Poetry

Poetry

Rachel to her midwife

On the barren road you speak my name,
offer me a drink. That morning
at the well Jacob rolled the stone away as
if it were straw. What a man

would do for me then. He told me
“I saw God face to face, yet my life
was spared.” And now you say
“Your son comes,” but your hands

struggle inside me as the owl cries,
and I know this earth will take everything
from me, even the name I give him. Sister,
there is not enough salt in the Dead

Sea for all out tears. Our bodies, destroyed
temples. We are exiles, all of us. I give you
my name for your daughters and their girls
to come, but remember this: a man’s favor

is a heavy offering, it crafts one day into
seven, then multiplies the years. Slams a veil
between sisters. In the end, when you hear
your name called, all you long for is home.







The empty tomb

      John 20

That woman was the first word spoken
must have taken even the angels by surprise,

who were used to bringing their fiery glory
down to the clanging swords of battlefields,

to priests tugging at their beards
in lamentation, to voices thundering in temples

and muscles hefting stones from mountaintops,
not to a trembling woman whose hair clung

to her neck with tears, who for a moment
held the souls of the nations like a basket of figs.









Daughter

I don’t remember. I was twelve, not yet
aware of how a parent dies before
a child’s bewilderment. I lay beset
by fever, lost to life. I will not bore

you reconstructing how they called my name
and wept. They were perhaps more deeply stricken
than some, my father’s leadership a claim
on God’s beneficence. I’ve forgotten—

I don’t remember anger. What stays
with me is waking to voices about
my bed, one voice clear in the haze
of wonder, and Father’s joyous shout.

So long ago now! I live bound by that surprise,
and long to hear again that voice “Daughter, arise."





Easter week

Speaking of Houdini and escape,
of Spring, this Spring, there being
no General or Eternal Spring,

yesterday I saw a blue pickup
pull out from a stoplight with eight trees
swaying and gesturing, sentenced to a life

they never chose. We know the cruelty
of mathematics, the bottom line,
how it can cancel the exactitude of longing.

How bereavement can sound like
the plunking of a piano tuner through an open window,
notes trying to break free

but staked to the tonic scale like greyhounds
tethered to a doghouse
in the killing heat of summer.

As the truck accelerates, the wind
ruffles the trees’ feathers. They could be five year olds
in an Easter pageant, trying to slough off wings

and other baggage. They are that filled with
the Holy Ghost. Oh, the odd beauty of green!
Oh the rumor of another life!











The vigil

How did he do it?
Open those good hands,
spread his five fingers wide
to receive the blunt nails?
Hear the crack of bone,
delicate wingwork of phalanx and carpal?
Hang the weight of his whole self
from those soft clay doves
and trust them to hold?
To hold?

They flutter light.
Brush against the good wood.
His mother’s eye catches,
watches as she used to watch
beside her dreaming child
those white birds of paradise
gently reach
for some thing lost,
some thing left behind,
a kingdom he saw about to come.