Poetry

Poetry

Lint

My teenage son gestures
towards his jacket, asks me how to clean
out pockets and I realize
he’s never had to turn
anything completely inside-out before,
never had to take something that was designed
to serve a good and useful purpose
and pull at it, tug until it’s wholly reversed
from its original fashioning so that every lost
oddment, every needless irritant is set loose
and finally it’s empty. It’s not a pocket
anymore; it can’t hold anything
but the buzzing light from the kitchen
and these softly flanneled regrets.

After reading Job

If God is my key witness,
    and ready to testify
    on my behalf while still
    fully aware of the charges
    against me, yet hoping
    I am innocent of them all,
    or most, or surely some,
    or certainly the worst;
If God is my key witness,
    then it seems strange when
    Next witness! is called
    and my chief counsel goes searching,
    that he is nowhere to be found
    and when asked, a guard admits
    he saw him leaving
    when the vesper bells began
    at St. Mary’s, saying something
    about waiting as long as he could,
    and was sure I would do just fine
    on my own, but if I should lose,
    he would send comforters
    who will stand in the cold
    at midnight with placards
    and crepe-draped crosses
    to cry out at the gates,
    Shame, Shame!

The great throne

—Revelation 4

Rabbi, I’m losing you in all these robes,
like a kid tunneling through a department store rack,
pummeled by grown-up fabric.

The rainbow anchors its feet like a guard.
If you’re the one I used to know,
sand in your hair and leper skin

under your nails, you wouldn’t barricade yourself
with torches, light your face carnelian
like a haunted house clown. Holy

is sensing a woman’s touch through your hem,
not bulldozing souls with thunder.
You don’t need thousands of unblinking eyes

staring you down over a great glass sea
when the fish of Galilee peer at your calloused feet
skimming the water like sunlight.

Pearly everlasting

(Anaphalis margaritacea)

Are you really? Underneath the snows
of winter, do you blossom on and on?
Do the pocket gophers crave you,
tunneling beneath that blanket,
pray to enter your secret chambers,
rest inside your open gates?

I see your flowering, fruiting
clusters, hanging on into October,
leaning into the open path,
making way, ushering whatever is holy
into the presence of things that stay.

—Ross Lake National Recreation Area

Boundary

I often arrive at a boundary
   that leaves me at the gate
   at a time to fish or cut bait
   or just wait
   at the border of this or that
   for better or worse
   perform or rehearse
   begin again or end—
   on my mark to there,
   at the finish from where.

And that’s when I need
   some now-or-never word, as when
   Jesus sat with the woman at the well
   waiting for a snarl of men to stone her,
   and reach out to her
   writing something in the sand
   for her for them and wrote again,
   then spoke his boundary-breaking words
   piercing to the bone
   that would kill their will
   and let them all go home.