Sapphics for Richard John Neuhaus
If I have seen geese low on the east horizon,
seen the long reeds strain in the dawn to follow,
watched the first clean ice of the season take
root for the winter,
what worth are those clear scenes in a day that fathers
lunge at half-born sons with a knife, and daughters
name the swift-gained deaths of their mothers high
gestures of mercy?
And they that speak strong words in the failing season,
sparking new fires, cursing the embers—they must
scorn the faint hearts nursing a private flame,
skirting the darkness.
But still the cold reeds sway in the wind and whisper:
Leave the great voice raging to stave the winter.
Autumn's own soft music has need of songs,
gentle and dying.