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For My Father

The Mountain of the Holy Cross

The Interface
–for my father, Albert John Van der Leun

The empty rituals and dusty opulence
of the nightmare’s obvious ending dwindle,
and the sounds of departing automobiles
fade into the humm beyond the cul-de-sac.
Inside the house, my mother sits quietly,
surrounded by the plates of finger food
that everybody brought and no one ate,
and wonders if she should begin to take
his clothes from the closet and call the Goodwill.
Some blocks away, the minister hangs
his vestments on a peg, and goes to lunch.

I drive the Skyway to the town named Paradise,
park his car at the canyon’s rim, and sit awhile
in the hot silence of the afternoon looking out
at the far Sierras where, in June, the winter lingers.
On the seat beside me, a well-taped cardboard cube
contains what remains of my father. I climb out
and, taking the cube under my arm, begin to climb
down the canyon’s lava wall to the stream below.
The going is slow, but we get to the bottom by and by
and sitting on some moss, we rest awhile, the cube and I,
beside the snow-chilled stream.

The place we have come to is where the pines lean out
from the rounded boulders lodged above the stream;
where what the stream saves builds up in the backwater,
making in the mounds of matter an inventory of the year:
Rusted tins slumped under the fallen sighs of weeds,
diminishing echoes of the blackbird’s gliding wings,
laughs buoyed in the hollow belly of stunted trees,
gears, tires, the bones of birds, brilliant pebbles,
the rasping whoosh of leaf fall crushed to dust,
the thunk of bone on bark, the thud of earth on wood,
the silence of soft ash scattered on chill waters.

And in such silence, he fades forever.

The stream, its waters revolving round
through river, ocean, clouds, and rain,
bears away the hands and eyes,
but still the memory remains,
answering, in pantomime,
the questions never asked:

Are these reflections but the world without,
carried on but never borne onward, westward,
towards sunlight glazed on sea’s thigh?
Or are such frail forms shaped upon the waters all
the things that are, and we above immersed in air
the forms that fade, only the mere mirrors of the stream?

Is this life all that is and, once life lost,
the end of all that was, with nothing
left to be, with no pine wind to taste,
nor sun to dapple mind with dream?
Is all that is but ash dissolving,
our lives mere rain in circles falling?

Or are we still the center of such circles,
our fall a rise above the shawl of night,
where all shall shine contained within
that single soul, that heart of stars;
that interface where souls and suns
and Earth’s far scattered waters meet?

Meet in that one hand whose palm
still remains held out forever,
held out and for forever holding us
even in the coldest light of day.

“They are with me still, real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever.”

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Bill Marcus June 17, 2018, 8:05 AM

    The Interface fills my heart!

  • CC June 17, 2018, 8:33 AM

    A haunting and eloquent prose, Gerard.
    May we all meet again.

  • Bill June 17, 2018, 1:24 PM

    “They are with me still, real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever.”

    With time this becomes ever more true

  • Rust June 17, 2018, 3:42 PM

    Thank you.

  • Lance de Boyle June 17, 2018, 11:32 PM

    “And in such silence, he fades forever.”

    I don’t cry easily, Vanderleun.

  • James ONeil June 16, 2019, 12:34 PM

    There’s nothing else to say.

  • Nori June 16, 2019, 1:49 PM

    The painting melds with the words beautifully.
    Happy Father’s Day to all of you Dads

  • NealinNevada June 16, 2019, 6:18 PM

    “And in such silence, he fades forever.”

    As Buddy Holly said: “Not fade away!” Your father will never fade away, as my father will not fade away. Ever!

  • Auntie Analogue June 16, 2019, 7:54 PM

    From a time of blessed innocence and modest public decency . . . : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-vYuV3OmhE

  • Casey Klahn June 16, 2019, 7:56 PM

    There won’t be any more men like our fathers. We try, and it’s the best we can do.

    Mountain of the Holy Cross. That brings me also to my father, who you’ve all read about time and time again, here.

    You are a good man, Mr. VanderLeun. You wear your father’s mantle lightly upon your shoulders. What else can we hope for?

  • Sarah Rolph June 17, 2019, 4:10 AM

    Thank you.

  • NealinNevada June 17, 2019, 6:39 AM

    “And in such silence, he fades forever.”

    As Buddy Holly sang: Not fade away…Never!