Poetry

Poetry

Reunion

She’s on life support. Racing to get there,
his Jaguar fishtails on the frozen highway.
She was a beauty and elusive as the future,
his mother, usually traveling on his birthday.

He felt he couldn’t fly, had to touch dirt
every inch of the way. To fly would be
to unpeel too fast the onion of his hurt.

She’d call. He wouldn’t answer. He was busy.

Now it’s ice he notices, gray molars
locking to dark bluffs, the way ice locks his heart
in steely winter logic. Then sun shimmers
on ice, the lock breaks, and love flows. Relief,
oh melting! as he steers toward his mother.

The syllogism that still might end in grief.







Little hall

The labyrinth here, as well!
A canvas floor
copied from Chartres, brought through
the open door,

unfolds its whorl (and stains,
old wax gone gray
with candle soot or soles
that walk to pray).

Long formal curves begin
a common pace;
my shoeless feet take off
through living space . . .

So many rooms—for me—
a vast hotel—
eternity’s
reserved a little hall.





The pastor's wife considers purgatory

My Pittsburgh son haunts thrift shops,
collects old rosaries, hangs them on nails
down cellar, near his bathroom door.

Buried with their best crystal rosaries,
crocheted among their fingers,
all those old ladies trouble me
when I consider how their every-day
rosaries were taken by their daughters
to be entombed in gold, pasteboard boxes,

until years later when the daughters
were readying for their move
to Florida (for the sake of the mover’s bill)
lightened their load by donating the darker
contents of their dresser drawers to Goodwill.



De-icing the plane

A small black truck huddles
behind one wing, buried in a shroud

of smoke. Exhaust fumes? fire?
No. A cloud of detergent

billows over the plane. When every suitcase
is stowed, every seat belt buckled,

and the runways plowed, the black truck
sidles up again, the airport’s winter “familiar.”

The silver bird, with floury faces ovalled
on its side, slithers into a blizzard, hugely blind.

No mincing steps, no Lot’s wife here.
One hesitation could mean death

ablaze on a snowy superhighway. Everyone
prays, “Up, up,” to the engine’s crescendo,

like sparrows sudsed in a birdbath
just before flight.













Horatian salutation

Reader, here is no know-nothing
muddle-mouth grinning till his time’s up,
       nor this month’s charismatic hotshot—
                 let’s be glad for that.
Nor is it time for deeper, troubled things,
     the heaviness of swollen hands
that knit our sweaters or underfed
teenagers who look like my six year old,
sweet in his warm bed.
                               Shall I go on, then, or end it?

It’s not even an occasion for lyrical
greatness (who can bear or hear it?), or honoring
the slain and scars of veterans
                (how to sustain it?) or excursions
on hermeneutical wings along the Word.
Or less estimable, more complicated forms
                                            of happiness:
breathless days when we became better
                 than ourselves,
                                as if awaking from a dream.

Let other songs bless or curse with big decibels.
I leave this business, such as it is,
to higher-minded poets or tireless annalists.

I sing simply of Love, of grace, and those graces
who are your friends, warm with life and giving
               you grief, playfully—these late evenings in December.
And I sing of such beautiful people, even closer,
safe and asleep nearby, here and there, her
                             and her and him, so pleasing
and peace be with them,
and you too, Reader, you too.