A Wider Compassion


If you choose
to extend a hand
to your shadow
let it not be
out of guilt
or for recrimination
but rather the birthing
of a wider compassion
toward a humanity
cruelly given
to division
and scorn.

© 2014 Dennis Ference

My new book of original inspirational verses, From the Water’s Edge, is now available and can be ordered from https://www.createspace.com/6040109 and http://www.amazon.com/dp/1530558018.

The Healer

A butterfly flits earnestly—
box to bag, drug to dairy, produce
to poultry—prodding the random and
haphazard parade onward to the tireless
tempos of the checkout scanner’s beep.

True, it’s only a tattoo,
needled into that soft place
between index finger and
thumb at the back of the hand,
but the girl with the sparkling eyes
wears it like a badge, an emblem
of promise and possibility.

Her line is always longest,
conversation there always
freshest, the laughter
always freest. She rises up
like an oasis in an otherwise
dry and dreary domain.

After a bruising bout with fortune
and fate, I, too, am drawn to her
this day, not by concerns for speed
or efficiency, far less by fantasies
of seduction or allure, but by a simple
need to witness that healers still
mingle among us to breathe our air
and touch our wounds.

© 2009 Dennis Ference

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

The Painter

We needed our house painted, my wife and I—walls, ceilings, all the rooms. At seven decades and counting, joints, eyesight, and medicine cabinet all testified to the insanity of doing the job myself. So, for the first time, I hired a painter—a friend of a friend of a friend. Right about now, connoisseurs of creative writing might be looking for some detail: number and size of rooms; anxieties over color choices; perhaps a catalogue of mishaps, pratfalls or spillage.

But here is what I have: memories of conversations. Brian told me about a fire that took all his possessions; about keeping vigil with a friend who was dying; about experiencing a love that is transforming his life. We talked about the impermanence of things, the sacredness of life, openness to surprise, the importance of living in the “now.” We talked about values, life, love and the wonder of it all.

I listened carefully to Brian and saw the pooling in his eyes as he shared his soul stuff, and I knew with a heart kind of knowing, that my home, and the living presence that abides there, had received more than a fresh coat of paint that day.

© 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

The Oak Outside My Window

The Oak Outside My Window

Your naked limbs tremble,
roused by winter’s chilled breath,
blanched by its frigid embrace;
your bent, spindly fingers reach
trustingly outward, blind
to nature’s careless ways.
On your trunk, scars map
the pruning that breaks and
shapes you to another’s design;
and on top, an empty nest,
the crowning reminder you serve
others who ignore your desire
and scorn your consent.

Strange, how long we’ve been
neighbors and never really talked.

© 2005 Dennis Ference
(First published in Poetry from Page to Stage: A Milwaukee Public Library Poetry Chapbook)