My mom just called from the nursing home. She survived another painful heart episode. She asked me how the people liked the Italian songs I sang in church. She has asked me this before. I have sung no Italian songs, in church or anywhere else. Then she sang a little bit over the phone. It was lovely, though her light soprano voice is now low and hoarse. I asked her to sing some more. I thought, I need to learn some good Italian songs and sing them in church.
I’ve been reading Berrigan’s autobiography, as some of you know, the derring do of the radical Catholic priest who loved America enough to speak the terrible truth about America’s addiction to violence, racism, and war. And again and again, Berrigan tells of his mother, who steadfastly stood by him. “With her, a thousand difficulties did not create a single doubt.”
After his brother Philip was arrested for throwing human blood on draft files in Baltimore, while he himself was arrested in Washington during a protest against the war, Daniel called home. His mother’s calm on the phone touched him. He explained things, as best he could. “You mean,” his mother responded, “that you are out of jail and your brother is in?”
Gary Percesepe is the author of eight books, most recently The Winter of J, a poetry collection published by Poetry Box. He is Associate Editor at New World Writing. Previously he was an assistant fiction editor at Antioch Review. His work has appeared in Christian Century, Maine Review, Brevity, Story Quarterly, N + 1, Salon, Mississippi Review, Wigleaf, Westchester Review, PANK, The Millions, Atticus Review, Antioch Review, Solstice, and other places. He resides in White Plains, New York, and teaches philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx.