Poetry

Poetry

The still pilgrim invents dawn

The still pilgrim climbs the Mountain of God.
She somehow has not lost her way.
Her feet find the prints where they have trod.
The sun feels less heavy today.
She holds him in her wind-chapped hands.
She shoulders him like a child.
She hoops him along the basalt sand.
She heaves him high against the sky
where he gilds the field gold.
The pilgrim watches his slow rise—
She loves the shadow show he throws—
salutes the blue and shades her eyes
and turns her back and goes.

Hey, Adam

Give me the green side of that apple,
the tree side, puckery, crisp.
And your mouth, stop sunning it.

Here! Give me a kiss.
On second thought, take it back! When you
domineered the animals, your fingers

useless in fists, I looked the given
in the mouth (your horsing and naming,
your curses). The gist: We’ve both had our due.

The worm’s in us. Yum. And we’re in this
together. The risk: Come. Whet wit
with me. Defy! Deify.

I’m a northerner, shade-grown, tall. I can reach
the top fruit, but no higher. See that Winesap,
King—you name it—up there? Catch

and imagine them huge—logo balloons,
image parades snaking the earth,
peopling the sky.

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.