Poetry

Poetry

Waxwings in the pryrocanthus

Heavy the waxwings hang upon the bough,
A gospel dozen, sharing summer fruits,
The pyrocanthus touched with winter snow,
Alive with yellow-banded crested suits.
There is no solitary prophet here,
Spying the setting, ranking lesser wings;
They come in droves, in droves they disappear,
Unlike the dove, alone no waxwing sings.
Of course the birds are metaphor to me,
The waxing congregation sharing all;
The dove, I think, practices poetry,
Solitary, an “individual.”
Is it perverse to sing a lonely song,
When love prescribes the place where we belong?

Come forth

I hear you’re good at washing feet—
ever thought of washing the dishes?
You wouldn’t have to stop talking.

The one about the Pharisee and the leprous camel—
I could listen to that again. But I figure,
why sit out here in the parlor,

using up perfectly good cigars,
when we could all be
getting something done in the kitchen?

And if you set the example that way,
my sister there might actually think
to roll up her sleeves once in a while.

See what I’m saying?
Lazarus might even take the hint.
Hah! Over his dead body, he says.

Sonnet XLVIII

Now by the path I climbed, I journey back.
The oaks have grown; I have been long away.
Taking with me your memory and your lack
I now descend into a milder day;
Stripped of your love, unburdened of my hope,
Descend the path I mounted from the plain;
Yet steeper than I fancied seems the slope
And stonier, now that I go down again.
Warm falls the dusk; the clanking of the bell
Faintly ascends upon this heavier air;
I do recall those grassy pastures well:
In early spring they drove the cattle there.
And close at hand should be a shelter, too,
From which the mountain peaks are not in view.

Peter

O Christ,

you know better than any
what it is to taste death
through love,
to feel the dull pulsing, side-pinned,

spiky memories stitching into your brain.
When water from under your heart
bathed the world,
you irrigated too the planted cross,
that it might take root, and, in us,

never die.

Yet I resist its rooting in,
and strive to strip it bare in me,
when it is I who should be naked
and ashamed.
I obviously have not died enough.

So: overturn me,
stretch me on your frame,
and, for your name, teach me
the inverse,

that I might know love through death.