Poetry

Poetry

Eye on the sparrow

                                 —for Bruce Richards

Tiny, almost an anti-weight,
if it blew off my palm in the wind I might not even notice.
Dashing against the back porch glass,
the bird fell onto logs I’d stacked there, or rather heaped.
I loaded our wood more neatly out in the shed
but this jumble of lumber reminded me
my life lacked grace.

Wind didn’t kill the bird but misprision.
My oldest daughter had just given birth to twins,
and I was thinking of them of course
when I saw the sparrow. We’re in a hopeful season.
I’d like to imagine new beginnings,
not ponder for instance the self-styled Christian Warriors
I heard about lately, devoted to killing police,

to launching Armageddon.
They claim these are days of Antichrist,
and I could almost agree—for other reasons.
Thou shalt not murder is among the Commandments,
I’d remind the warriors,
all nine of whom live in Michigan,
a place near hell in this near Depression.

Days are bad worldwide,
though in gospel God’s eye takes in the smallest sparrow.
Vile hooligans among us storm
over having a president who’s other than white.
We’re all human, and none of us saved,
and—as the old Greek said—
it might have been best if we’d never been born.

And yet to imagine a world devoid of hope
is too easy and lazy, I decide.
Outside the odors of spring fly in on the wind:
damp mulch, old ice, wet mud and sap.
The sugar-makers hope for a few more gallons,
hope for a few more years, to be with my children.
I open the stove, sweep the bird in.









Spring

It’s distracting, everything’s changing wherever I look;
an electric blue patch of squill nearly makes me crash,
and all the twigs are, suddenly, beaded with leaf buds,
while the yellowness of the willows is brightening hourly.
I park so I can watch, I jump out of the car
and dance along, I’m beaming like a lunatic,
and really, you’d think I’d be used to it by now,
I’ve seen it happening over fifty times
in many different places; I should know
that as soon as these words are written, they’ll be old;
the leaf buds will be emerald. You’d think
I’d give up trying to catch the delicate
insinuation of the air, which can’t be caught;
the words collapse, they tumble and mesh together
breezily interlaced in a tangle of green,
the yellow caravel entirely madrigal,
and every jonquil ravishment squeezed fresh.

Olin Lake

Behind us, the channel half-clogged
by bullhead lilies slips back
into the smoke of yellow tamaracks
clouding the shore and we glide
on the silk of a dream so deep, herring
break the surface from eighty feet below.

I am this hand skimming the water.
I am these eyes dazzled by light.

I am you whom I loved
before the seas were parted.

I am in the creak of wood,
old harmony of oars.





"This is my blood of the covenant"

There is no damping of betrayal’s guilt,
The little deeds of virtue cannot serve;
They niggle at the structures time has built,
Unwilling to admit what they deserve.
Even the grasping at the words of grace:
"Come unto me, and I will give you rest,”
Become the tempter’s taunt, thrown in your face,
Counting betrayals of this fair behest.
And still it comes, this welcome to the feast,
Albeit shadowed with the guilt and sin;
Strange Love reminds that this is freedom’s test,
And given so, the grace must follow in.
So there is damping of betrayal’s guilt,
On Calvary, when Covenant blood was spilt.

Exchange

I am fearfully made and I imagine
the sleek curves of my kidneys and
the round red onion shape of my bladder.
I will never see those parts with their perfect forms,
their elegant overlaps sealed in my skin.
All I know is their transparent function, or its change,
or that blind nerve dance we call pain.

I will never see those long pale ropes that take
my food and turn it to steps or speech. All I know
is the wonder of containing such exchange,
that lets the morning eggs and the noon bread
rise as song in the kitchen, laughter in the back yard,
rise as indignation, care, or grieving,
rise as love or longing or belated thanks.