Mauretania

Have you ever watched the sandpipers at Marina Del Rey?
Their little bird heads bob back and forth. The thinnest
bird legs you’ve ever seen move them quickly across the
sand.

All kinds of boats paraded by making their way slowly
up the channel, seemingly unnoticed by the sandpipers.
It was the mysterious Mauretania that really caught my
eye. It was from another time.

I pictured Bogie and Bacall at the piano bar below.
I can see Tracy and Hepburn looking out over the stern.
Fred and Ginger dancing and singling their way around
her romantic deck. I can hear Norma Shearer’s laugh
echoing from the quarter deck.

I could see my dad on the Mauretania. Wearing a soft
white skipper’s cap with a shiny black brim. Sharp
white trousers and deck shoes. He was a snappy dresser.
In my mind’s eye, he looked the same as he did in the
pictures I remembered of him on his family boat going
up and down the Hudson.

Dad during the Depression cleaning the twin engines.
Skippering the boat for party rentals. He, grandpa and
family out on the boat. He seemed happier then.
I never knew him that way. My memories of him were
better in pictures.

After making its way past me through the channel, the
stately Mauretania turned out to sea. I watched her
until she was no longer in sight. I sighed, paused, and
reflected. So many mixed memories.

When my dad had nothing left ahead of him, he moved
to Nyack where he could see the Hudson from his
apartment. I think he was trying to recapture the joy of
life that somehow evaded him. He died there.

I turned and started to walk back to the car. But
movement on the sand caught my eye. Those little
sandpipers were still at it! I smiled at them. Nothing would
alter their quick pace or keep them from their destiny.

Nor would anything keep me from mine.

Copyright © 2013 Alan L. Slaff, selected from
“The Boy in the Mirror (2nd Edition)”

Weeds and Flowers

A weed lived as a flower
in the eyes of the child who picked it.

That is, until it was cruelly thrown
away by the one to whom it was given.

Her wet cheeks dried as she waved
goodbyes to the beautiful weeds and
flowers through the car window.

When you grow up, I hope you will be
able to forgive. You see, my sweetheart,
weeds and flowers grow in all of us.

Copyright © 2013 Alan L. Slaff, selected from
“The Boy in the Mirror (2nd Edition)”

Macbeth’s End

Once upon a time, there was a dark prince who
waged a protracted war against the people.
He delighted in ambushes of the mind.

While swords clashed in the heavens, chaos and
confusion oppressed the people in the light of
day. The enemy sabotaged our highest hopes
with deep despair.

Our lives became deserted battlements where hearts
smoldered in ruins of rage. And so the story goes.

If this was fantasy, wouldn’t you want to know
how it all began? If this was a mystery, wouldn’t
you want to know who did it? If this was a
comedy, wouldn’t you want the laughter to linger?
Certainly, you would!

Lean close. Let me whisper. Macbeth’s end would
be too good for this dark prince! I know how this
story ends. The dark prince will come for a time,
then go, but a people will rise out of the ashes.

How? By the power of Him who breathed life into
Man. By the power of Him who raised the Lamb of
God. Hear the name of truth and life being spoken
softly to the ear of your soul. It is the name of He
who was, when history had not yet happened,
and the future was fully known.

Like the “emperor with no clothes,” we think we can
cast shadows in a dark room. In the light, the scars
of our hearts mirror the scars on His hands and feet.

Copyright © 2013 Alan L. Slaff, selected from
“The Boy in the Mirror (2nd Edition)”

Makeup

There are scars people can see.
They don’t hurt as much as the
scars people can’t see.

You wear them well. For now.
We all have scars. I guess it just
depends on what we do with them.

Time will pass. Some will still
stare at your figure. Others will
gawk at your good looks.

Most won’t see past the exterior
glaze. I thought, “Sexy. But looks
pretty hard. Not for me!”

Can’t you see that the makeup you
wear doesn’t cover up a thing?

As we get older, our bodies wear
the character of our souls.

Copyright © 2013 Alan L. Slaff, selected from
“The Boy in the Mirror (2nd Edition)”

The Eyes Cannot

The path forward has disappeared
or so it seems. It is raining that hard.
And the trail that brought me here

is not the way back. Reason cannot
explain it. Intellect cannot understand it.
But Hurricane Delta will come and go.

Faith can see what the eyes cannot.

Faith keeps the fires of hope burning
when the cold hard truth is that
nothing will ever be the same again.

COVID came and is still here. And the
hurricanes have come one right after
the other. Both can destroy life.

We cannot see the end of COVID. Science
takes its best guess. A hurricane gust just
hit the house. Its end too is a best guess.

The eyes of hope still point to the
resurrection ahead. The meeting of the
dead and those living at Christ’s coming

in the clouds is well documented. When?
“Time unknown, but soon it will come,”
say the eyes of faith.

Don’t you see? The next COVID or the one
after that will not be for me. But the rain
will fall and the hurricane winds will blow.

But faith can see what the eyes cannot.

The Reading Fountain

In the park, there’s a fountain with a bronze bird.
The bench where he sits doesn’t have his name on it,
but it should. This is where he comes on the clear
days. He always sits there by the reading fountain.

I never walked through the park before he’d arrive
or after he’d left. Definitely his bench! He always
wore a plaid cap with a snap in front, cocked way
back on his head. And the same sweater.

If I get to be that old, will I wear sweaters in June?
The heat doesn’t faze him a bit. He reads as though
New York City wasn’t there. He reads now as he
wished he could have done years ago.

Copyright © 2013 Alan L. Slaff, selected from
“The Boy in the Mirror (2nd Edition)”

Answers

I sat out back while I burned
a pile of wood debris that has
been wet since February.

This week of sun was my only
chance before the next big
tropical storm rolls in on Friday.

I sat there with an Oliva Master
3 Blend, 5 x 54, in my hand. It
is the third of four in a gift set

from Father’s Day last year.
Obviously, when I stopped
smoking cigars and pipes in

1976, I did not know I was going
to get this gift. Since I was alone
in the back, I thought it was a

good time to talk to God about
the questions on my heart. He
didn’t seem to mind the cigar.

He is a good listener as I did
most of the talking. Well, all of
the talking actually.

I got up a few times to check the
fire and killed two ant hills along
the edge of the patio.

God was still listening. I know
what you want to ask. Did I get
any answers. Not today. Soon.

In God’s time, I will. I asked big
questions; so I expect big answers.
If you ask, you will get an answer.

Not to worry. Long after the last
cigar is gone, God will hear me
and give me answers.

To Shreds

At first I blamed the Army mail, because
I hadn’t heard from you since I left for
Vietnam. I wrote to you every day.

I kept your picture long after I received
your “Dear John” telling me you were
getting married.

Years later, in my own way, I had to let
Vietnam go. When I finally cried and
agonized over Vietnam, I let you go, too.

It was time to forgive all the way around.
I lost you, and lost the war.
I loved Vietnam and her beautiful people.

I loved speaking the language, the smells
of the busy marketplace, and especially,
the laughter of the children.

And, I loved you.

I loved teaching English in Hue at that stately
old high school by the Song Huong river.
And, yes, I even loved why I was there.

And, I thought I loved you.

But, in a moment of exasperation, I finally
did it. I tore your picture to shreds. And
then I wished I hadn’t.

It hurt when I lost you, but I cried harder
at the loss of Vietnam.

Copyright © 2013 Alan L. Slaff, selected from
“The Boy in the Mirror (2nd Edition)”

Over Coffee

How about some coffee?
I slept well last night,
didn’t you?

What else will not be
said, how many more
questions will never get
asked or answered?
How many more
discussions will we not
have over morning
coffee?

How could she have
slept so soundly! For I
didn’t sleep well at all,
again.

I walked into the kitchen,
opened the cupboard, and
saw that we were out of
coffee.

My tears were mixed with
laughter, the mad laughter
of one who was tired of
years of empty talk. We
were on empty.

So, I left over coffee.

Copyright © 2013 Alan L. Slaff, selected from
“The Boy in the Mirror (2nd Edition)”