Pot of Gold

(Compassion is a salve with
power to heal our souls.)

She was the brightest star
in his darkest night,
first child of his youngest;
and though their stories
intersected in earnest
but a short time ago,
it was clear to all that
she now owned his heart.

Her visits straightened
his spine and swelled
his chest; and when she
kissed his bristly cheek and
intoned, I love you, Grandpa,
he heard again the old music
to which he once hummed and
danced an occasional
impromptu jig.
He decided to give her a gift,
though his station didn’t allow
for much: eighty-six, withering
parts, strangled assets, wringing
out his days in a home with
a hundred more like him.

But he hatched a plan,
executed it with equal parts
stealth and constancy,
and, when her next visit
was winding down,
anxiously steered her
to his dresser, splayed
the contents of his sock drawer
like Moses parting the Red Sea,
and removed a popcorn sack
with 49 packets of sugar
pilfered from the dining room:
breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

She received the gift
with a pooling in her eyes,
a thrumming in her heart,
and love for the old man
anchoring deep within
her soul.

Returning home
she carefully opened
the packets as in a sacred
rite and emptied them into
her grandmother’s sugar bowl,
bequeathed, shelved, and patient,
perhaps, for a day such as this.
She brewed a cup of tea,
sweetened it slowly,
and pondered how fortunate
she was to have stumbled upon
her own rainbow lavishly spilling
into a pot of gold.

© 2009 Dennis Ference

At 65

(Our own reality is often starved
for our acceptance and love.)

He stares at him:
the man in the mirror–
the face indelibly marked
by time’s unrelenting crusade:
crown sparsely feathered;
beard coarse and grizzled;
brows sprouting feelers,
defiant and brash.

Their eyes lock for a moment
in the silence that grieves;
but still he resists concession,
still he withholds
the compassionate nod.

© 2009 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

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

The Flock of Seven

The Flock of Seven,
grey feathers, sparsely
layered on heads hinged
atop bluntly compromised
bodies and bones, alight
at their usual watering hole,
as their usual routine demands.

They have loped again in circles,
or waddled or limped, on hairless,
bowed, blue-veined, and spindly legs,
just as they have for more
than 25 years, these migrating
cranes of the waking, morning mall.

They sip, now, their steaming
brew, reminisce, hold court, and
jostle each other’s pride,
an occasional teen-like laugh
rebounding off enclosing walls.

But though all seven remain
acutely aware, there will be
no spoken reminder this day,
that less than a month ago,
              here they sat,
the Flock of Nine.

© 2014 Dennis Ference

Merging Traffic

I look down from the sky
at the loops and curls
of the freeway lacing up
the heart of the mighty city
and marvel at the ingenuity and
complexity of the human mind.
Yet thousands upon thousands
cannot weave daily through
this engineered maze without
adhering to a simple concept
and sign: “Merging Traffic.”

Now, at 70, “Merging Traffic” is,
for me, a symbol of Life’s larger
vision: a joining of the many
into One—the eager and new
with the tired and worn,
the smooth and efficient with
the sputtering and lame, the pure
and flawless with the sullied
and scarred.

Yes, I’ve traveled this way
for a long, long time
and have, at last, succumbed
to the lure of the One.
But like users of freeways
everywhere, I still often buck
and chafe at the state of things
and at all that merging traffic.

© 2014 Dennis Ference