Monday, October 16, 2006

The Day of Gray Laughter

Today is my daughter Therese's 16th birthday. She is a beautiful girl with a bright future and a vibrant path. But today's poem is about a girl of the same name I met before Therese was born. Though not much older than Therese is now, Terry's life was deadly, her sweetness sour, and her hope despair. I was too young a Christian then to change her path ... can my daughter's present life redeem Terry's past?

Her name is Terry
And she always laughs when you call her name

But she is a gray day
Whose girlish ray of a smile
Only occasionally
breaks through her woman's cloud
of unresolved fear

Today is Tuesday
And her mind is still assail
On the Sea of Vodka
Which was rediscovered Monday
a day that is always gray
to mindless men

It takes her through the cards
that shuffle her life
The too-used deck of playing cards
the supposed centerpiece
of a cleverly cluttered table
And two rarely touched holy cards
taped to her empty peeling wall

One a picture
of the ever popular St. Jude
the odds-on favorite of reform
The other a prayer
to St. Therese of Liseaux
heaven's "Little Flower"
and her namesake Saint

One by one
Her boyfriends come
They play her cards for a while
Drink her vodka
Tell her to f___ the holy stuff
and then, do

They use her beauty
not knowing
it is that of a fallen leaf
Blown off by an early autumn storm
alluring but lifeless
trying vainly not to fade

She pretends it is still spring
When in a rush of lust
They crush her lush colors
And leave her laying
at the bottom of the deep booze sea
drunkenly stumbling out
vaguely bragging
of their conquest of the condemned

From the depths
She laughs to you ...
"What's so funny, Terry?"
asks the surprised passer-by
cornered in an open hallway
by a sudden mystical howl
from behind her plywood door

It swings open
and she sits there at you
Smiling
but saying nothing
Keeping hid a secret
even she does not know
and they flee from finding out

Down to her last dollar
having spent her rent money
on smokes and junk food
She empties the Sea into herself
Laughing against the world
and smiling upstream

Ha-Ha! Alas!
She would have taken
any job
But McDonald's doesn't hire clouds
And Wendy's would not wish folks
To have a gray day

And so ... Once again
beyond despair
She makes solitaire her prayer
A too-young Blanch Dubois
Awaiting for the last time
the kindness of strangers
who will never be friends

Jude!
Jump down from that wall
and hit upon that cloud of Lost Causes
Therese!
Send down a thorn from your Heavenly Rose
to prick open her soul

That Terry still might
Confess her confusion
and reveal the Hell-fed fear
that sparks her misbegotten mirth
for even my unhearing ears
must echo better
than bottled dreams

Her name was Terry
And she always laughed when you called her name

But she was a lonely gray day
For all the while we had heard her laughter
Only God had seen her tears

Tom

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