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

House of wax

Some call us yesterday’s bees,
working old honeycomb. Are we
only circling, a phrizz of amber,
The call to be golden crescendos
within, clothed in stone, a kind
of falling, over and over. “Sink
deeper,” is one whisper,
all winter, earth like bronze
and scores of husks—the exiled,
shattered. Workers know this:
honey splits the great hum,
come spring. What is a life
without lavender, rag-tag
monarda, or the silky cosmos?—
myriad shivers of wing,
months of rehearsing
hunger, bowing down
in the warm dark, the pregnant
dust, with its little sails.

The bridegroom comes

He fell in love with her jade eyes
searching for him on the river bank

a few miles above Mobile
at her father’s fishing camp.

He spoke to her through
Gulf breezes and gray-dawn gulls

and lavished prophecies on her
the way tides speak of the deep.

Anointing her words, he poured
ancient Seraphic chants and

refrains, without rhyme, into her
voice as joyful as timbrels at betrothals.

Next to her curl-edged Bible
she kept her cigarettes, lit lamps

waiting in the moonless, salty night
ready when he called her back

across the river raptured with stars,
their flasks overflowing with oil.

Psalm 137 for Noah

Come darling, sit by my side and weep.
I have no lyre, no melodious voice or chant.
I meditate on the Zion I could never grant you.
My son, my roe deer, my rock-rent stream.            
My honeysuckle, my salt, my golden spear.
Forgive me your birth in this strange land.
I wanted your infant kisses, your fists clasped
round my neck. I craved you, though you were born
in the wake of my illness, my dim prognosis.
I was selfish: I willed you this woe, this world.
You inherited exile for my sake.

What people gave me one night in rural coastal Oregon after I told them stories in a lovely tiny library

A stack of brownies as big as bricks for my children.
A small paper bowl of red and orange salmonberries.
An antler from a spike buck, perhaps three years old,
Perhaps a black-tailed deer, perhaps now gargantuan.
Cranberry syrup made up the coast about eight miles.
Handshakes of all sorts. A photograph; their one son,
Just deceased; we just thought that you should have it.
Blackberry jam, homemade. Honey, homemade. Salal
Sprigs, elderberry sprigs. Canned smoked salmon and
Tuna, caught about two miles to the west of where we
Stood in the library. A baby girl hoisted up so she and
I could look each other in the eye. She sneezed. Books
To scrawl upon. Huckleberry leaves. A cougar’s tooth,
Gleaming. A man gripped me by the shoulder and said
Nothing. His was a remarkably expressive grip. People
Give you things without any things in their hands. You
Know what I mean. They are eloquent without needing
To speak. We hardly ever talk about this. I shuffled off
With my arms full. I had been slathered by the glorious
And only a little of it was in the basket I tucked into my
Car. People were hungry for something. I knew what it
Was and it wasn’t me; but I could tell stories that could
Point to what it is we are all starving for. We work and
Yearn and struggle and dream for it. Occasionally when
We gather together, if there is humility, if there is story,
If there is honesty, then there is just enough food for all.