Born into this world seventeen days
before the crash of ’29,
he was a contender,
a fight’n man,
not a troublemaker, mind you, but
you knew what I mean;
life’s no bowl of cherries, and for a while
it was like him against the world,
even later on, after the War,
to keep his family fed and well-heeled.
He never kiss’d no blarney stone, him,
nor anybody’s arse.
It was a hard world he came into
a Jersey boy
hard work’n man
with a woman who loved him his whole
dam life, and the Church to
back him up, as he needed so much
grace and mercy
to balance out his rude legacy upon the world.
Oh, he was a well-built man, stronger than Ulysses
and pretty dam smart too, an engineer.
A man who built bridges,
although he might have burned a few too
if you know what I mean.
Hell, it was men like him who built
So here we stood today in southern shade
gentle breeze blow’n from somewhere far away
eighty-six years after the fact
of his life, which has passed into eternity.
The nine+ souls gather’d round,
grown up now and left behind
to contend as he did with every dam thing that’s wrong
with this world.
Now here’s the dear friar waiting patiently,
in gentle character so different from the fierce Catholic whose ashes now
we set aside, to await the great awakening,
the communion of the saints,
a big host of them, raised up
by the nail-scarred hands of Him upon that cross
hung there upon the nearby wall.
All these living offspring, celebrants of their father’s recent
hard workers, nine of ’em.
They don’t make ’em like that any more–
all of ’em stay’n ahead of the game
keep’n up with the Joneses,
aint no potato famine go’n tie them down.
And the Franciscan here, like Francis himself,
so different from
the Irishman I loved– rough around the edges he was–
when in those last days he’d alienate
his attendants at the nursing home with his
racist nuances that could never really despoil
his helpless heart of love.
He so needed the grace and mercy
of the One who went to the cross for him,
and who went for me too.
Now we’re standing here with St. Francis
with knots in his waist-rope
and I wonder what the knots signify
but it doesn’t matter compared to eternity
of which I’m reminded, as this gentle breeze with bird sing’n,
and it makes me think of the day his daughter my wife and me,
to Assisi, over there in the old world
and now I’m think’n of this new pope and
how long its been since I was a Catholic.
But that’s okay. It’s all good. I’m saved by the blood of the Lamb
and he is too.
Here these ashes inside a brass box
ashes hidden from me, not like those
smeared upon the heads of Irish on how-many Ash Wednesdays
since the day of Calvary.
We’ll be there with him, and with his bride
by ‘n by, you and I.