Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Most Important Truth in the Universe


In Columbus, Ohio
During World War II
I was given
The Most Important Truth in the Universe.

On Ash Wednesday 1944
Kneeling at the communion rail,
Father Earl Holzapfel thumbed some holy ash
Out of a golden bowl held by my classmate,
The altar boy Bobby Dolan,
(whose parents came from Ireland)
Smudged the ash across my forehead
And said to Nick in Latin:

Momento, homo,
Quia pulvis es,
Et in pulverem reverteris.

The most important truth in the Universe.

Remember, Man,
That thou art dust
And unto dust shalt thou return.

Fine advice for us rowdy boys on St. Joseph's side
But there should have been a second version
For the girls in white dresses kneeling
On Mother Mary's side of the communion rail.

Remember, Woman,
That thou art water
And unto water shalt thou return.

Remember, Woman, thou art air
And unto air shalt thou return.

Unto earth shalt thou return.
And unto fire also.

I respected old Father Holzapfel,
Coated in six layers of holy vestments.
But I knew him also as a person
Running out his back door
To curse us Herbert boys
For using his backyard as shortcut
Between two vacant lots.

When they passed it on to me,
The neighborhood priest and his altar boy,
I failed to recognize that I had been given
The most important truth in the Universe.
(Bobby Dolan fell out of a second-story window
And did not live to see his fourteenth birthday.)

The most important truth in the Universe?
How the hell was I to know?
I was only seven years old.


Anonymous said...

Thank you. *hug*

kcb000 said...

All the elements in us were once inside a star. So can the "Truth" also be stated as...

Remember, Man,
That thou art star dust
And unto star dust shalt thou return.

kcb000 said...

William Brandon Shanley said...

In the words of Dr. Jabir, however, a different potion was the notion: "Thou art quantumstuff and to quantumstuff ye shall return." Thank you, Herr Doktor for your luscious, languid, loquacious lipids and la-la's.