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Invictus

 

My grandmother who is pictured above, Jean Castrovinci, asked me to memorize this poem by William Ernest Henley. It was one of her favorites, and she said to me. “You will need these words, one day.”  Oh, how right she was. This poem has served me well in many instances.

The photo of my grandmother was taken in the 1920s.

INVICTUS

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole.
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced, nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed. 

In this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me unafraid. 

It matters not how strait the gait
How charged with punishment the scroll.
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul. 

Hope and Light

(For Janet and Karen)

In the darkest days of my youth,
I had moments that were devoid of hope;
each day, I carried cement bags of sorrow.

I began clawing lightness from other sources.
Literal sources—a light bulb, a candle,
the last embers of day slipping beneath the horizon.

Day after day, I pleaded, promising everything
until finally hope drifted in to my life,
like an entitled breeze, demanding daylight enter.

I didn’t care how awkward the entry.
I wasn’t expecting a soft caress—instead
I knew with all my heart:

Hope is the first crocus of spring,
the bulb pushing through the frozen surface;
the sigh of an old dog settling into sweet sleep.

It’s the realization that all is never lost.
Hope became my most cherished companion,
my reason for going on.