Stasho in the Station
In the heat of a summer Sunday afternoon,
hot and sultry after mass
the family went in totem
to a carnival of priests.
And there moved slow footed, dreamlike
through the yellow shafts of light and dust
among the many booths, the strange raiment
of the diverse priestly orders
following and followed by other families
speaking and reading slick brochures.
And with these seeds engendered
it so happened in the sudden resplendent autumn
that my brother stood forth among the family
and announced that he would be a priest.
His soul had been fished and he would be a fisher,
saving the heathen in distant lands.
Elated, vibrating with pride and excitement,
Mom bought him a fine trunk.
And into this trunk
went his sad clothes of youth
and everything that he would need
for his journey
and his long stay
away from home.
And one day quite soon
with the grass still green
under the gold and brown leaves
and the clouds white
in the blue sky,
we lifted the trunk high
onto our shoulders
and down the stairs transported it
to the car's roof
where we lifted and laid it
and with strong rope tied it
with the other, smaller bags beside it.
And with all secure
and everyone in the car,
the old man turned his eye and his pipe
over his shoulder
and backed into the street,
and we set out on our strange pilgrimage,
Of that long ride, little I remember
only the vast spaces
and the thick, sullen necks
bearing bovine faces that slowly turned
to gape at our entourage in dim cafes;
and the rising smell of the earth
as we descended to the east.
But our arrival leapt into quick vividness
and I recall the verdancy of that place
and the riots of its trees.
And I recall also the quiet, robed men
and the strange boys gliding or chattering
among the ponderous buildings of onerous stone.
These were to be his mentors and companions
and there we left him.
And on our return Mom tried
to keep up our spirits
but Dad was red-rimmed and tight-lipped
and spoke little.
And I, too, stung
by the separation from my comrade
and brother wept quietly and to myself at one point
and out through the windows
into the pounding of the purple plains
in vast night
my grief choked to the surface
and took silent flight.
And once home it was strange
after the journey
everything subtly altered,
with the old man still moping,
the food in the refrigerator looking different,
the basketball hollow sounding
on the driveway court.
In the room next to mine
was a neatly made bed
where now no one slept.
His statues of horses, tasteless,
which once I detested,
I now loved.
But soon, in three days
the phone rang: It was Stasho!
Stasho in the station!
A perfect young warrior of fourteen years,
he had rectified his error
and struck out in the night
on a train through the strangeness
of Missouri and Kansas alone!
And now he was in the station
and Mom darted all about in franticness
from pillar to pillar seeking him
but not seeing him.
But he saw her from where he stood
silent and cool with self-possession
by the tall columns of the station.
And then he was home
and we wasted no time rushing out
and the sidewalk greeted our feet
in joyful familiarity
for the old neighborhood in those days
was like paradise.
But everything was somehow changed,
not quite the same, perhaps better,
for though we knew time but little,
we knew it now a little more.