Poetry

Poetry

My father and the dark

Ten inches of snow this week,
gradual, over four days,
so that we didn’t realize

until we tried to walk
the tow path along the canal
how deep it was,

and I think again how quickly
this first trimester’s gone
a season already, reaching

around to rub her round belly,
its waters stirred this month
by tiny fingers and toes,

knowing our baby
has earlobes now, and genitals,
hearing again the racing

heart in the doctor’s office,
wishing my father, who sat up
at night like this to smoke,

could be here,
so that I could show him
how I sing into the belly

when she lies back down,
and could ask him
about the dark and its lack of answers,

dark he slumped in for years
with his beer and news radio,
dark he drove to work in

and came home in,
lived on those last few months
through tubes and drugs,

dark he lives in now,
or does not,
dark our baby swims from tonight,

in the waters where time begins,
adding cells and muscle and bone
all the hard way to our lives.





















Candles waking

When I get up in the night to stifle
a cough with hot tea, and make my way
through the black terrain of the dining room,

there are candles waking in the dark,
open eyes that never sleep:
the blue glow of digital minutes

winking under the television,
the coffee maker, the microwave.
A laptop beams its single pulse,

and the mouse beside it arches
over the red flame of a beating heart.
The rat scratching away in the attic

suddenly seems superfluous,
the stars outside the sliding door
a vestigial redundancy.

When I wake in the night and cross
to the greening numerals upon the stove,
I voyage within my own fixed sphere,

my lonely festival of lights.











Millipede

Holy Spirit: do not descend as a dove.
Better to return as a millipede hidden
beneath decaying bark than anything
that can soar. Ponder the incarnational
worth of Pneumodesmus Newmani,
the oldest known form of life on land,
linking air breathing with the surname
of the Scottish bus driver and amateur
paleontologist who chiseled its fossil
from harbor rocks north of Stonehaven,
observing through his field lens small
openings in its exoskeleton used
for inspiration, meaning it moved its
many legs on dry ground, not seabed.
Or consider this descendent of Pneumo,
younger by four hundred million years,
curled for self-preservation on my palm,
a hard button of red legs whorled inward,
circled by dark armor plate, both of us
breathing air while we wait for a sign
that it is safe to resume whatever it was
we were scurrying to do prior to this
disruption of our forward flow to make
a theological point: Of what use are
metaphors of flight for things with feet?

Baptism by Rembrandt's prints

His fascination with light begins
in a lantern held by a shepherd,
over a little family against inky velvet.
Then light shifts; Christ becomes core.
When he preaches rays fall like song on
some earnest, captivated faces, some
distracted by other conversations,
and a dog facing the wrong way.

From his raised hand light spills
like waterfall over Lazarus and
lifts him, pale and twisted
into that luminous aura.
Even on the cross, the thin
etched lines leave an ivory
bowl around him, gather
from dimness the only dawn.

The limp corpse with extended
ribs still radiates. Its slide starts
at a peasant face, guided into arms
that catch the contagious light,
leaking onto the stocky official,
plumply supervising procedures.
Visual poems carved on copperplate:
I stood rinsed in that light.



Creek-side prayer

By the rusty bridge-rail
over a creek where red-winged
blackbirds congregated on cattails,
my grandfather cut the engine
every Sunday morning
to hear bullfrogs pour a chorus.

Clad in his gray suit
with the starched, plain collar,
he’d take a long swig
from the jug of a morning
so robust it swelled
to the sky’s broad rim.

His daughters prodded him
to hurry, but the psalm
that moved him to prayer
rose from a wayward creek
the color of molasses,
it came from a country
so warm it made him shiver.