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)”

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)”

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)”

Norfolk Island Pine

We searched and searched through
that greenhouse jungle, until we
came upon a tiny Norfolk Island pine.

We weren’t going to buy anything.
Knew that going in.

We were trying to spend more time
together and less time where we had
to go back to.

Let me know you as long as it takes
that pine to grow at least as tall as I.

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

Separate Pain

I awakened on a small sounding train
that clanked its way out of the northeast plain.

It brought dawn into Bangkok as night was fleeting,
but the stifling morning heat was our only greeting.

I sent you a telegram only to say
that I missed you dearly and was on my way.

I should have never married her; how both of us have paid!
How was I to know the magnitude of the mistake I made!

And now forever apart, we live with our separate pain.

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

Beyond Repair

O how our love burned bright. Sometimes
it burned with a soft glow. At other times,
it simply smoldered. It had its moments.

Then I caught myself. I was thinking that
it was better than it really was. Our love
was like a worn out wall switch.

Click on, click off, click on, click off,
on, off, on, off, on, off.
And one day, the switch didn’t work at all.
It was beyond repair.

Like a filament in a bulb, our love burned
with an intense savage fizzle, then died.

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

Shadows in Life

all things are forgotten
by humankind
by time
by design

except for the memories
of war
of abuse
of pain
of suffering

for they are our own
they made us who we are
maybe not who we thought
we wanted to be

and what of the other memories
of joy
of love
of peace
et cetera

they cast light on the shadows
in life with hope for the life
to come

just like the knowledge of God
cannot be listed as a memory