What it is you would like the stone to say

Called the cemetery this morning to begin to plot
What happens to my mom and dad after they die.
Yes, I just wrote plot. My parents would smile at
That. They are not afraid. They have lived so wry
And well. They survived wars and four dead sons
And savage diseases, and they still reach for each
Other here and there. I have seen it. The cemetery
People are so very helpful. Discharge papers: that
Is the first thing. The cemetery will donate a head
Stone free of charge. And the casket liner. I admit
The casket liner was not on my list of stuff to talk
To the cemetery folks about. Plenty of room, says
The cemetery lady. Yes, your mom will be buried
With your dad, no charge. What do we engrave on
The stone? The specific words? In loving memory,
Usually. That is standard. Can you edit the words?
Well, I suppose so. Within reason. There are space
Concerns, of course. I suggest you talk to your dad
And mom and brothers and sisters, and agree upon
What it is you would like the stone to say. I would
Like the stone to say grace, and sinewy, and young.
They were so young when they married. He did not
Expect to survive the war. Their first son died—his
Name was Seamus. Can you find room for Seamus
On the stone? Mom nearly died, too. But she is too
Tough to die at thirty. A hundred and thirty, maybe.
Can we say endurance, and prayerful, and compose
A poem about how they like their tea, and who gets
What section of the paper first, and how they never
Ever forget a birthday or anniversary? Can we copy
Their meticulous undamaged handwriting? Can you
Show the note of her laughter, and the way he never
Misses a day with the crossword and how he is right
Now bending over the tomato plants to be sure he is
Not about to water the tiny shy frogs who live there?

We're back

After the fire, houses in the chaparral
start up again like new shoots of poison oak.
The resilience of nature? The power
of habit? The shallows of the human mind?

We keep building on the flood plain,
kicking steps up the avalanche chute,
camping out on the crumbling
lip of the volcano.

Those hollow figures at Pompeii,
crouched in the admission of error,
became the casts for Rodin’s Thinker.
Think about it.

In Korea, there are a hundred different men
who claim to be returned messiahs
(not counting their messiah wives)—
and thousands who erect their faith upon this sand.

And here in the U.S. of A., cutting sagebrush
in my yard, the dry winds parting my lips,
I feel right at home with the rest,
making do, claiming ground.

God enters through the eye

Like a fish that sees the wobbling silver roof
That caps his world, dim, lit by flashes,
I look at Mono Lake, its sky and clouds
Silent in a mountain bowl, centered
In the rocky gateway of Tioga Pass.

God enters through the eye, a small, bright hook,
A thin floating line.     We blink.     He yanks.


My gift for his fiftieth birthday,
a Japanese maple, buds swollen
and ready to release first leaves.

After planting he digs a small
pool underneath, lines it
with cement edged with rocks.

This mirror, shaped like a uterus,
reflects the tree as it rises,
the soft green lace spreading

its wings. “Womb,” we whispered,
little girls in church singing
the word, that secret place which

under the bare branches of December,
holds the sun, moon, and stars.

Blood Moon

Beneath this April’s full moon,
an inch of snow fell, eclipsing

daffodils and tulips, their budding
genius. Cherry blossoms wear

white gowns now, shivering
as they somehow—is it possible?—

become more beautiful, as if the cold’s shock
rocks their simple, pink world,

spurring metamorphosis beyond
the binaries of winter-spring,

bleakness-promise, cocoon-
wing. They move into a third space

hospitable for another life
more rare, more raw.