I can see that when traffic
at your corner’s stopped,
and flashing lights in blue and red
signal the arrival of our escort,
you will be disconcerted;
soon, an altar boy will be beside you
and staring down at his calm face,
you will calm in turn.
We must arrive at the basilica
at the perfect light of day,
the perfect honored hour.
Of all waiting inside,
not one does not feel a hollow
and a fear that he or she will fail.
They bend in arcs of grace
as doors open to ceremony
and looks from a country
foreign to your every day
flood the interior.
This is gallantry of forgotten kind to you,
beloved of me, who slept in viaduct
and were rolled by boys who made you curse.
Rain halted fitful sleep.
Coins of light showering down
make known what is put away.
Music rains on nave and aisle
as even on the sunniest day.
Does it not halt your walk with speech
that gives more than we,
all those times we sped as you stood bare?
Does it not make a hundred baths
for a thousand lonely days?
Step and step forward once again,
for if you wake then I too, I swear,
will slay the light that lies.
You must reach the apse.
You must reflect windows
more bejeweled than these,
if we are not to perish in the dark
and refire in your mercy.
We await you at the font,
we teem beside columns and
pictured scenes of sacrifice pale and
unworthy of modern pain.
Step and step again with boys
long practiced in procession.
Forgiveness is the only faith
worth wearing as a vestment.
Reach the dome, turn and say,
Dona Nobis Pacem.
— Charles Bane, Jr.
America was founded upon principles and the deeds of men. Sometimes we lose sight of these principles and forget the deeds of men who have served this country. Homeless Vet on Congress Avenue reminds us to remember our fighting men and women as we celebrate our Independence today. The poem also concludes with a simple request, grant us peace.
Homeless Vet on Congress Avenue is the latest installment in the serialization of Charles Bane Jr.'s 2011 volume of poetry The Chapbook (Curbside Splendor). Part of a year-long journey, where we share and explore Charles' passion — his poetry — with you, our readers, twice monthly.
Charles is also the author of Love Poems (Kelsay Books, 2014). His work has been described in the Huffington Post as "not only standing on the shoulders of giants, but shrinking them." He created the Meaning of Poetry series for The Gutenberg Project and is a current nominee as Poet Laureate of Florida. A new collection of poetry, The Ends Of The Earth is currently taking shape.
We thank Charles for his continuing contributions and wish him well in the publishing of a collection of short fiction entitled, For Whom The Bell Tolls: The Sequel And Other Stories.