Contemplative prayer with peony

So, I didn’t latch onto a holy word
and go into space and, ethereal,
lose touch with my body. But God,
in those thirty slow minutes, you
unfolded in me the bud of a fresh
flower, with color and fragrance
that was more than my soul
was capable of, on its own.

. . . We all, with unveiled face,
behold as in a mirror
the glory of the Lord.

And when the peony showed up,
I knew it as a kind of mirror. This
was glory in pink and cream, with
a smell of heaven. Petals like valves
opening into the colors of my heart.

I saw myself kneeling on a grass border,
my knees bruising the green, pressing
my face into the face of this silken,
just-opened bloom, and breathing it,
wanting to drown in it. Wanting
to grow in its reflected image.

Where will you be, God?

“How oft when men are at the point
of death have they been merry! which their
keepers call a lightning before death.”
                                        Romeo and Juliet, Act 5, Scene 3

Where will you be, God,
  when life-time warranties are running out,
  familiar faces muddling and fading,
  lovers’ own language sliding into recitation;
  and when I am wanting to rally
  to welcome one last poem,
  I keep colliding with that ancient passion
  for sacred sleep?
Where will you be, God,
  during kisses I can’t return
  but only savor forever,
  when precious hands as though my own
  are touching for the last time
  my body’s prayer places?
Where, God, will you be as my odyssey ends—
  this one that keeps folding
  back upon itself as though to start anew,
  this odyssey now running out of road?
Will you be so much me that I could miss you,
  so present that I am at last fully realized,
  or so far away that I am left  
  with the nevertheless of mere surrender
   and my own bright laughter?

The farm wife looks up at the cosmos

When it’s too nice to nap indoors, I take
an old knotted comforter to the back edge
of the garden, near tomato leaves I crush
for a last whiff of summer. Crickets chorus
round me and the combine’s racket turns
to a purr the barn cats pick up, settling
near my head. It’s then I look up at the cosmos,
struck by their petals, mandarin orange
against blue sky. The underside shines
radiant as monarch wings or the stained glass
of sun through tissue paper. Resting
by County Road N 400 W, I forget
laundry on the line, supper to fix.
For hours I’ve been napping. Now I am awake.


Cold morning, November, taking a walk,
when suddenly, up ahead, the trees unleave,
and thousands of starlings lift off, an immense
river of noise; they braid and unbraid themselves
over my head, the gray silk sky embroidered
with black kisses, the whoosh of their wings,
their chattering clatter, patterns broken/formed/
reformed, a scarf of ragged ribbons. Dumb-
struck, mouth open, I say holy and I say moly.
And then, they’re gone.

Once in a while we should say what is

I was pawing through a shelf of books the other day
When out fell a note from my late brother in his tiny
Adamant wry inarguable crisp half-cursive-half-not
Handwriting, and just for an instant I saw and heard
Him at his desk, in his study, his mustache bristling,
Black coffee half-cold, the burl of his body wrapped
In the arms of the chair that held him for thirty years,
A chair as big as a horse and twice as heavy. I heard
Him, I tell you, I did, and I saw him, half-shadowed,
Scribbling notes: his philatelic pursuits, notes for his
Class next week, notes on a book he was going to do
About Benedictine spirituality . . . then I was only me
By the bookshelf again. But for a second I was in my
Brother’s study, watching him. It was late, everybody
Was in bed, but not him, as usual he was up late with
Coffee. He was wearing a sweater. The scritch of his
Pen. His shoulders like boulders. The dim procession
Of his books, organized by genre and author. He died
Three years ago. But I saw him, absorbed, thoroughly
Attentive, scrawling notes. There’s way more possible
Than we think possible; possible turns out to be a verb.
I don’t know how else to explain things like this. They
Happen all the time to all of us and we hesitate to gape
About them publicly because the words sound like pap,
Miracle and epiphany and vision, you come off as nuts,
A religious goober who talks to owls and addled saints.
But you know and I know that this happens. I guess we
Will always understandably be hesitant to chat about it,
Which is fine, as no one enjoys being labeled a goober;
But once in a while, like here, we should admit that it’s
Real, and it happens all the time, and it’s scary and cool.
That’s all. Once in a while we should gently say what is.