I grew up in a Catholic family in Illinois and now live in very Catholic south Louisiana, Here is a poem about my mother who was a strong woman and probably the best Catholic I have ever known. My faith is a little harder to set into a frame but is guided by hers. edrpoet.com
We Had So Much, Fields, a Garage
My mother changed shoes but stayed in Sunday dress.
Led me on a tramp through chest-high yarrow.
Waded over fleabane, bindweed. Parted
golden rod to come upon islands of milkweed
whose stalks bled poisonous cream when cut.
Hunted down Queen Anne’s Lace that stood
taller than a boy and had a bitter, nourishing
carrot for its root. We searched out, slashed,
prairie roses that flowed and crested everywhere.
Its flowers burst from tough, scratchy stalks.
By the fall wind had striped the milkweed
of its spores - spun globes, silky, abundant.
Left only a dried pod - prickly on the outside
but with a smooth, svelte interior, elliptic.
As if tongues of flame leapt off their stems.
We cut the stalks at the knees, hauled them home.
Took them to the garage. Tied stems in twine.
Hung them, inverted, from rafters. Left them
to dry beside wheelbarrow, shovel, axe, bucket.
Only room for the hood of the Chevy.
Just after Thanksgiving she brought the dead plants
in to her elementary school in the city where once,
years later, while I was away at college inhaling
Blake, Sartre, Nietzsche; marching to protest Vietnam,
she would have to huddle her class in the back corner
away from all glass as rioters tossed bricks through windows,
ran the halls, banged lockers and doors with ball bats.
The cut weeds were for an annual class project.
Each child brought their own arrangement of
flowering stalks, pods and spinning leafage home
to their mother when school let out for Christmas.
Children lay the cut weeds down on newsprint.
Sprayed them gold or silver, careful to turn each
twist and cranny of each plant into a regal plumage.
Mom told me about a boy she had in the sixties.
A fourth grader, “Bad, bad, bad. Full of the dickens.”
She could not remember what it was he did that day
just before break. “He pushed me over the edge.
It was too much.” So she did not let him have
his arrangement to take home. All the other children
buzzed off. Loaded busses, bounty in their arms.
Mom stayed late to get mid-term grades in.
With day-light savings, little light was left as
she pulled out of the parking lot. In headlights
she saw him bent over into the Dumpster pulling
out ragged stalks, broken stems. Muddle of plants
at his feet. Did not even turn toward the headlamps.
Though mom seemed to me to do little wrong,
this day stung her. Guilt keyed her voice. “I keep
seeing him bent over, thrashing, desperate.”
© 2017 Ed Ruzicka
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