January 26th: the anniversary of my mother’s death

He is green before the sun,
And his branch shooteth forth
In his garden.

Job 8:16

Today, I am five years older than she was.
Mom didn’t have time to tell me everything.

All my green chairs were my mother’s,
who inherited hers from God knows where.

Because some green chairs never wear out,
I wish I could know everything about green:

nature’s timeless neutral, algae, fir trees,
grasses, fronds, the peacock’s iridescence;

some dragons, most jade, copper’s verdigris,
oil of sage, chrysoprase, and sunset’s moment—

the green flash—Yahweh’s infinity wand.

His eye is on the sparrow

When my grandfather was ninety-two,
he swung at the first pitch he saw.
He made contact.
What we remember is not the roller towards short,
or the stunned cheers of the church-supper crowd.
What will not die is the briefest of moments
when he broke for first, forgetting his decades.
Habits of youth buried came sparking to life.
He broke for first, and unless our eyes deceived us,
he tossed the bat away and pivoted like DiMaggio.
It seemed—the grounder I mean—a luxurious grace,
a sidelong benediction to brighten the waiting days.

The farm wife muses upon her Miracle Tree

Everyone laughed
when it arrived in a legal-sized
envelope and I showed them

the ad: “For 19.99, watch it
reach your roofline in a year.”
Just as that stick, plain

as a toothpick, unfurled a leaf
Pete clipped it
with the mower. That’s it,

I thought, but it grew back
above the red petunias
I added ’round its base.

We could use a miracle here,
with the cows gone
and the house in reverse

mortgage. But when it
spouted slender branches
with narrow leaves

even the Schwan Man
who measured each week
lost interest. I ponder

the name Salix babylonica
and how merchants
traded sprigs of those trees

along the Silk Road. Already
it weeps like a woman,
I write in my diary. Already

my neighbors dismiss it
as a dirty tree.

Plastic Santa

It’s January and plastic Santa
still plays his golden sax
outside a store on Jinhuapu Lu.
His mechanized twiggy legs
are barely hid
as they twitch in tandem
in his thin flannel pants—
Christmas red, of course,
and his lips as brown as tofu
hang a full two inches behind
the sax’s cracked reed.
Poor man! Even the dogs—
Pekingese, Chihuahuas and others—
step around him as they snuffle
for a swatch of sun to jazz their bones
on this cold day.


God is carnal? Yes! God
has got to be flesh and blood. Bones too
like any one of us. A child
can’t go to sleep in a dark room
unless someone is right there beside her.
Someone with some skin.