A monologue from Genesis

Yes I remember him.
he was my father’s father that came out from that Place.
He was a good man
that’s what people say.

He was the strange one,
or maybe not so strange.
it was his way I suppose
a place none of us could touch.                  

soon it
grieved my father into loneliness.

He was always quiet
even gentle
the way I remember him,

Though I think that came when he was older      
when he learned his need to love.                              

He had always loved her,  his love ever since the beginning,

Even after the Great Loss.    
but it was only when they were alone with the world
living by strength of their hands alone    
that he really began to know her.

She was a silent woman
almost never spoke.

She was good enough to the rest of us
but she wasn’t always kind
to him                                                       

I remember her seldom smile
sitting with him    alone   after her labors
keeping him
from the loneliness of his thought.

There was a touch of bitterness
somewhere in her heart
something that needed a voice  crying out-
it always hurt him.

I only knew him to weep for her once,
after she had been unkind to herself
in her silent woman’s way.
otherwise  her voice spoke deep within him spoke of discovering love together.

He was a man of God though he had his own thoughts about everything now,    
ideas he struggled for
and then finally keep as his own.

There was a certain pride in him
you wouldn’t suspect unless you knew him well.

Strong,        
sometimes foolish.    
Always a bit sad.

There was something in the way he did things     
or maybe the way he walked,       
it made you weary to see him,
but hoping he’d notice you.

 He never talked about the old days before my father and we know little,
only that it was very hard,  
filled with a loneliness for something or someone he wouldn’t speak of.  

A despair that he carried like a yoke that bound his will to his heart.                               
And when the things only he could know  
troubled him     
he would walk over the fields
towards the unreachable Mountains         
out until the next light.

I think it was hard for him to believe in himself     
with all that was demanded
naked  in his own solitude
alone with the memory of the night.

When we were young   
it was easy to pretend we could see the flowers grow
rising swiftly to the light.

 My father was like him.           
Quiet.   
hard working.
but there was something standing between them
some part of him that my father wanted
or needed
that he was never given.
but maybe received unknown.

They would sit
and talk
when the sun was silent in the grain
waiting thirst.

 

He had a strange  and often beautiful way of saying things,
words that would whisper in your mind  and still again into silence.
that angered my father   who hadn’t the patience to wait so quietly for meaning.

I listened with the attention of the young   and it was the music of the word
that held me not its wisdom. Wisely were we then distant.

Those were hard days the black days of my mother who waited
outside the uncertain touch of my father’s world for a smile
against her girl’s heart.

It might have been the work,
this thing that stands between the man  and the woman but there was
more.       

More than just the labour.
There was trust, the separate  final aching of the heart that is asked to give  all,
trust in the seed,
the soil,
in the new born,  in the dying,       
trust in the man.

Trust in God.    
And where his footsteps go   
sadly there  
she would follow   
heavy with unspeakable
secrets.

This was the vision of my father's father        
he felt deeply of all  the living and the dying, and taught us that in this  seed,

This moving from morning into night  was Life.        

With my whole being
I have wanted to understand that. once,

I remember  a time  after a season’s rain, when the dust was driven to the
ground and the earth steamed cold he called me then,
a small running boy,
out into the fields
beyond the names of the hills,
to stand there   on the very edge         
between the turned fields and the earth  beyond,         
he was listening silently to the stillness within himself, to the silence he was part of, And suddenly said     
‘do you understand’

The words rushed upon me  and I quickened   
struggled to be free of them.

To understand-       
but spoke out in confusion.

He took my hand
and we came away.

Next year it was to be,
next year again,
but
he died.

Slowly we are going from morning into night slowly.

 I live these fields for a time
and then without the voice of my hand
they will continue slowly on through the night.

I was there then
the next year
and the next,
and found words unspoken are a bitter fruit for a man to love his life.

But only a seed can grow,     
and the tree is in fullness of its death
with none to know the after.
he was a good man.
that’s what people say.

God willing       
I’d have known him better.

 

David Russell OFS
Fosdalsgård Thy 1969