Vianney

For Pope St. John Paul II

Dog Decembers (for a warm Christmas)

Three Silences (Holy Saturday)

*I defy anyone to come up with a location on earth where a person can take in a more magnificent vista than can be taken in on McAfee Knob, in Roanoke County, Va. Perhaps other prospects equal it. Perhaps. P.S. FYI: More miles of the Appalachian Trail in the state of Virginia than in any other state! More than 500. No other state comes close.

Poem for You

Walking along the beach, trying to come up with an explanation for the Trinity, I found this, in a hole dug in the sand:

Draw Me Into the Shimmer

From this point-of-view, the ocean glistens.
Nine o’clock, and the sun presides.
The circling gulls see something else:
They search for fish I can’t see.

From my point-of-view, this is Delaware.
Europe’s over there, and Maryland to the right.
The sand-digging toddlers consult other reckonings,
plans for moats and turrets by the primordial seaside.

From my point-of-view, the day’s well-begun.
I’ve said my prayers; I have a novel and sunblock.
From the divine: yesterday never ended.
His gaze commands, well above the sun.

I think I know what day it is.
But maybe August 15th will last forever this year.
Maybe the season-turns will fade
into a slow, sweet cradle-rock.

Nap-time for toddlers, and the gulls have settled.
The heat of the day sits on the sand.
“Can’t sit here, looking at the ocean forever.”
I think I know what day it is.

O draw me into the shimmer, wise One,
a javelin in your hand, perpetually hurtling.
My point-of-view like a shaft of light
from the water.

August 15th–from this beach chair.
You see today.

Hopkins Kind of Afternoon

If you are with me, you know that this is the time for a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem:

Morning, Midday, and Evening Sacrifice
The dappled die-away
Cheek and wimpled lip,
The gold-wisp, the airy-grey
Eye, all in fellowship—
This, all this beauty blooming,
This, all this freshness fuming,
Give God while worth consuming.

Both thought and thew now bolder
And told by Nature: Tower;
Head, heart, hand, heel, and shoulder
That beat and breathe in power—
This pride of prime’s enjoyment
Take as for tool, not toy meant
And hold at Christ’s employment.

The vault and scope and schooling
And mastery in the mind,
In silk-ash kept from cooling,
And ripest under rind—
What death half lifts the latch of,
What hell stalks towards the snatch of,
Your offering, with despatch, of!

Remember, man… are dust, and to dust you shall return. are dust, and to dust you shall return.

tseT.S. Eliot wrote a complex, difficult, breathtaking poem for Ash Wednesday.

The Holy Father keeps Ash Wednesday in the Dominican church of Santa Sabina, on the Aventine Hill in Rome. He approaches the church in a solemn procession down Via Santa Sabina from the church of San Anselmo, which is about a quarter mile away.

Continue reading “Remember, man…”

American Aeneid

The Aeneid by Virgil is one of the greatest things of all time. It is the epic poem which tells the story of how Aeneas and the Trojans fled from their burning city after the attack of the Greeks. They crossed the Mediterranean to reach the place where they were destined by the gods to live: Rome. Aeneas is confronted with temptations to give up the long journey, including the lovely Dido, but he never gives in. He is driven on by his sense of destiny. Nothing is more important than his duty to reach Rome.

A likeness of the heroine
A likeness of the heroine

Earlier this week I was thinking about the Acadians. I first learned the history of the Acadian exile from a Creole seminary classmate. The Acadians were French colonists who lived in Nova Scotia. During the French and Indian War (1755-58), they were exiled by the British and their towns were burned. They were forced to return to France or to move south in North America. Many of them eventually came to Louisiana.

I am ashamed to admit that I had never read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Evangeline, so I got up early this morning to read it.

Evangeline is the most beautiful Acadian maiden in the village of Grand-Pre. Longfellow depicts Acadia as a kind of Eden; Evangeline’s greatest pleasure is to pour bowls of fresh ale for the men. She is engaged to marry the blacksmith’s son Gabriel, the love of her life. But then the British arrive and burn the town and put Evangeline and Gabriel on different ships to send them to an unknown fate.

Longfellow refers at least once directly to the Aeneid, and his style is like Virgil’s throughout the poem. But Longfellow’s Aeneas is not a swashbuckler driven by destiny but a kind, pure, long-suffering woman driven by love. She searches the rivers, plains, mountains, towns, and cities of the beautiful America of two centuries ago for her lost love. I am not going to give away the sublime ending.

Evangeline is even more a hero than the great Roman Aeneas–more admirable, more hearbreaking. The American Aeneid is a long, sad poem. But, man, oh man, is it worth reading. It will make you fall in love with our country again. It makes you feel like our country really is something–something wonderful and storied. Don’t get me wrong: the U.S.A. has many claims to fame. But to have our own Aeneid is…well, beautiful. Many things come and go, but having your own Aeneid does not easily slip away.