Mary’s Psalm

( Celebrating the Light ought not diminish
our compassion for those suffering the dark.

They were the benchmarks
by which she reckoned her life—
order, cleanliness, God.
Supper at five, always at five;
socks, underwear, towels,
carefully ironed, meticulously folded;
windows washed inside and out,
once a month, spring through fall;
daily mass, daily rosary, daily
invocations to keep her kids
safe, to keep her kids good.

And her house was clean, her kids
were good. Everyone noticed.
Everyone said so. Except, perhaps,
her husband who didn’t say much
of anything but worked hard,
didn’t drink, didn’t hit her, but
didn’t love her as an untidy
imagination said he should.

One day, when her kids were grown and
emptiness had soundproofed the house,
she crawled under a bare kitchen table
and proceeded to tear at her face
and pull out her hair while
her husband dozed
in the other room
after a long, hard day.

© 2007 Dennis Ference

Power of Presence

(Presence—simple, spontaneous, selfless. It’s where life is affirmed and healing waters flow.)

Lying on my bed,
head propped with pillows,
reading Graham Greene’s
The Heart of the Matter
for the third time, I hear
the creaking door slowly open.
She enters, gives me
just a wisp of a smile,
brushes the hair back
from her eyes, and
climbs upon my chest,
all 22 months and 30 pounds
of her. She lies there, silent and
unmoving, face directed skyward,
fists encircling the index fingers
of hands happy to provide
a mooring for this welcome,
though unexpected, guest.
After five minutes, she
opts for another mission,
climbs down, pauses
long enough for her signature,
backward wave, then exits,
leaving a grandchild’s gift
of mustard seed planted
in the fallow garden
of a wizened, old soul.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest garden plant and becomes a tree, so that the wild birds come and nest in its branches.” ~ Matthew 13:31-32 (NET)

Poem © 2007 Dennis Ference

Let’s Pretend

~Ride together imagination’s golden rocket
and the universe can be your playground.~

Battle for the Universe

Like two frenzied birds winging
madly from wire to bush,
bush to tree, tree to window ledge,
never lighting long enough
to celebrate the sun or be blessed
by the rain—time too short, mission
too demanding: a rescue needed here,
an insurrection to quell there,
a flight to the neighboring galaxy
to stem the forces of darkness
closing in on all sides.

Each incurs wounds lethal
for the ordinary man, but these
are warriors of indomitable will;
these are heroes of mythic proportion;
this is a battle for the universe.

In the end, no final victory this day,
only a mother’s insistent dinner call,
a boy’s reluctant capitulation,
and a grandfather’s solemn
commitment to their noble cause.

© 2010 Dennis H.Ference

Can You Hear That?

So, I walk into Walgreen’s on Super Senior Savings Day and notice the lady at a card table near  a sign that says, “Free Hearing Test.” The seat is empty across from her so I sit down, figuring this is my chance to prove to my wife that I do, indeed, have normal hearing despite the fact that I like the TV cranked up to double the volume she prefers.

Well, first I figure the lady’s testing machine has a short when I get long periods of silence between those soft beeps she’s feeding through the tiny buds she put in my ears. But when she shows me this graph with two lines in serious free fall below those high pitch tones I figure I should take advantage of her offer for a more thorough test at her office to see if maybe she has better equipment there.

Now, her fancy machine in her isolation booth apparently confirms that the old gray stallion ain’t what he used to be, and she offers me a free trial of a pair of top of the line, techno wonder aids that I just couldn’t refuse to try. So, we go through a custom fitting and adjustment session and I’m starting to think a hearing aid might be a good thing for me after all.

I come home and do a pirouette or two in front of my family, and because these things are so small, no one can even tell that I have them on. A few minutes later, I hear the sound of my granddaughter in the kitchen scratching an itch and I’m thinking: Wow, I’m like a robin hearing worms moving underground.

Then it hits me: Maybe those  words of inspiration that sometimes pop up in my head when I’m meditating will be a whole lot clearer and reliable now. How great would that be! So that evening I seek out a little privacy and begin my meditation thing. Usually I do about 20 to 30 minutes, but nothing much is happening, so I extend it for 10, 15, then 20 minutes more. Suddenly, my eyes shoot open and I look at myself in the mirror on the wall across from me and watch my spreading smile, realizing once again that grace and Spirit will never be the servants of humankind and technology. And, so be it.

© 2014 Dennis Ference

A Summer walk

(This poem is about how we sometimes
unknowingly pass on our pain.)

He was only five,
programmed to believe
all that she said; so
something fragile broke
on that summer walk
when she casually announced,
I’m not your real mother,
then recounted how she
and her sister traded babies
one day a long time ago.

True, she recanted all
with a dismissive smile
and pat on the head
as a drizzle of tears turned
into breath-stealing sobs; yet
she remained blissfully unaware
that he was doomed to suffer,
from that day onward,
the far-reaching tentacles

of disquiet and doubt.
As they crossed the threshold
upon their return, she unveiled
her final ploy, an aside
for which the entire game
had been played—would he
rather live with her or his aunt!
In reply, he instinctively
sought to sink his roots deeper,
declaring with a child’s
passion, that he would stay
with her forever and ever
and ever.

And so the woman’s own wound
was soothed for another day,
but under the salve, would fester
and bide its time, surely
to erupt again.

© 2004 Dennis Ference

One Sunday Afternoon

She focuses intently
on the task at hand,
glasses skewed slightly
to accommodate her gaze.
Cary Grant and Leslie Caron
snipping in the background,
Father Goose entertaining her
for the sixth or seventh time

Her lips curl inward a bit
as she works the needle in
and out and in again,
stitching like a surgeon
battling doubt and
the ravages of time.

The operation’s success,
a flicker in her eyes,
but he wonders its worth,
the effort applied.
Yet she looks so content, so soft
and almost shy, he only
nods as she announces that
favorite socks deserve
another try.

© 2006 Dennis Ference