Monday, August 22, 2011

How Should I Then Live?

So I'm minding my own business,

And I read in the online Times

(Which I should leave alone, were I

Truly minding my own business)

That Frank Schaeffer, son of Francis,

Has a book out, Sex, Mom, and God,

Debunking fundamentalist

Christian myths about his parents.

Well. It's 1979

Again, and I am a junior

In evangelical prep school,

Driven to Manhattan to see

A movie about some Swiss guy,

A minister with a goatee

Living on a sort of commune,

But Christian, preaching about things.

I don't remember everything,

But I do recall my teachers

Asking me, solicitously,

What I thought about what I'd seen.

I told them I believed it all,

Everything he said, the whole thing,

Which was true, as far as I knew,

And seemed satisfying to them.

The other main thing I recall

Was that I learned a big new word

That day, euthanasia, which meant

Atheists killing old people,

And this peculiar memory

Hitches a ride on my thought stream

Until it reaches the triptych

Of my maternal ancestry,

My mother's mother, mouth agape,

In a New England nursing home,

Completely unaware of me,

Around 1973,

My father's mother, mouth agape,

In longterm care facilities,

Sleeping through various visits,

Circa 1992-6,

And my mother, who died last week,

Propped up for her last photograph,

Mouth agape, beside my sister

And my niece holding her newborn.

Hooray! Four generations caught

In one snapshot before too late.

A vacant presence in a home,

Ghastly, surrounded by offspring,

Not "in the Presence of her Lord,"

As my sister put it, until

The body itself at last died,

As God and selection designed.

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