Lot’s daughters

Genesis 19


At first—a leering mob circling
the house, jeering, dancing naked,
taunting the guests with their sex—
the daughters thought their father brave
to step outside, lock the door behind him,
stretch his arms out in protection.

But then, even he offered them up,
a sacrifice to protect strangers.
Their father. The only
“righteous man” in a city destined for flames,
“Do with them what you like.
But don’t do anything to these men.”

Then their eyes were like Isaac’s
below the knife,
the ram not yet in the bush,
the blade gleaming.


What dread dug in the daughters’
betrayed hearts before the rioters,
struck blind, stumbled, fell down,
unable to find the door,
Lot tugged back safely to the house?

And later,
when they left that life behind,
eyes straight toward Zoar,
did they hear their mother turning,
her stories sliced off mid-sentence?

What kept their gaze fixed?
Their father’s almost-sacrifice
or the intervention?

Autumnal diary

For just this day I thank you, Lord—this day
when in a new and lonely empty place
appeared a friend with whom I could retrace
through forty years an undeserved array
of other moments shared, and so survey
as back across a pathless hillside face
a hidden net of tangled trails where grace
had always, always canopied the way.
The bits of furniture he left behind
will be of course in constant, welcome use
but they will also serve as types that bind
with unseen ligaments of love my loose
days here to many others far apart
in space and time but very near in heart.


I want to find the room where my father is sleeping,
take his hand and wake him. I will say I am sorry

to have come so late, after all the other children.
I will ask about his heart and his dreams,

apologize for disturbing his rest. I want to drive there
faster than anybody, but I am not even on the way home.

The masters say all is one but I am five hundred miles away,
studying the alphabet of broken trees

and the gorgeous dusk of the beaver marsh.
The masters say nothing is separate but I am lost

among the lilies, the needly mosquitoes, the slow tenderness
of the fireflies. I will leave tomorrow if need be.

Tonight I will dream of the great healing
and the night will be warm with the hum of fireflies,

the chir and splish of the beavers fitting one more stick,
one more slap of mud into the mile-long dam.

Falling upward

          “. . . he was carried up, and a cloud took him.” Acts 1:9

Gravity, they say, is all about mass. Big attracts
Big sucks big pulls big, like death, won’t let go. Still,
We worship those who try: “Lucky Lindy,” St. Michael
Jordan. Leonardo, bless him, forever plotting how
To fly, or assuage the general jowliness of time.

Jesus was taken up, and Mary. St. Teresa of Ávila
Had to cling to the rail during prayer to keep from
Floating skyward—the Assumption being that things
Sometimes fall up. But, come on, which way is
Up? That is to say, which way isn’t? If Teresa was

A person of such faith, why didn’t she just let go? Like
The man I knew who, after being told he had “maybe
Six months,” immediately signed up for swimming
Lessons. “Well,” he said, “I just felt that if I could learn
How to float, I could learn how to die.”

Dream at Bethel

Quiet now, but for camel’s tongues,
lopping fat and sticky in the young

desert night, big wind in the black backdrop
of sky, crickets and their ancient legs, log-pops

from my small fire. Cool on my feet,
this breeze after two days walking since trees

of my village waved their shaggy good-byes. My wool socks
stuffed in boots, I relax; put a smooth rock

under my head, start to dream the dreams of my life:
I can fly like hawks, have green-eyed wives

from the east, am a sailor with a swift ship,
fish, kingdoms under me, then this:

a ladder leaning into clouds, bright like sun-high noon,
quick as raindrops, up and down, angels, soft as moon.

Then a whisper comes sliding too, down the ricket of the bars,
promising health, wealth, good luck, descendants like the stars.

The fire is dim as voices when the drop
of my leg wakes me. Blinking, I prop

on an elbow and look around for stairs, an unnatural
hint of spirits, but see only my bearded camels,

some lights on a hill from town, my boots, provisions.
I think better of my strange vision.

At breakfast I splash oil on my pillow rock—
it seems holy still—and get ready to walk, pack

everything, give the camels some straw,
call the place Church, to remember what I saw.