National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  October 17, 2003


The Rose Warrior

In my old country family, my foster father’s brothers and sisters were variously displaced, forced conscripts, imprisoned in labor camps and fled as refugees during the Second World War in Eastern Europe. They were force-marched away from their land in their tiny farm village, and their small number of hectares never restored. As my father found them stunned and wandering across Europe, one by one he brought them to America. My childhood home overflowed with haunted refugees who struggled so hard to come back to life. There is a story told in our family about “the rose warrior,” who in the midst of battle rage, suddenly turns into a rose-bowered soul. The scent of roses over the battlefield becomes greater than the scent of blood. This causes him to remember his truest self, and thus to sheath his sword and to be taken to kill no more. There are so many struggling toward this shore in the modern world; we have believed that many souls can make it.

I worked at the VA as an aide and I saw them come
back from hell.
Hell! Hell was still smoking inside them: Front
line men, artillery,
tank and tail, helicopter, hand to hand, med evac,
nurses, chaplains, photographers.
People wanted “war stories,” from them,
to somehow share a suck at what they thought of
as the heroic tit.
They wanted everyone to say they were OK and
looking forward
to settling down with a nice girl or boy somewhere
near trees and water.
But the soldiers’ eyes said,
Still at Inchon,
Still at the Ardennes
Still at the Tet
Still in Cambodia.
The real eye-witness reports ran every night on
the dream newsreels.
There, in their own beds, the men and women
dreamt Honor and Horror,
were dressed as innocent children,
who played time and again with the unspent
of shells and mines so deadly pretty. And the
sexual luster of war
continued to swell the hearts
of so many who never saw war up close.
At the VA, the soldiers walked the halls
wearing their crowns of thorns made of missiles
and unspeakable memories on fire.
And anyone who had a heart left hanging by even
one hinge
Isn’t there such a thing as patriotic anger?
Is it not true that there is such a thing as patriotic
sadness and sorrow?
What about patriotic resistance? Can there be
patriotic regret?
And, oh by the way, when did patriotic reluctance
to kill
change from a holy thing to a hated one?
And what does war shatter besides bone?
And how can secret regret deserve so much public
How can the maiming of human life that all say is
so precious,
be given so much remembrance, as though it is
hard-sought treasure
instead of so unbearably tragic?
How can the arms, the heads, the legs of the dead,
be more valued than those who still stand
with patriotic valor shining,
with eyes that say:
Still walking from Bataan
Still in Saigon
Still in Seoul
Still deployed into cold waters
under hundred pound packs
and struggling toward shore.

-- Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Rocky Mountains

Praying for Rain in the Southwest

Liquidate your assets, Lord. We’re suffering here
from drought.
Gird up your loins, grab your pitcher, and pour
the water out

On field, on plain, on city and town
Let the prayed-for rains come streaming down

Over highway, pathway, road and street
Rushing in torrents to ocean meet

And become one with that endless sea
As I am in you and you in me.

-- Judith Robbins
Whitefield, Maine




Morning begins with a sip
And sweet, pink-colored lips
Awake the cold, reluctant lake.

Wondering whether a leap
Or a dance into the air
Could better fascinate a mate
A gull ponders on the reef,
Looks down and contemplates
The lightly pulsating waves.

Up for a treat I watch and wait.

-- Fr. Conrado Beloso
Fernie, British Columbia

National Catholic Reporter, October 17, 2003

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