Ninja her name.
Secret-agent in Japanese.
This long-limbed black cat,
the petted resident of our house.
Walker of piano-keys,
Fisher in the gold-fish bowl.
The Youngest hugs her to his knees
and strokes with gentle touch
her midnight soul.
Ninja her name.
(Secret-agent in Japanese.)
She can hear the refrigerator door
from down the hall,
the car arriving home from school,
and be there on the stairs
yawning off her nap.
The children chatter over her
and squabble as to turns
at lavishing school news
in her indifferent ear.
Study in feline dignity.
Carbon-copy of Egyptian sphinx.
Skittery, kittenish, tomboy cat
grown soft and lazy, winter-fat.
Ninja with the yellow eyes
tolerating childish sighs
with purred reply.
What if Ninja dies?
I’m asked, without preamble
between the T.V. children’s show
and the phone’s mad jangle.
What if Ninja dies?
Will she still remember me?
Will she get to heaven?
I am caught unawares—
yet parent-wise,
I realize
a small child’s fears.
Hey, are you kidding me?
I gently reply.
You know the Lord loves cats
as well as kids.
“All things good,” that’s what He said.
Oh boy!
Then He loves Ninja, too,
because she’s good.
Like me! he thinks to add,
and smiles an understanding sigh.
Ninja merely winks her yellow eye.

[illustration] Illustrated by Ted Henninger

Beyond the Tip of Mystery

Probing beyond the tip of mystery
Into all greatnesses without surcease,
I stretched and bent to snatch from history,
To draw from art, a vision of true peace.
I searched wars, treaties, wars again,
The heights and fathoms of life’s temporal flood,
But found no quiet thing: the hands of men
Shook with the restlessness of flesh and blood.
Till from a wandering stream arose the sweet
of peace, and from the furrows of a plow,
And from the eager flowing of grown wheat
And gentle blowing of a blossomed bough.
In all the rich intangibles of home
Was peace that penetrated to my soul:
I marvel that a thing so great is but
The nectar from the common and the small.

Becoming Servant

At twelve you stand taller,
my son, my brother,
with unnatural posture straight
in a row before the white and simple altar
of sacrament linen, beneath
these high windows where Christ’s
diffusion—through loose-woven curtains—
falls like a secret
onto your combed hair.
This sunlight for halo
and white shirt for purity
is your beginning of service:
clothed in the swordless
armor of David—the mantle of Aaron—
large like the coat of your suit
to grow into.
With round and somber eyes
you glide, bearing the polished tray,
the poured and broken symbols
of renewal you must yet understand.
And you gather the offerings from the fast,
generous secrets from hearts
in need, for those in want.
At fourteen, unseen, each tiny cup in place,
you fill the tray
from the tap with thin cold stream
to brim with blessing,
tip excess and wipe to dry.
The polished silver glistens
in the Sabbath light.
Afterwards you stand
with your long arms folded,
a solemn sentinel before the tall
closed doors of the chapel.
The suit now fits, Aaronic mantle too,
as you guard the silence
of the sacrament sanctuary—such as it is
in our restless mortal procession.
Your deepening and uncertain voice rises
seldom in song, will pray aloud
beside an elder on a couch.
At sixteen your large hands,
washed and clean,
break symbols that consecrate
our acts, our thoughts,
strong hands that reach out
from the nearly outgrown mantle
of outward ordinance
toward the essential higher oath.
Today you kneel, you sanctify
with manly tone and cadence
emblems to a holy purpose.
Kneel, princely
brother, before this white remembrance
to remind us how
He descended to rise,
to take us with Him if we will.