Posted in Rituals

Not Necessary

Everybody called him Jack
or to distinguish the Jack’s in the pack, Jack O’Neill,
Reverend and commissioned officer, US Naval Reserve.
I only once heard him called Fr O’Neill,
self-described, when preaching a sermon.

He seemed to know about temptation,
its co-dependence on opportunity
and always gave a good sermon.
But this was the best –
at midnight Mass
in broad daylight: Antarctica, mid-1980’s.

He made the expected quip
telling folks back home he’d celebrated midnight Mass –
in sunlight.
“I’m supposed to speak about Christmas
how it endures through the years
but instead
I’m gonna to speak about Christmas last year.”

He had been asked to lend hand at a nearby parish,
a knockabout area with a flickering congregation
steady throughout the year
congested at Easter, road block at Christmas –
could he? “Sure.”

The local priest introduced him
then gave a update,
on a parish family.
The mother was ill in hospital
the father worked long, low paid hours
the women of the church had organised meals and after-school care.
One noted the absence of Christmas presents
so …… gifts had been arranged,
another …  there were no holiday plans,
so … money had been raised.
He thanked their efforts
and was hopeful they might end in mid February.
“And now, Fr O’Neill will tell you about Christmas.”



Most of my life has been spent on the bench, occasionally called into the game by extravagance or attenuation. Waiting has turned a loner into a recorder - nondescript and inconsequential, more not noticed than overlooked - the non-vantage point of children not yet considered old enough to understand. Orphaned Islands (Un)poetry is a lifetime of picking anecdotes up and not throwing them away. Stories collected like odds and ends placed in a box in the basement, the garage, the garden shed - uncertain as to what their use might be but knowing that one day there might be one.