For Father Jacob Willebrands

Michael Peach

First time I saw you I felt like Oliver Twist,
Orphaned and looking for a place to stay.
In those days the dining room alone was warm
During the cruel, mountaintop winter nights.
Surrounded by hippies from a dozen nations,
Like the affable Fagin in Bart’s musical
You emerged from a cloud of smoke to shake my hand.
Bearded, tanned, gypsyish and bobble-capped,
Yet gentle as a mother, you took me up
And, despite our differing theology,
Through your humble, steadfast, humorous empathy
In all these years you’ve never let me down.

16 February 1996

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