Holy, holy, holy

How to love the Trinity, its vagueness,
non-sense, God talking to God on the cross?
Theological geometry, stumper of metaphor,
God humbled to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Only when I heard that voice singing Our songs
shall rise to thee did I feel a welling of love
that, at best, visits me occasionally in prayer,
indwelling and expanding within me.
Yes, God, the darkness hideth thee.
Too often as I sit in the pews, nothing
happens. Or worse, Nothing happens,
doubt a scrim over every word I pray,
a tepid mutter of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
But that hymn’s falsetto, surrender, the not-
knowingness of it—Lord, though I can not see,
I did hear a shimmer, some wick in me caught
fire, and fear, that liar, left me, momentarily,
free in the Holy, music, the blessed Trinity.

For S. S.

Bench on the bluff

        Scarborough, Maine

Skerries we called them
back on Scotland’s black and jagged coastline,
these far-ranging rows of age-old rock stretching
parallel to the shore and descending, sharp and menacing,
to the water’s edge, and then beyond, emerging now and then
from the green and ever mobile to and fro with a seething flash
of white and an exploring colony of gulls, brown ducks,
or a motley clutch of gossiping eiders. Far to the left,
where stone is overcome by sand, Higgins Beach begins
and a bobbing batch of black-clad surfers paddle off
still searching for their perfect wave.
Out there, farther than eye can scan, lies Europe.
“On a clear day,” Mhairi and I will claim, “you can see Portugal.”
And there are conditions when a bank of cloud on the horizon,
or some faint mirage shaped on the distant gleam
can seem the cliffs and headlands of Iberia.
Time was when, sitting here, I might conjure up
John Keats, seeing myself as bold, intrepid Cortez, silent,
wondering on his peak in Darien. These latter days it’s old Ulysses
comes to mind, as Tennyson has him, scanning beneath,
beyond the arch of rich experience, yearning to launch
one final expedition, to claim whatever still remains,
set sail for distant Portugal.

Windy walk with hooded crows

This northern life must be two, no three, of those black-headed,
gray-bodied birds. They look like crows, they stalk the forests
stubborn as partisans who know they will die for a lost cause,
who list the code names of their fallen comrades, who sit
in miserable bunkers and write What if nobody wanted to sacrifice?
and Spring is coming but not to Lithuania. So wrote Lionginas
Baliukevičius, aka Dzūkas, in 1949. I sit and think, he wrote,
but my thoughts don’t materialize into anything. The birds are crows,
hooded crows, similar to the carrion crow but elevated to full
species status in 2002. The partisan Dzūkas died in 1949,
his country not free, his last hideout collapsed. I skipped
to the end of his brave, sad journal, a few sentences in praise
of Tolstoy, who went pacifist and ate no meat in his last years,
who wrote All, everything that I understand, I understand only
because I love and The two most powerful warriors are patience
and time. The crows live in the forest, walk its enigmatic floor,
test everything they find. Love nothing. Stay away from the bunkers.

Calm Sunday in Klaipeda

It was the holy part of the day, my loved ones asleep
in other countries, me with no duties and rooms
full of quiet. I ate my dark bread with brie and jam,
pressed out two cups of dark coffee. And that
must be the sun, skulking like a grown-up boy who knows
it’s been too long since he visited his mother. He has
no excuse but all is forgiven, she will open the curtains,
haul up the shades, crack the windows though it’s
far too cold for that. We will ring all the bells
in the quiet church across the street, unscrew
the doors from the jambs, dismantle all the borders,
forgive the Russians whether they like it or not.
And mercy will pour down like sunshine in the grand
photographs in the vast inscrutable book I bought
for ten euros at the bookstore downtown, a store
full of books translated out of the language I know
so that I could read only the authors’ names.
Truth must be personal, said Kierkegaard, home
from another of his long, brooding walks. And yet
not merely private. You shall love the neighbor,
he insisted. Outside my window the church is solid
and pale, three stories and a squat round tower,
in the tower three narrow windows that reveal
nothing. Winter sun warms the green roof,
but the entrance is still in shadow.

Green betrayal

You wish to be a Douglas fir
Tall, straight, almost immortal
But you stand like a Peking willow
Prone to cankers, full of twisted twigs

Worse still, you are not so resistant
As the authentic willow that can bend gracefully
Shake off all its unwanted leaves in autumn
When there is a wind blowing even from nowhere

No matter how much sunshine you receive
During the summer, you have nothing but scars
To show off against winter storms
The scars that you can never shake off