Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Writer's Freeze or Have a Cold One on Nicor

Although the events in this poem took place several years ago, and things are a bit more stable now, the life of an Orthodox Catholic writer (at least until he gets better book deals or more frequent speaking engagements) leave these fears only a catastrophe or two away. "The Writer's Freeze" is how I dealt with disaster when my faith was tested.

"The Heat
Has been
Shut off."

My wife bids me
the bad news
Interrupting my dealings
with drunks and derelicts
at my current second job
Lombard's last-chance liquor store

Preparing me
for the unpleasant homecoming
at the end of my night-day

Arriving, I find
it is no longer home
But a tomb
Not quite damp enough
to see my sleeping children's breath
But frigid enough
to ensure my sons' and daughter's
Eventual demise
And December
Only gets colder

I curse
This tombstone testament
to my failure as a capitalist
But as hot (now cold) water shocks me
The makeshift mausoleum
mocks me back

Please God -- NO!!
But it has already happened
and the mighty hand
of Nicor
will not withdraw
Its Evil Empire
until hell freezes over
or I come up
with 18 hundred bucks --
Whichever comes first

Night is survived
and morning dawns
Day two of the outside
seeping in

Disillusioned but undaunted
the kids dress quickly
Trying to stay warm
with colds
Consuming toast and vitamins
Before bundling up
and bounding off
to their warm if-not-cool schools

I too
am at a school
The new Writing Supervisor
at York Community Construction Site
Sitting and wondering
whether my wife is shedding tears
or merely crying in her heart
Like me

In between what passes as classes
I squeeze in both tragic phone calls
And frantic prayers

Please, Lord ...
But prayers do not pay bills
And my family's
coughs and shivers
do not strike me
As answers ...

"Then KEEP praying!"
an inner utterance urges
But instead
another voice
That of the vivacious Vilma
a student of both talent and temperament
Interrupts

"Excuse me, Mr. O'Toole ...
I'm applying to colleges and ...
Do you think
I should go into business
or become a writer -- like YOU?"

BUSINESS! ... is the safe bet
but ... (and here I would like to be quiet
but I know the Holy Spirit
would kick my ass if I was)
Writing, in the long run
is more rewarding ... that is
If you can stand the heat --
or cold ...

Tom O'Toole
Feast of St. Nicholas
December 6th, 2001

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