Snow On Father Duffy
[on hearing that the statue of Father Duffy is to be moved]
His trench coat has weathered these past eighty years
and his tin hat is off, his bible is held;
in the center of New York he stands and he peers
as Broadway and Seventh uneasily meld.
It's been a long ways, and quite a long time
and the years have rolled by like an odd game of chance,
but once he marched off with the Fighting Six
and led them into the trenches of France.
There were bayonet charges, and worlds in collision
and endless barrages that broke a man's mind,
but the well-beloved padre of the Rainbow
would pat the lads gently, and say "It's just fine
And "There, there, me boys, our turn will come",
or "Steady now, men, don't give in to fear";
Then: "Have at them, Irish! See how they run!"
It was over the top with a shout and a cheer.
The War to End Wars concluded at last
and home did they come much diminished in size,
but now what they did has sunk into the past
and the statue is seen by unseeing eyes.
New York, don't forget what is best in yourself!
Nor the proud Sixty-Ninth nor their honor so
the city can sleep and think well of itself
for sending that man of God off to fight.
If there must be war, then grant us at least
the will to go fight, or the will to resist —
but give us each day a good tough old priest
to help us decide, and help us persist.
Father Duffy, dear man, I know why you're there,
I know why the people and men loved you so,
and as I pass by, I still hear your prayer
and follow your path in the new-fallen snow.
by Samuel A. Southworth
... who is a poet and military historian; his books include
Great Raids in History: From Drake to Desert One
(Sarpedon: 1997) and US Special Forces (Da Capo: 2002). He
has been trained for wilderness EMT / SAR, and served as a
volunteer medic at Ground Zero in New York City during September