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For Father Donal

Eyes clenched,
I conjure your grave,
White above Boyne grasses,
Stone processing
Like acolytes.
All questions buried,

I greet you
On a winter weekend
In Omaha, 
Carrying sweets for my children.
And we talk,
As if words were already memories.

Then abruptly,
Another day,
You tell me you are leaving.
For the Philippines.
And I think,
Never love a missionary:
They belong nowhere.

Your letters,
Difficult to decipher,
Arrive stripped of present,
Animating history.
Three different countries 
Separate us.

But we meet
On Kilmurray's sweet hill.
Or Navan's plain,
Always briefly,
Like shy neighbors.

Ned says you managed Mass
In your room
That final time,
Before they carried you out
To earth and silence,
Tara to your south
And grief
An Ocean away.

– Robert T. Reilly

Robert T. Reilly is the author of the 1957 Christ's Exile about the Missionary Society of St. Columban co-founder Bishop Edward Galvin.

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