Poetry

Poetry

Praise is a language

The young preacher said so and then hurried on and the girls
who had led the praise songs nodded and whispered in the front pew
but wait, I muttered in my head, if praise is a language then what

can we use it to say? How widely is it spoken, and should we maybe
listen instead of talking so much? I have seen praise glowing
in the cornstalks glazed with mud and snow. I have heard

the fine twigs of the sickly high tree outside my fourth-floor
window sifting the buttery wind. I have taken the stairs
two at a time and groped for my key and dreamed that

the language of praise might launch itself across the wide skies,
cross vacuums and voids like radio or photons, carry some
wild packet of data and yearning that would cause the High One

suddenly to relent, to pass out the sports cars and the answer keys,
to sit down alone and together with us all and tenderly explain
the languages of bullies, traffic, RPGs, anthrax, patriarchy

and cholesterol, propound in words glowing and clear the need
for better and more detailed articulations of the High One’s
splendor, grandeur, majesty and might, for the pretty good guitar

strummed nearly in time, for the blond girl who sweetly sang
Father, Father as the rest of us tried to follow the tune.











If God is your answer

If God is your answer to every question,
   eternal and absolute
   once-and-for-all kind of answer,
   without a doubt,
   no wondering, dithering or hypothesizing,
   no clever juggling,
   struggling, pondering or agonizing
   no raised eyebrow or pursed lips,
   no tilted head with faraway gaze—
   just straight out, eyes glazed,
   one syllable,
   constant and unequivocal,
   you smiling, smiling, always smiling
   sweetly to every question:
   God;
Then,
   all questions vanish,
   all questions perish,
   and you stand like a post
   from one of your fences,
   not even enough of you
   for the upright
   of a cross
   like one Jesus chose at the end,
   facing death, and desperately
   asking the ultimate question:
   God, where are you?
   and hearing nothing,
   resigned to silence,
   said, Nevertheless, I AM
   and died the Lamb
   still with his question.
Now there’s an answer,
   God.

Pew 13 seat 7

The girl in the pew next to me
is doing her math
between prayers. I peek
at the certainties on her page yearning
for a time I knew clearly
that the sum of e to the minus x
from nothing to the infinite was
always and everlasting one
and I could prove that everything that rises
   must converge.

Now the slow hardening of my brain's
arteries has rubbed those crisp
clear certainties until they're
ragged with doubt and experience.
Was the sine the one
next to me over over the big one?
Or the opposite?
Was the answer a precise
one or pi,
that vague pipe dream that
we've chased to 51 billion places
and still don't know exactly?

I chant my beliefs and wonder
what proofs I am
seeking here. Add up the blessings
of the world and subtract
the sins and you've got
what? Add up my own
petty closed set of real
and imaginary without limit.
Can it ever exceed zero?

The mass is over and the little
girl kneels in the aisle
crosses herself,
the sign of our shared belief
in a world beyond or
the mathematician's plus sign,
the sign that says with a certainty:
something more.





Google

He eases into the barber’s chair, closes his eyes,
relaxes as the lather warms his face, remembers
what it was like before they found out he knew . . . everything

His associates had always been impressed that he read
a dozen papers and a chapter of Dickens before breakfast,
remembered their birthday and preferences for coffee,

could announce the heat index in Tehran and the latest numbers
of the Nikkei Exchange, the whereabouts of Jane Goodall
and all the positions for G7alt on the guitar,

but it wasn’t until he let slip that this was only
results 1-10 of about 63,000 in .17 seconds
that they began to imagine his commercial possibilities.

He remembers signing the contract, watching them build the tower,
the miles of petitioners hiking switchbacks up the mountain,
the ceaseless Post-its, his fingers aching

from hours of scribbling, head pounding with another inquiry
about the Kennedys, a recipe for chocolate cream pie,
the weight of the pope’s hat, where to buy Ginsu knives.

He returns from his shave to find 2.3 million
“while you were out” messages obscuring his door,
straightens his multicolored tie, notices

his reflection in the window: the smartest man on earth,
the wonders of the world at his fingertips,
a name on his desk that suggests infinity

and the babbling of an infant.















Jesus at the Juvie Hall

Jesus pulls up a chair to tell me about his day. Today at breakfast,
when the doors were unlocked, he and the others came out of their
      rooms,
and to his surprise, there were muffins! Everyone here is crazy
about muffins. They mean nothing on the outside, but in here
(he looks at the floor and trails off). Jesus tugs at the little braids
in the nape of his neck. I go to court tomorrow. They say
I’ll be sentenced and moved on Friday. He drums
the metal table, balances his feet on their heels. With a sign, I heard
you can get Snickers over there, at least. Just then, he remembers
and pulls a glow-in-the-dark rosary out of his shirt. Jesus says
he is learning how to pray, albeit with help from the Virgin
prayer card from the priest. At night he draws the blanket
over his head and cups the rosary, as if brightness itself
offers protection. There is comfort, he says, in knowing
his grandmother blessed each bead, and when he slides them
through his petitioning hands, it’s as if he’s lacing his fingers
into hers. There, in the sanctioned darkness he whispers, Glory be.