He looked like a Franciscan monk
Who had lived with Robin Hood’s merry men.
Resting linked hands atop a fulsome belly,
His body almost completely filling
The very comfortable armchair,
Rolling his Santa head from side to side,
He said, “They come with their problems,
Many of my friends, and others come as well.
I give them Earl Grey tea and Pepperidge Farm cookies;
Sometimes my cat leaps into their laps.
They tell of their problems with a kind of relish,
And then I delight
To be of help. When their recitals end
And they look to me for wisdom –
I who have finally learned to listen –
I consistently offer the one phrase
I believe may assist them through their day.
It is: ‘This pass will too away.’
I say it gravely, with real conviction,
Adding only the fact that Abraham Lincoln
Quoted the ancient Eastern words in a speech
To the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society
On September 30, 1859 and that he continued,
‘How much it expresses! How chastening
In the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths
Of affliction!’ We exchange knowing glances
At the Rail Splitter’s sharing of ‘This pass will too away.’
After they go I rise, huffing a bit I admit, to carry cups and saucers,
Charming teapot and sweet small plates to the kitchen to later wash,
Pleased again to have been of service.”
Jonathan Bracker is the editor of Bright Cages: Selected Poems of Christopher Morley (University of Pennsylvania Press: 1965; reissued 2018); co-author with Mark I. Wallach of Christopher Morley (Twayne: 1976); and editor of A Little Patch of Shepherd’s Thyme: Prose Passages Of Thomas Hardy Arranged As Verse (Moving Finger Press: 2013).