Fig tree dominates the garden,
gray and knobby against gray fog,
its bare branches grotesque.
Like the old, bent parishioners
my father would visit, taking me
along, a child. They stroked
my hands, my woolen dress,
reached out with cloudy eyes.

This tree reaches everywhere,
as though light can be caught.
Slow sun drains through, stirs
a wing. Then one morning
I see them, green tips of figs
hard as emeralds escaping
from every knuckled grasp.

Winter and hesitation

The way from home
falls along the fields.
The hour’s leaving,

but still we wait and wait.
I’ve no more will
to shape the words.
See that line of trees—
a mile or two ago,

I thought to speak,
but let it drop.
Something left me

there, along the path—
some call and drift—
and now I cannot trace
what was. Light
in a window. Frozen

breath. The sound
such distance gives.
I dare not make a move.

Heaven revised

The boy was thrown against the ground, his arms
flung wide so I could see
under the bent grille of the farmer’s truck
his narrow chest rise and fall—so I could hear
between the swish of passing cars
that click of breath and bone.

Even now I watch the rain—but there was no rain—
spark against the road. I see his hair—
but from where I stood his face was turned—
soaked against the ripe
fruit of his cheek.

the bus had stopped for gas.
I left my seat and walked across the empty lot
hoping for a sink to rinse my mouth.
I remember the black field
beyond the road, the moonless sky and how
I strained to tell heaven from earth.

Truth is, that morning no one was saved.
No one lit a cigarette and proclaimed Never again
to anything. Strange. How I can see
each orange fall from the bed of the truck,
thump onto the pavement and roll
gently to a stop.

Pileated woodpecker

He didn’t see me which is why I was able
To sit beneath him in bare woods, close enough
To almost touch his six-inch prehistoric beak,
Curved scimitar that searched and tapped
As he hopped, bobbing, up the oak.
His broad black back, shy sweep of wing,
Ungainly, yes, but such a sight, and
Better yet his outsized head topped
By a tuft of flaming red that stuck up straight,
And made me smile. A cartoon’s joke,
Yet he was real. So were my thoughts
That bitter day, mind and memory
Bleak as steel until I looked and saw and felt
The sudden wild gift of life.

This is the night for Yahweh

The dough is not fermented;
provisions are not made;
and yet, it is time.
The Egyptians are pressing us.

The bell is ringing.
I curse to myself,
looking down at my watch.
The bell insists. I am afraid.

OK, OK, I say aloud
(for such curses can’t
be uttered by a monk)
walking to the church.

Egypt is stripped.
The mind empties
like a slow leak
And we begin the long journey . . .