Rev. Wm. Munshower (1932-2020)

What Bill wanted above all else in life, his nephew eulogized, was to be a priest.

That he was, longer than most who gathered for his memorial Mass have been on the Earth.

And while Father Bill may have believed in and hoped for Heaven,

Where the highest of church potentates assured us he was,

He knew better than any that a priest doesn’t work in Heaven

— Heaven, as the old polka song goes, where there is no beer.

He operates with the fruits of the Earth and the produce of human hands,

As the Eucharist, beating heart of all priesthood, specifies.

Sacred repast, served with solemn ceremony in gold vessels

Yet a meal all the same, Father knew, a meal taken with friends.

Meals and friends, wine and beef and fellowship abounding;

Bounty of God’s Earth, which Bill honored with appetites,

Manifest in his generous girth and in the magisterial baritone

that lingered over the ancient texts as if he were discovering them.

Appetites worthy of all that the Earth had to give:

For Eucharist and eucharist, for prayer and books;

For knowledge of theology and of hard science;

For knowledge of you, your origins, Your People;

For the company of his own large family of origin;

For the peace he might help bring his uncountable adopted family;

For justice, the sustenance he brought to a homeless camp, a prisoner’s execution;

For the world he so loved that he traveled its length and width

And returned with not wonders but kinship to share,

Bidding the congregation every year as was his custom

To render Happy Easter in Spanish, in Korean, in Farsi, in . . .

-/-

The first thing he would do if he were in charge, he once told me,

Is get rid of the pews.

Keep your marble and your Heavenward spires too, for his money.

Give him Christians at table. Breaking bread.

Making room by turns for the hungry priest.

Going away satisfied.

No Ring for Brass Couples

You gotta love how the plumbing shop

never calls it love when it’s all about screwing

male and female the foundry created ’em

neither flowers nor wine fancy up their mating

no manicured or praying hands officiate

when they move off to cleave together

as one, as is fitting

as is the working language,

plain talk oblivious of its poetry

yer male’s fine Bud but ya need a new female

I can’t let go without a blessing

Marriage Admitting Impediments

He fell in love with a poet

who wrote frankly, if you will, about men

even though her wry take on the subject

robbed his prized assets of his esteem

few men, he knew, would pay such a price

for entrée to the secrets of women

fewer still, he figured, the women

who cared to collect

Second Chances for the 27 Club

Jim

one of the most sought-after speakers in AA

Jimi

back to jazz, sitting in with Herbie Hancock in turtleneck

Cass

running daily, holding at high end of healthy BMI, singing better than ever

Amy

channeling original chants in a Zen monastery in Kentucky

Brian

Playing multiple instruments in small clubs across the UK, often with his ex-bandmates stopping by to sit in or just listen

Kurt

coaching fatherless 11-year-olds in a Seattle basketball league

Janis

just alive, and Janis

It is an urban legend that the fast lane ends in a wall for rockers at age 27. But there are several prominent and lamented examples. And if they’d lived . .  .

 

Pilgrimage

The topic given him for his term paper

Fascination of the Forbidden

was meant as an alert for Catholic youth

to the traps and bandits lying in wait

along the road to perfection in virtue

He identified them well

– dazzle, mystery, even lust –

and duly earned his A

thinking masturbation

and the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature

had exhausted the subject

only to learn miles down the road

through the tutelage of true sin

that fascination would bloom

into vocation

then duly fade

the assignment completed

On Linda Pastan’s ‘Spring’

When she writes of the arrival

just as we lose hope

blowing dandelion breath in our ears

and we forgive her –

open our arms –

throw off our faithful sweaters –

is she implying infidelity

to the cruel peace of winter

some inequality to the seasons

each of which has shared our bed?

or is she celebrating generosity

of a world that would teach humans

that faithfulness is not cast off

when we’re freed to wander away

to the warmth and youth of Another

the heat and ache of still Another

knowing home always waits

in all forms and all seasons

even when cold is to be the comfort

sweater draped over the easy chair

as hot breath gathers patiently

behind shut, darkened windows

forgiveness not ours to give

but to have and hold

Caregiver

so easy so quick

automatic

to say i have no life

when she damn well knows

she has loads of life

all bargained for

as much as her own health

as much as falling in love

and she supposes

tapping the angel in her

this is love

wiping the shit

enduring the tirades

on hold to insurance

on hold from sleep

love

or maybe inertia

the natural dying process

her blithe in-laws gamely defy

with their travels and treadmills

she gives thanks she feels

neither envy nor self-pity

having witnessed love as cheer

its cash form

in others, given over

to their cancer patients

alcoholics

schizophrenics

dementia prisoners

their Mom after all

their spouse of 40 years

their half-grown offspring

theirs

cherished above any thought of trading

for arms that reach in the night

not to receive but to excite

for drugs taken and shared not given

Oh God how she loved that life

flesh in flower

laughter and lust stealing the sleep

Too Little, Too Much

Li Ling wanted only

to be with one man

to be his only

to savor the benign envy

of men and women alike

for both of them

to swallow his hunger

bear and be borne

mourn or be mourned

to cling to him

as she would cling to this wanting

in her long life with loving men

bound not to her

but to the Earth

and never to be him