Poem: Last Visit Home

Notre Dame de Paris

Last Visit Home
(Mary remembers)

It was the way he made the shelf I’d asked,
and taught his younger brother as they worked.
“We carpenters must keep our tools this way.”
He smiled with patience at the eager youth,
whose ears absorbed “we carpenters” with pride,
while eyes watched craftsman’s muscles, scholar’s mind.
“Even parts that no one ever sees
“must be as fine as all the rest,” he said.

It was the way he thanked us for the food:
his favorites, made by loving sisters’ hands,
at my direction. “Yours is best,” he said
and took my hand, and teased brotherly thanks
to shy, adoring girls. He smoothed their hair.
“You follow Mother, word and deed,” he said,
“And you will be called blessed by all you serve.”

It was the way he spoke on that last night.
“You know my good friend John,” he said to me.
“Of course,” I nodded. “Your beloved John.”
“You think well of him, then?” he asked, concerned.
“My dearest son,” I said, “he is your friend,
and for your sake, I would call him my son.”
“All right, then,” he replied, and stirred the fire.

It was the way he took his leave of me;
that all-compassionate, determined smile.
I knew that I would see him next, my Son,
about his Father’s business, and I knew
that his resolved, serene, heart-piercing words
would comfort me, when from restrained hands
I later saw his blood drip to the dust
and heard triumphant suffering in his voice.

—Lisa Bolin Hawkins