The Sign of Taw
My Summer in the lonely state,
lead by my albatross–
a San Damiano Cross,
the third I’ve lost up to this date,
we were dismissed
with Peace’s kiss
and turned to part and leave the way.
As we were want of forest air
we turned to leave the pew
but as we did, a Mexican–
a gentle young Tepayacan
whose guyabera magnified a glow,
turned in the pew in front of me
and staring, but staring consolingly,
at the bird hung from my neck,
said simply with all confidence
words none could take back:
“The Lord will make you a Franciscan.”
He promised prayers before we went our way.
That night around the campfire’s light
I spoke with those with whom I’d sat,
beside to left, beside to right.
Not one recalled the gentleman,
not by words nor by description,
the only Mexican at that Anglo mass that night.
From that day to this,
the bird around my neck
has changed and changed again.
The gentle mystery to search,
that all the crosses are the same
though each bird has come and gone,
the Truth of that young Mexican
remains the Truth of Mary’s Son.
The cross I’ve lost,
the cross I’ve claimed,
the bent one and the right,
the head of Christ,
once raised, called me
like Francis from my night.
My wounds and scars,
my aching limp,
like hungering Brother Ass,
are all medallions that adorn
the victorious King’s chest:
this one for purgatory’s souls
and that for sinners to convert
and this wounded neck is to atone.
The face that leans in close to me
near Brother Broken Stag’s right ear,
whisper’s of where it is we’ve been
and what new and old we’ve seen.
As we wander through the storehouse
of all done in memory of Him,
the brilliance of the new and old
light the many mansions in His Kingdom.
“Restore my Church”, he smiles and says,
with tender light’s compassion–
the sweet illumination from His eyes
framed in the five wounds of His passion.
Before my back and body failed,
I visited the Bronx.
Saint Joseph’s Friars welcomed me
and showed me to my cell.
Five days and nights I prayed with them,
and slept on their hardwood floors.
None among them had a bed
for no bed have we beggars.
The waterhammer waking me
became music to my ears
as they introduced me to the souls
they’d been called to serve.
The hungry here, the homeless there,
Michael, who refused to leave the bench
in frozen February’s Bronx for the men’s shelter–
the blankets that they left with him:
a mantle over Mary’s son.
The Queen of Guadalupe,
Empress of the Whole of the New World.
A Friar and I begged for food,
the grocer said that he had none.
We stepped aside and Hailed Our Lady,
and then we turned to find
some meals for Mary’s son.
The grocer, as we returned,
was found opening a door:
“Have seven crates of fruits and vegetables
and here, have this and more.”
At five day’s end,
just before I left,
I met with the postulant’s formator.
Father Leo let me know,
that he thought that I could endure
the Renewal’s ascetical Rule.
As it was time to leave
I felt it as fingers pressed to my forehead,
the Sign of Taw,
the coming into the world of the living end:
“Here I am,” I said,
on my return
to the furthest shore of the New World.
The Pacific Coast,
San Francisco’s Bay,
and the storehouse stored,
soon to be reopened.