Poetry

Poetry

A bride with brass

Today’s remarkable vision: a woman in her bridal dress
Walking purposefully along the street. This was enough
Of an amazing sight by itself, but the determined stride,
The intent look, her I am going someplace, and I am not
Worrying about how I look, even though I know you are
All looking attitude—that got me. I mean, of course you
Wonder where she was going, and where she came from,
And why she is alone, and if this is a just little aberrance
In an otherwise tightly plotted day, or if she was hustling
To catch the bus, and where is the entourage you usually
See flanking a bride, the cheerful best friends, the joyous
But slightly jealous sisters although they would never say
Such a thing even to each other after a few bottles of beer
At the reception, or even perhaps the groom, where is he?
I was caught in traffic and sped right along and only later
Did I think should I have stopped, and offered her a ride?
I mean, what if she was hustling to the actual ceremony?
What if her Ford broke down and the groom was forlorn?
But I have a lovely bride of my own, and I am on the one
Bride per groom plan, which I renew every morning with
A deep and amazed glee, so I hope the bride on the street
Made it to wherever it was she was headed, or whomever.
The whomever is a lucky soul, seems to me—a bride who
Has the panache to stroll along unconcernedly even as she
Knows full well folks are gaping; that’s a bride with brass.

The discipline of gratitude

I am told to be grateful
as I wake each morning
wrapped in the unfolding blanket of dawn,
shake off the moon, dying stars,
and taste the beige-gray breath
of incipient day.

Grateful to whom or what?
To the rain that coats the pavement
with its timid sheen, the birds’ silence
in the settling damp, the bodies
of neighbors rising, reluctant,
in boxes of houses that line the street
with woe and weariness?

Let me drink strong coffee,
toast my bread with dailiness,
uncurl myself to a day lit only
by a hidden sun. I might have been
rich or famous, cured cancer,
saved the world. For now,
let me watch butter
melt as a golden flower.

Sunrise in the underworld

The birds are singing their feathers off,
the grass is on its way to being
greener, so green it’s almost blinding,
and the sun has lit the top of the hill
in front of the hill where the sun is rising.
You see, I live in an underworld,
it’s beautiful and strange, but you must
be careful in an underworld—
it’s not for everyone, the light
is funny, the shadows are almost backwards;
in the morning and then at dusk, it’s easy
to think I’m living upside down.
Sometimes I do, regrettably,
but that’s a human thing, and being
in a kind of underworld is good
for understanding the human thing.
It’s also, weirdly, good for God,
it puts you in the mind of God.
I mean, some mornings you cannot stop
yourself from looking around and being
convinced there is a God who made
the world and I am living in it.
There must be something good in that.
One of my duties is to speak
of joy—in the face of everything
against it. I’m speaking of it now.

The song sparrow

Walked out to the car this morning to find a small brown
Bird deceased on the windshield. A young song sparrow,
Neither naked gawky nestling nor chesty feathered elder;
A sort of a teenager, I guess. Cause of death not instantly
Evident, nor did I spend time determining its gender; no,
My brain got stuck on the teenager part. It’s so fearsome,
Being a teenager. Everything is ten times louder. They’re
Braver and stupider than any three older people; they are
Three people, most of the time. This is discombobulating
In the extreme. But we have no sympathy for them. We’d
Prefer to forget we were them; we deny that we ever were.
You know we do. If we wrote our histories we would skip
From twelve to twenty, from generally bucolic childhood,
At least fitfully, at least while finding refuge from trouble,
To beginner older idiocy, which itself takes a decade or so.
We get so impatient with teenagers. We want them to leap
Past stupid. But stupid is a great teacher, isn’t it? Flailing
At least teaches you what alleys to avoid, if at all possible.
We have no mercy on them but they are in a thunderstorm,
And probably it seems like it will never end, and we whine
That they are wet yet again even after we advised as re wet.
And how wet we were too, brothers and sisters, how moist
And soaked and sopping and bedraggled we were, not even
Fully feathered at the time, trying to figure out how to soar,
And where to soar, and who, if anyone, would soar with us;
And if we were blessed we had parents, maybe parents who
Loved us even, but so often they just stood and sermonized
As we fell out of the nest, frightened and thrilled and lonely.

Starry Solomon’s plume

(Maianthemum stellatum)

Starry, starry Solomon’s plume,
your constellations float

in clusters lowly wise,
zig-zagging asterisks of light,

reminding thick and shaggy cedars,
though they breach the nether skies,

that even smallest things may be
arrayed on earth as they are in heaven.

—North Cascades National Park