Poetry

Poetry

Culpa

You can snarl and rage and roar and snipe at thugs and liars,
Sure you can, and right you are for doing so, and you maybe
Actually enjoy letting the lava soar out all righteously, right?
But even so, there are lies inside you like viruses. You know
What I am talking about; we don’t need to go into any detail.
And we have been too familiar with a little thuggery, haven’t
We? Not battery: You’ll say, rightfully, that you are innocent.
No: I mean the times you knew about assault and battery, and
Did zero. We just stood there. We pretend to be fascinated
By something else that just happened to be happily elsewhere.
We turned our heads, so it looked like we just hadn’t noticed;
We can surely be excused if we didn’t see it, right? Right?

On the evening of that same day

Before the dust had settled from the tramping boots, he’d appeared.
Eyes beheld him to their confusion but when he breathed upon them
they remembered the spring green hills of Galilee, the cool evening air
scented of olive, laurel, clematis, myrtle. A peace they could not reckon.
A dove called.
        
                          Left to the silence, they could hardly recognize themselves.
How strangely their voices sounded and what unlikely things they must have
said.

In the receiving line after worship

In the receiving line after worship an elderly man
wants to tell me about his hydrangeas. They were
gorgeous last summer, he says, but not as splendid

as in 1972 when the blue ribbon at the state fair
went to his wife who, he reminds me, was Miss Butts
County back in the 1950s and whom he still misses

every day, especially when he eats peach jam on his toast
which is almost every morning except Tuesdays
when the VFW guys get together down at the café.

The people behind him in line shift on their feet
and glance at their watches while he, oblivious
to their impatience, goes on to describe for me (in detail)

the attributes of her winning Lemon Zest Mophead,
which he swears was the size of a dinner plate, or maybe
a large salad plate. The hydrangea story is taking forever

and I feel my own agitation rising, until the moment
I take his hand in mine (a gesture of care but also,
I regret now to say, meant to hurry him along) and I feel

his papery fingers which are not at all like a hydrangea
but rather like a maple leaf in November,
all that lush, green vigor stored deep within itself

just before it releases the limb and is airborne at last,
carried on a breath, caught up in the glory of all created
things, its final fluttering an ovation of praise.

Hive

Honeybees hum in the chimney
as they work, nothing deterring
them from their devotion to our home,
not smoke, chemicals, or beekeepers.

Forty years of honey stored
inside the brick flue for generations
unknown, all of it perfectly
packed into tiny compartments,

much like our own gathering
and storing, what we guard like
worker bees fanning the queen.
In a dream the chimney overflows

in summer heat, honey streaming
over the roof. Time to sort, to give
and throw away, I say, tossing
books, clothes, even money.

And still I awaken into disbelief—
my unimaginable abandonment.
O sweet world, your mornings of lips
and birdsong. The deep sleep of winter.

Moved

Life smooths us, perfects as does the river the stone,
and there is no place our Beloved is not flowing,
though the current’s force you may not like.
—St. Teresa of Ávila

This rounding roughs us even as it smooths,
the force of God’s water strong,
tumbles the small stones even as it soothes
and carries them lightly along,
The rain falls full and fills the streams.
The river drinks their love.
The trees bend heavy with dreams.
There’s nothing that does not move.

Borne along by fire and flood,
by wind that tongues and grooves,
our bodies brimmed with blood
that feeds us as it proves
perfection is no steady state.
It’s on the way and always late.