You do not have to be a Christian yourself to relate to the poem I call “Mr. Bergstrom’s Corner.” After a via dolorosa of any kind–a loss, an illness, a crisis–it is natural to welcome the most mundane of daily tasks. When I think of Holy Saturday, as it is called, I remember my years in the convent when this day was given to ordinary work, done, however, in silence. Truly it was a day in-between.
On such a day in my later life I walked my dog Molly. She is a big furry bundle of exuberance. A few blocks from home, in the same instant, we saw a robin at the edge of a puddle in the street. Although Molly quivered with longing to give chase, she did not. After all, this was the purpose of the daily walk, obedience training.
The robin’s joyful short flight to the branch of a budding tree on a Holy Saturday morning is a harbinger of Easter, as are the early flowers and trees in bloom. Why did that moment stay in my memory long enough for me to write about it later?
It is the time of year when my father died, and I suppose that Mr. Bergstrom, affectionately known in our town as Bergie, and who had recently passed, made me think of my father. Passed. I have heard people–in Chicago, I think–who are accustomed to saying passed instead of passed away, as we do here. The former expression is more Biblical, suggesting passing from death to life, not simply disappearing from view. A transition. A short flight.
Here is the poem:
Mr. Bergstrom’s Corner
After Good Friday and before Easter Sunday,
walking my dog was one of Saturday’s chores.
Rounding the next-to-last corner from home,
Molly and I saw a robin poised at the edge of
a puddle, reflected perfectly in the water–we
stopped in our tracks, witnesses both to the
bath and afterward the short ascent to the peach
tree’s bare bough, safe, dripping sunlight. The
water was scarcely troubled in which were still
the rippling white eaves of the house where Mr.
Bergstrom lived until he died, and the blue sky
beyond and above our ordinary life going on.