Brancacci Chapel

Young Masaccio died before
his paint had dried, but
his time-battered fresco tells all:
how man in the midst of figs and wine
reaches for the whole banquet
and loses all but the crumbs,
which taste like poison.
Their sin is fresh; the doors of Paradise
slam while heel still crosses the threshold,
driven out by the upraised sword
of a crimson-winged messenger of God
who points their way to a world of dust.
His flowing garment billows
around their nakedness.
They walk toward us, look like us.
His woe is inward, head bowed.
His hands cover darkened eyes;
from his mouth, muffled sobs.
Yet he strides forward
to face the wilderness
which yet he does not comprehend.
She does. Her foreshortened face, skull-like,
gazes up into the looming abyss.
Eyes strokes of gloom,
from her mouth a scream of agony
for what she sees ahead:
needles passing in dirty rooms,
children shrunk to skeletons,
men strapped with bombs.

After the fact

I know you by the space
you leave empty.

I draw lines in the air
where the roof used to be.

I wait for you, Lord,
like a mailbox for a letter.

The grass still wonders
how the ground got there.

November funeral

(In memoriam, Roger Lundin, 1949–2015)

Outside the year’s first snow means crashes, spin-
outs, brutal shock to unprotected skin,
a harbinger of winter’s dreary night.

Inside is peace as through translucent panes
we view a world grown still where silence reigns
and trees are finely etched in tender light.

Deep under brutal, surging waves of grief
wild rushing waters pound with no relief
the unprotected bark of life capsized.

Yet deeper down there comes a still small voice,
“I am with you, in river’s rage rejoice
that all baptized with me in death shall rise.”

                    Advent 2015

Dull reader

Dear reader, when your readers seem dull
as dusk, be patient and recall
that place you must have skimmed in Paul
a dozen times, and never noticed at all.


Spring in the garden edge, a periwinkle maze—
O Lord of spill and swell.       I will not disappoint
you now, he says; I’ve honed your cell’s repairs.

The human ware is slippery in our hands; an ankle
twists, breaks on a granite ledge; joint
failure of a stone and heel, the puddled stairs . . .

And so, God digs into his resurrection—
a funny rib and tooth, a good and solid shoulder:
the hidden measure of largesse.

Imagine, in a yard, another bone to spare; imagine—
long and grassy. For grasses err in favor
of excess . . .       Ah, isn’t that the Word, excess?   

    Not just repaired: pampered, festooned, unspent.
    A risen body, Lord, our flesh has never dreamt.