AN EAGLE SLEEPS

A Tribute to an American Hero:
U.S. Senator, John Sidney McCain III
August 29, 1936 – August 25, 2018

by Dennis L. McHale, 2018

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Amidst the sorrow of this day
Voices whispering unspoken rage
An eagle sleeps, a nation mourns
A great man falls, a legend born

He lent his hand but not in force
He taught us grace in free discourse
And so today, we weep and pray
An eagle sleeps, yet we hear him say:

Keep closed the passions of your heart
Now comes your due, I’ve played my part
Seal your lips and plant the seed
Trust in this great democracy

Keep closed the hatred in your eyes
Brothers, sisters, come now arise
Blind your vision from fools’ false verse
Resist absolutes, the patriot’s curse

Keep closed the shadows within your minds
Keep closed the mouths, let your words be kind
Reclaim a nation’s blood-won imminence
Mute the all this hateful verbal dissonance…

Waste not your youth upon the spoken word
Speak “you’re wrong, I’m right” we are then caught
We are called to serve and not to be heard
Resist the cancerous growth of ego’s thought

Join hands if only this day of my death
Fear not America’s fate, despite this dark, dark hour
You can bear this your burden, be not bereft
You’ve been blessed with freedom, man’s greatest power

It is in service of each other that democracy is tethered
Though my talons grip no longer, and silent beat my feathers
Don’t worry for yourself, imprisoned in doubt and agitation
I pass now this final hour the future hope of our great nation

 

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THIS IS HOW I START MY DAY

Coffee at dawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is how I start my days.

At four a.m. I awaken with a start. It isn’t that I wasn’t sleeping well, but this is my witching hour. The first five seconds is the hardest, as in my waking dream, I reach over to gaze upon my wife and instantly realize … she is no longer there. She will never be there again. It is a fleeting and aching “awakening”, but this, too, is part of my healing. The pain dissipates quickly, and I realize that one day I won’t even have this. It’s a cruel way to start each morning, but it is a new morning, and that’s what really matters, isn’t it?

I stretch deeply and take a moment to gaze out the window into the moon-drenched early morning darkness. I am in absolute awe at the beauty of its silence.  This moment belongs to me, alone.

I quietly swing my feet to the floor and sit for a moment. My muse is impatiently pulling me into awakening, but I do my best to resist. I want to sleep just a little bit more, but my eyes have already made out the flashing light on my hibernating computer and just like that, I want to be writing more than I want to be dreaming.

I gently close the bedroom door behind me and make my way into the kitchen. I put water in the kettle, light the stove, and grab my pack of cigarettes. I head out the door, inhaling the wet damp pre-dawn air, thick with the scent of pine and lilacs and the petrichor of moist soil and green grass.  I sit on the second stoop, and light up. The ritual never changes.

Here, beneath the canopy of constellations, I look for my special star. I don’t know what it is called, and I don’t know why it is that star…but I need to start each day in a silent commune before it. Once I find it, I stare at it for a few minutes, emptying my mind of creeping thoughts. I slowly shut my eyes, inhale another drag – and listen. Deeply.

I am listening for the voice of this star. We often converse, as only a man and his star can. I ask this star profound, life-guiding questions. I ask about the width and the depth and the breadth of the “whys” and the “what nows.”  It answers me in a dazzling array of pale blue twinkles.  If I listen hard enough, the answers come.  They always come.

Like little mice on padded feet, words start scampering around my brain. The writing has begun.

I toss the cigarette into the night, watching a spiral of red sparks ascend, then descend, as if to punctuate the purpose of this ritual. From the kitchen, the kettle begins to sing, and I rush in before it hits full crescendo. I pour the steaming water over a cone of coffee grounds and inhale the rising steam. In a seamless arch, I take my cup of coffee to the kitchen table, flip open the lid to my computer, and hit the resume button.

And then I write. And write and write and write.

At this point, what I write is irrelevant. That I write is the point. The wee hours of the morning are not the time to self-critique or to spin a plot. It is the time for the bleeding of words. And in these words, I find my way forward. I find the meaning that often eludes me in spoken words.  I find my healing.

This is how I start my days.