Poetry

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Frank

by Lionel E. Deimel

   

When not traveling or showing visitors about,

Frank attends our Saturday Bible study;

When it’s our turn, one of us brings doughnuts or coffee cake;

Frank always brings muffins.

 

Frank is an old Navy man—

An Academy classmate of John Paul Jones,

In retirement, a devoted alumnus,

A fixture at reunions and supporter of the Academy Museum.

 

Who knows what Frank is retired from!

He’s held  political appointments;

He works for the Democrats;

He tells us who’s running for office before they announce.

 

Frank travels frequently,

Usually to places most people avoid—

Seeing the Sahara by truck,

Visiting refugee camps in the Balkans.

 

Frank is vague about his motives—

Perhaps he collects destinations like stamps;

Perhaps travel is an escape;

He may work for the CIA.

 

We discuss the church and the world as much as the Bible;

Frank is a great resource,

Telling us firsthand how things really are,

Explaining exotic customs.

 

Frank seems always grumpy over the latest headlines,

Complaining about his aches and pains,

Expressing perplexity over his computer,

Always referring to the radio as the “wireless.”

 

Yet, he easily makes friends abroad;

He deplores the resulting visits but is an attentive host;

He usually travels alone,

Though he sometimes takes a grandchild along.

 

It’s hard to know if Frank is religious;

He is surely not indifferent;

He would drop the Old Testament and much of the New,

But his piety exceeds our own.

 

Frank went to see the doctor last week;

He didn’t come home;

The aches and pains are now called leukemia;

The prognosis was not encouraging.

 

We wondered if we would be able to see him,

But Frank did not encourage visitation,

Not as he decided whether to live or die,

To fight for more time or to accept our common fate.

 

We learned today that Frank died last night;

He wanted a simple service,

A modest sendoff for the final trip to Arlington;

He asked that I lead the singing of the Navy Hymn.

 

 

 

   Anchor in stained glass window

 

There isn’t much more I can say about Frank Beal (7/30/1926 – 2/14/2003). I began this poem a few days before his death, hoping I would have a chance to read it to Frank. I didn’t know the ending when I began, of course. I finished the poem on 2/15/2003. I changed one line on 3/10/2004 in preparing it for presentation to my writers’ group, which made many helpful suggestions that I incorporated the next day. The resulting work is improved, I think, though most changes were minor. The material in verse seven was reworked a bit from the original:
 

Frank is something of an old curmudgeon,

Complaining about his aches and pains,

Always slightly grumpy about the latest headlines,

Expressing perplexity over his computer and always referring to the radio as the “wireless.”

Music courtesy of the United States Naval Academy Band.

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