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.

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.

Ancient History

I put the suitcase I borrowed from
my mother in the trunk and got in
the car.

My father drove and smoked. And
smoked some more. He is usually
lecturing nonstop by now. I cracked

the window open to get some air
then closed it again. His visible
nervousness made me even more

nervous. He started talking. After
each cigarette, he’d open the window
just enough to flick it outside then

close the window without interrupting
his monologue. He never wanted to
hear anything I had to say, so I

listened to his World War II Army
stories again about his basic training
in Burlington. No post there now.

Ancient history.

I think he was trying to give me advice.
He pulled up to the front of the AFEES
building in Newark. As I got the small

vinyl suitcase out of the trunk he asked
me to please write. We sort of hugged.
I started up the steps as he drove off.

Seems like just the other day. That trip
to Newark ended with a late-night bus
ride to Ft. Dix for basic training.

It was fifty-five years ago yesterday that
I enlisted in the Army. Thank you, my God,
for your protection and care. You are my

refuge and strength. You alone are God.
The rest is ancient history.

Of Tea and Twisted Hinges

A white door stands at the end of a long hallway in my mind.
There is an object on the door and some lettering.
I walked closer to see. Odd. The paint on the door looks
fresh. The object is a red cross. A sign above the door
reads “Intensive Care.” A small gold plate hangs below the
cross and says “Unavailable.”

The door swings open beckoning me to enter. I walk in.
What a nice room! A quiet sitting room. Warmly decorated.
There’s a table set for afternoon tea. There are no windows
or lamps, but the room is filled with light.

I couldn’t help but notice the elaborate arch in rich dark wood.
Then I saw them. Angelic hosts standing on either side of
the arch. They appeared to be guarding the hallway. Their
wings go from the top of the arch to the floor. And they
wore swords that were as tall as I. I feel weak.

Much to my surprise they let me pass. There are a few other
doors. All closed. No, the one at the end of the hall is ajar.
I can see the light in the room. I stick my head in. Well,
there is someone in bed. All curled up with the covers pulled
tight. Looks like a man. My eyes move to the night stand.

A pair of eyeglasses. They look like mine. What? That’s
my watch! O dear God… I’m on both sides of the door.

Then I see the other man. Why didn’t I notice him at first?
Was he there the whole time? He is kneeling in prayer at
the far side of the bed. I can only see his long thick dark
hair. He’s lifting his head. His deep blue eyes pierce my
heart. I bolt for the hallway.

My heart is beating so loudly my head hurts. My thoughts
cannot tell joy from sorrow and seem to meet in
a very wounded place. A place where darkness taunts me
and my confused feelings flicker down the highway of my
mind. Like neon signs you pass in the night:

“Not sure.
I don’t know.
Not sure.
I don’t know.”

Another entrance appears in the hallway. But there is no door,
just twisted hinges. Incense burns on an altar in the center
of the room filling the hallway with the sweet smells of
Babylon. Two black candles burn dimly in the darkness.
The room appears to be empty, but I can tell it is full.

My thoughts head down a side road where a bold
“DO NOT ENTER” sign is affixed high on a chain link fence.
As I stare at the sign, I hear myself groan from my bed.
My bones ache. My mouth is dry.

Oh, no! I could feel it in my soul… it was I who ripped the
door off its hinges and entered that dreaded room.
Somehow I could sense that the praying man at my bedside
was standing bathed in the purest light.

A woman’s laughter fills the room of twisted hinges.
The breath of demons freezes in the cold air above the candles.
She licks the air. Perspiration pours over her parted lips
as she smiles in the darkness. Her eyes open black on black.
Fear grips my soul; my feet won’t move. I hear a
scream and realize that it is mine. I collapse to the floor.
Inaudible prayers well up from deep within my soul.

I awakened in the bright outer room in front of the archway.
The table was filled with little cakes and fruit. That same
praying man poured our tea and gently placed his hand on my
shoulder. As I felt his touch, I wept. For I knew I went where
I was not to go. I entered that dark room. I wept. He held me.
Then, my eyes were drawn back down the hallway.

The door to the bedroom was open but the bed was empty.
The nightstand was bare. Suddenly, there was a great noise.
Of wings beating the air. Then screams. Seconds or hours?
I couldn’t tell.

The whole area filled with winged warriors who knelt leaning
on the hilts of their swords facing the man who had poured my
tea. The blood of demons ran down their swords, only to hiss
like water turning to steam when it dripped on the floor.

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