Sunrise in the underworld

The birds are singing their feathers off,
the grass is on its way to being
greener, so green it’s almost blinding,
and the sun has lit the top of the hill
in front of the hill where the sun is rising.
You see, I live in an underworld,
it’s beautiful and strange, but you must
be careful in an underworld—
it’s not for everyone, the light
is funny, the shadows are almost backwards;
in the morning and then at dusk, it’s easy
to think I’m living upside down.
Sometimes I do, regrettably,
but that’s a human thing, and being
in a kind of underworld is good
for understanding the human thing.
It’s also, weirdly, good for God,
it puts you in the mind of God.
I mean, some mornings you cannot stop
yourself from looking around and being
convinced there is a God who made
the world and I am living in it.
There must be something good in that.
One of my duties is to speak
of joy—in the face of everything
against it. I’m speaking of it now.

The song sparrow

Walked out to the car this morning to find a small brown
Bird deceased on the windshield. A young song sparrow,
Neither naked gawky nestling nor chesty feathered elder;
A sort of a teenager, I guess. Cause of death not instantly
Evident, nor did I spend time determining its gender; no,
My brain got stuck on the teenager part. It’s so fearsome,
Being a teenager. Everything is ten times louder. They’re
Braver and stupider than any three older people; they are
Three people, most of the time. This is discombobulating
In the extreme. But we have no sympathy for them. We’d
Prefer to forget we were them; we deny that we ever were.
You know we do. If we wrote our histories we would skip
From twelve to twenty, from generally bucolic childhood,
At least fitfully, at least while finding refuge from trouble,
To beginner older idiocy, which itself takes a decade or so.
We get so impatient with teenagers. We want them to leap
Past stupid. But stupid is a great teacher, isn’t it? Flailing
At least teaches you what alleys to avoid, if at all possible.
We have no mercy on them but they are in a thunderstorm,
And probably it seems like it will never end, and we whine
That they are wet yet again even after we advised as re wet.
And how wet we were too, brothers and sisters, how moist
And soaked and sopping and bedraggled we were, not even
Fully feathered at the time, trying to figure out how to soar,
And where to soar, and who, if anyone, would soar with us;
And if we were blessed we had parents, maybe parents who
Loved us even, but so often they just stood and sermonized
As we fell out of the nest, frightened and thrilled and lonely.

Starry Solomon’s plume

(Maianthemum stellatum)

Starry, starry Solomon’s plume,
your constellations float

in clusters lowly wise,
zig-zagging asterisks of light,

reminding thick and shaggy cedars,
though they breach the nether skies,

that even smallest things may be
arrayed on earth as they are in heaven.

—North Cascades National Park

Andrew son of Jonah

He’s always been my level-headed son
& so I let him wander the wilderness
after his bruised-reed prophet
since he’d always return        to mend the nets
& chase another catch     I’d thought

Simon was the impetuous one
but Andrew was as steady as a boat on sand
When the Baptiser admitted      he wasn’t the man
he pointed out the Lamb of God
& Andrew was caught

He followed        & brought Simon
& some other local boys along too
What was I supposed to do?
I only had a fishing life
& he had much more to offer      than I’d got

I only wish it had been when I was young
that Messiah came      not leaving me to fish
& grow old       with the same ache in my bones
my two sons following the unknown
leaving me with naught


A pane breaks into water as we enter death
and burial to imitate Christ. Faith is measured

this way, by one’s willingness to submit
to what one cannot comprehend. We rise up

as new creatures, but in what sense have we
shifted? In those seconds under water’s

smooth door, do our bodies lap over
this world’s edge to the next? Do the angels

who see us rejoice
to bear witness before we rise up, closing

the door between us? Our lives’ balance
on the wing of what we give up, yet desire.

A bird imitates, but is said to have no
perception. Yet some believe it was a bird

who plunged the primordial sea,
bringing mud to the surface to form the earth

we’re made from; their wings opening in the shape
of a cross, our fondest dreams of flight.