The Young Priest Returned 1964 – A Poem


I – The Return

The body alabaster’d, vestmented
outlined in white satin —
the manicured head
lay in a coffin lined with grey lead,
that strange way is how over there
the Americans bury their dead
so the elder people said,
as I was drawn back
from the blood-parched-fading
far away his now-distant hands
the last glassing touch of the unknown friend
as lamenting old women
keened for his life, and for the life of their dead.

II – The Wake

The uninhabited vessel discarded, the timeless
left in potential guarded,
the ghost life measured in the disturbance of others
as his vertical mother stood rock-rooted and back
in her feeling alone and untouchable
a living menhir in the wake-house for the dead
with its fierce laughter acceptance and sorrow.

III – Toward Burial

Over the mountain, traditional life-darkened aged men
carried the weight high up, and down on boned shoulders
their cold steps unslackened by sentiment —
as my memory quilted his dying on a highway in Missouri
where I saw him last turning
sun-shadowed, face smiling, pulsating with me
as we rotated ripened fresh hay
thrown out into a long summer’s day near Templederry.

Ted McNamara