Three poems

Naomi in famine
Ruth 1:1–2

First portions to my husband, then the boys.
I eat what’s left behind, grow willowy, more
like a girl than I ever was.

My clothes curtain, I think of cutting
the excess to sell, for what? There’s nothing
left in this town, we are the only harvest
to ripen white in the wind.

My husband says sometimes God allows
pain to cause us to move. I pack
our things.

The last cow to calf was three springs past,
and now I boil its bones to make broth.

Naomi’s sojourn
Ruth 1:1

The grain fled from our hands.
Harvest brought no yield.
Each day turned to us—empty faces,
empty faces, and our sons’ mouths
gaped wider. My fat of childbirth
negotiated to rib, our children’s bellies
bloat. I cut the oil by half and by half
til we are eating water, some dirt.
Hunger becomes the greater God;
it gnaws us like a bone. We leave
our home.

Ruth’s vow

What they say of you, they say of me, the girls
you were a girl with, the men you did not choose,
I will not choose. I will carry what you carry,
like a child, on my hip that has never born
a child, heavy as a child who will not follow
your voice. Your home built of sorrow will be
my sorrow, the wasp pressed against the inside
of the pane, my pane, the slackening of your skin,
loosened skin around the eyes, will be my loosening,
your hair gone colorless will be my own
lack of color. Your cup of bitter waters is my cup
of bitter waters and together we will drink it,
until the bowl has gone dry as a skull.

Full Worm Moon

Sap Moon, Crust Moon, Crow Moon—
by any of its names, this moon
announces, in all its fullness, worms
stirring in earth’s softening center;
sap thawing in the maples;
snow dissolving by day, crisping by night;
& calls of crows converting from haunting ballads
to heralding hymns. A robin reappears,
throwing off the pine cloak it hid behind
all winter like a god hard to find, hard to hear,
maybe hard of hearing in the ruckus
wind made as it bayed across the plains
& yowled in the valleys, hard to see in ice
suffocating once-tasseled fields, pinecone & bayberry,
numbing perhaps even wings,
rendering the soft touch this moon offers
almost senseless.
                                   Welcome, worms,
twisting & teeming with prophecy,
welcome, crows & robins, plucking
these crawlers from grass now breathing green,
welcome, syrup, born again, pushing through the spout,
welcome, waxing light & waning dark,
welcome one, welcome all, no matter your longing
for answered prayer, come, sun yourself
beneath the low Lenten Moon.

The king of love my shepherd is

For Margaret More Roper (1505–1544)

Meg went to the Tower,
somehow passed the halberds
of the Yeomen of the Guard
to embrace once more the father
whose hair shirt she washed,
whose “wholesome counsel
and virtuous example” she received,
whose mind and person she loved.

Not Holbein’s Chancellor
but an El Greco saint,
he was led out
carrying his red cross,
emaciated and ready.
He reminded the axe man
his neck was short,
asked him not to miss.
Then put that noble neck
in the arc of the block,
and the great, wedge axe
lopped off his blessed head.
Faithless Henry had it put
on a pike on London Bridge,
a horrible deterrent to
heroic silence.

At what cost and courage
Margaret rescued it,
carried it home to Canterbury,
buried it by St. Dunstan’s Church.
How often did she gaze from home
across to the church yard, longing
for the King whose name is love,
Whom she, and we, still await?

Recitative: then shall be brought to pass

“So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”
                                                                                                                           —1 Corinthians 15:54

Fortune Cookie sayings for this new day dawning:
Your great-great-great grandfather resurrected stops by to say hello.
Every pony you bet on at the track wins today and tomorrow.
Your least favorite body part is glorified. You look marvelous.
This cookie contains all the money you will ever need. See attached.
Look to your left. The person sitting there loves you.
Look to your right. The person sitting there loves you.
Ask your waiter for another glass of water. He loves you.
You love everyone. You kiss everyone. Everyone kisses you.
You never have any reason to cry or get angry. Lucky numbers: all.
This is the last fortune cookie ever. Beware of absolutely nothing.

In the beginning

Everything in the world begins with a yes.
Clarice Lispecter

For Bishop Tom

In the beginning there is only Yes,
infinitesimal, infinite, invisible
seed sprouting in the swirling dark,
the slow integration, expanding,
extending, the sudden explosion
into light—baby, blossom, universe,
all beginnings are the same—and Yes
to a world begun before words where
nothing separates this from that, and
Yes to the senses alive before language,
bird song, leaf shadow, skin touching
skin, and Yes to Tom whose injured
brain erases speaking, reading, names,
but through hands cupped upon bent
heads, his unimpeded heart pours forth
with nothing to restrict the flow of Yes
in beginning and Yes in the end.

This is an updated version of the poem that appears in the print edition.