Poetry

Poetry

Cousin Quartet

Years ago, my mother sang in a quartet
with her sister Lorraine and their two cousins.
The Cousin Quartet, it was called.
I just asked her about it tonight, as she lay dying.

“The funny thing was,” she said,
“we always stood with our backs to a window.
And someone was always pouring sand.”

I asked my aunt about these things;
she shook her head. And so we gather
evidence for the fading music
of the mind, the light behind us.
And someone is always pouring sand.







Friday

I am imagining the soldier
who drove the nails,
clambering around or across
the body, straddling and stretching
to reach the hands,
trying to avoid seeing
the face and eyes,
ignoring the eternal life line
dividing the palms
from fingers down to wrists,
glimpsing the lips
moving silently,
mouthing words not meant
for ears to hear;
And I’m wondering
how many keepers of reliquaries
claim to own those nails,
or perhaps even the letter home
written by the nailer
or some other soldier ordered
later to do his duty
and pull them out.

Late teaching



       (Mark 12:1-12)

Time’s Visitor feels time upon his head.
Tuesday of Holy Week. Sunday’s parade.
Monday’s prophetic Temple escapade.
And three days hence “beloved son” is dead.
(This was the designation Mark had heard
From Peter’s lips: “Christ said ‘beloved son.’”)
Now, since his earthly race is nearly done,
No calembour must cloud Messiah’s word.
So we require no fancy exegesis,
Creation’s gifts are here; the Covenant;
Moses; the prophets; foul sin’s great affront;
Pater absconditus, Father of Jesus.
He knew the issue of these words, so clear,
He even knew the time of chanticleer.







A word and a calling

He rose again. His face was black and bruised.
The underground famine had gnawed its gloss.
Where I have been, you could not live to tell.
First, his women returned, and then his friends.
They reached to press their fingers to his scar.
Do not touch me, he scolded crossly, cold
as Christ. Instead, they stroked the air, feeling
by degree for what had changed. But new moods
bloomed from his skin and from his bristle.
He spit upon the ground and then he cursed.
He did not walk towards the light, he walked
away. And the lock-jaw mouth of the grave
stayed agape, misgiving. As if it did
not know: Dead does not mean dead forever.



Full Crow Moon

After a while, one starts thinking in that language,
dreaming in that language, as well as speaking in that
language
, and the behavior becomes different.
                                                            —J. J. Jameson

Wind cannot change the dark, late March,
                                                            when the strip of soil
along my fence goes soft, ready for seed.
From morning sky, a promise of heaviness.
Clouds curl like smoke, cigarettes you ask for
                                                            the day they fly you,
bound, to Dedham. So I plant orange flowers, and yellow,
whose petals trap sunlight, beacons lining the walk
from garage to house. In my dream,
                                                      you tell me

you have one more thing to do
before you can come back: prune trees before sap rises,    you say,
no pain, no ooze, the firs sleep

beyond memory. From my angle of repose, do I see
                                                         a branch blown upright
or a hawk at rest in his hunt, moon melting
layers of gold on new grass? In an orange hard hat
you swing the cherry picker. The bandit raccoon
                                                            crosses a network
of roofs yard to yard. In the alley, the grinder lops wood
into sawdust. “As long as I go to heaven,
that’s all what counts”—your answer to my fear
                                                           of awakening

to my heart chained to a wall.
Meanwhile, the storm comes slate-grey while monarchs    weave
among unbloomed sunflowers.