Remembering Father: A Poetic Tribute
By Lloyd Howell
To “remember Father” is to remember what it is to love, to remember how to give unconditionally, to remember how to laugh when weary and burdened and how to press on in the face of enormous obstacles. The writing of this book was an attempt to come to terms not only with the departure/loss of True Father’s day-to-day earthly presence but also to grasp the impact and significance his life had on mine and the greater Unificationist community. The reflections were various and often moved me to tears. I include four poems for the reader’s interest.
The following poem began with a random thought of how pure the snow must’ve been in the remote countryside of Rev. Moon’s boyhood (north) Korea. I could easily imagine the forceful winds driving it across the land and next I realized that an invisible wind was also blowing into the life of the young Sun Myung Moon. And I understood how he opened his heart and let it take him along and thus, as I too opened my poetic sails letting this concept carry me along, the poem then became something parallel with Father’s life.
The Wind in Your Sails
Father, I can see you as a young boy –
pure as the wind-driven snow of northern Korea,
even then there was an invisible force gathering behind you
and to it you dared to open your sails
thereafter finding yourself doing strange things:
inviting beggars home for dinner,
sharing the melons of your uncle’s field
with the village boys –
even then seeds of concern for others
were taking root deep in your soul –
single-minded, nothing could stop you –
certainly not the fear of punishment.
You would pass through many gauntlets;
torture by Japanese occupiers,
and the supreme test of communist death camp
where while starving, in that university of suffering,
you shared your handful of barley
earning your doctorate in compassion –
Buddha and Jesus no doubt approving.
You graduated to the sounds of bombs exploding,
taking your ministry south, to a hut
made from mud and discarded G.I. ration boxes
you preached to a growing handful of believers.
And through all the storms
you never let go the sails
that would one day
take you ‘round the globe
to feed the world the Word
of your Father’s Love.
At his last supper, Jesus exhorted those gathered to break bread and drink wine in remembrance of him. Eventually that remembrance was formalized into the sacrament of Holy Communion. Father Moon likewise created many occasions where he shared deeply with his followers, be it on fishing boats, at informal breakfast meetings, and so on, any of which could be likewise ritualized. One day, while working, I stopped to have lunch and before I knew it, Father was in my mind joining me, and like Jesus, inviting me to have a “communion” with him.
In Remembrance of You
after working all morning
away from home
I went to the car
to sit and eat a sandwich.
Noticing my dirty hands
I pondered what to do
and remembered your words –
that account from your youth,
the one you shared on the shore of the Hudson,
of when you stopped to lunch,
after net fishing on mud flats,
and how, having no water,
you spat on your fingertips to clean them off
before picking up your rice ball.
And this I too did –
in remembrance of you –
oh sweet, muddy communion.
The following poem pays tribute to the worldwide level upon which Rev. Moon lived his life by likening it to the image of a mighty river. But even such a river (although itself having many tributaries) is in the end also heading toward and contributing to something even greater.
After a life
of traveling back and forth
through mountain range, hill and plain
traversing cities and countries
you suddenly vanished into the horizon
and I found myself
praising the awesome channel
your long life had carved –
its headwaters innocuous,
its body Amazonian in breadth,
its length planetary,
its current clear, strong and swift,
always on the move,
carrying all along,
brimming with life,
so mystically beautiful,
so many flocking around its banks.
But it was not your desire
that your life be praised,
but that it be seen as an open invitation –
for Unification –
for all tributaries
to merge into One
and flow toward the vast ocean
that is the even greater Love of God.
The book also has a section of miscellaneous life of faith poems all having their roots in the teachings of Rev. Moon. The following poem alludes to mankind’s lost realization that we are all from one root, and won first place in a Long Island-wide poetry contest in 2009.
An axe swings
to be milled
into boards, posts, rails and planks
transported to a distant destination
where they meet again
as studs, plywood, decking, shingles, trim and casing;
the crown molding imagining
itself better than the ordinary joist,
the high-end cabinet believing
itself superior to the simple wall studs
from which it hangs –
now pitiful strangers
having forgotten the common tree
from which they all came.♦
Lloyd Howell (UTS Class of 1978) lives in Long Island, New York. He has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in religious education. He believes the family is God’s original “school of love,” trumping church, mosque, and synagogue; and that religion is a temporary phenomenon, a bridge, a balm, and a bandage, until the family of man can be healed and reconnected to the love of the Universal Parent of mankind. Virtually any topic is game for his poetry, which reflects the many moods that comprise a life: reflection on birth and death, on raising children, the Middle East conflict, and a powerful love of nature which regularly serves as his gateway to the Divine and Transcendent. He has published three previous books of poetry: Toward a Nation Not Yet Born; Sleepless in Jerusalem; and, What Language Do You Speak?