“I was a tourist from honey-milk land,” “Inheritance” and “Overflowing”

In Issue 34 by Patrick T. Reardon

“I was a tourist from honey-milk land,” “Inheritance” and “Overflowing”

I was a tourist from honey-milk land

I was a tourist from honey-milk land,

and Sister heard my question underneath.

She had her own.

“Are you packing?”

That kind of place.

The nun hugged her wizened chest.

She was old then,

dead now, I’m sure, thirty years on.

She hugged, a saint in mufti,

alone as all saints are

— and reaching out

to embrace the violent, the crazy,

the dirty, the dazed and me.

She knew the patter, heard the underneath.

“Belief is neither wispy nor soiled.

“Remember now:

The rains come and go.

The clouds hang low.

Strong men fract.

Stones gnash.

“The voices of the birds clash and shrill.

Desire fails.

The bowl shatters.

The spirit is dust and all we have.”

Inheritance

I can hear them. They don’t know. I feel

good to let go my hold on all held in and

out. I am flat on Julia’s narrow chest, her

child’s arms under my butt, my drool on

her dark blue fabric coat, my eyes unfixed,

not seeing what is seen, my ears listening

to my breathing, as I do now, as I hear them,

as I know I will never leave here. I am not

here now. I have stripped off the uniform,

the car, the condo, the people here, the

dozens of missionary envelopes wide-mouthed

like beloved nestlings, awaiting my five-dollar

bills, the memory of her, long gone, left me

with these people who don’t know I listen,

not to them, to the rough breath in and out,

nothing else to do; now I exhale. I ride the

molecules of vapor, atomized, out into this

room, inhaled, blood-streamed by these

people who fail to recognize their inheritance.

Overflowing

The older son noted

the back door of the flat

was always open.

The wordless father wiped

the soapy kitchen floor dry

when the washer overflowed.

On knees he washed

from the dining-room entryway

to the back door never locked.

The older son said,

“I will leave by the kitchen door. “

To the father, he said this.

The father had nothing to say.

The older son

left by the back door and moved

across the face of the landscape

and, after much time, came back

to the apartment where the father

and the younger son still lived.

The father saw the older son

walking up the sidewalk

and returned to his sewing.

No one answered the bell.

The older son, now a man

with a finger ring and a belly,

walked up the back stairs and in

through the back door not locked.

The father looked up, said nothing.

The younger son, later,

came out of the back room

and came to the father

and asked if the back door

was open to leave.

The father said nothing,

went back to his sewing.

The younger son

went back to the back room,

having learned a lesson.

About the Author

Patrick T. Reardon

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Patrick T. Reardon, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, is the author of nine books, including the history The Loop: The “L” Tracks That Shaped and Saved Chicago; the poetry collection Requiem for David; and Faith Stripped to Its Essence, a literary-religious analysis of Shusaku Endo's novel Silence. His poetry has appeared widely. Reardon, who worked as a Chicago Tribune reporter for 32 years, has published essays and book reviews widely in such publications as the Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, National Catholic Reporter and U.S. Catholic. His book Puddin: The Autobiography of a Baby, a Memoir in Prose Poems will be published in 2021 by Third World Press.