Poetry

Poetry

Geology

Place a stone in the palm of your hand;
it lies there, inert, nothing but itself.
It revels in its stoniness, its solidity.
It gathers light, rises from the plains,
a mountain in miniature, notches and ridges
carved by weather, strata and stria,
the pressure of time, the rough places,
planed. A climber might try for the pinnacle,
looking for toeholds in cracks and crevasses.
The way up is never easy. The air thins.
From the peak, the horizon falls away.
Borders are meaningless. The stone rests in your hand.
It sings its one long song. Something about eternity.
Something about the sea.



What will be

           You may sense it in the call of a Canada goose in flight   a
longing strong enough to carry an entire flock to their destination
           You may feel it in the grumble of a distant storm   that dark
dissatisfaction at what is   in comparison with what will be
           The people who should never let us down   let us down   The
cabin roof groans with the weight of so much snow   The stairs in
the old farmhouse complain with every footstep   even with the
memory of feet that move no longer   The branches of an enormous
oak moan in the high wind
           You many hear it in the spirituals nurtured in the cotton fields
of the deep south   a deep sorrow at temporal hopelessness distilled
into hope for beyond   Comin’ for to carry me home
           You may think you merely imagine it in the whistle of a train
as it rumbles through a midnight crossing   but the tracks through
BC’s mountains were laid with the blood of Chinese navvies   the
sweat of abandoned dreams   & the boxcars rolling through the
prairies   during the depression   carried the last hope of the
unemployed   Don’t imagine that that wail   has nothing to do with
human grief
           Sometimes our wounds heal completely   sometimes they
leave a scar   A woman learns of cancer in her breast   a man finds
his heart is failing   We fall to our knees for a miracle   & are
startled when an answer seems to come   a taste of what will be
           Hear the wind in the cavity where the siding is loose   Hear it
banging against the wall   Sometimes our wounds don’t heal at all
           We fall to our knees   but the sky grows grey   featureless &
silent   We long for what we had   what we almost had    what will be
           You may sense it in the stillness of a beaver pond   or in the
rush over Niagara
           You may see it in the sunflower   pushing through the soil
reaching for the sky   for the sun   When we most identify with this
world   we are least content



Mirror

as through a glass darkly
meant a window to my child’s eyes,
probably at night, or perhaps it
was the frown our mothers told
us God might make permanent
so we’d better cut it out,
that dark look we got sent
to our rooms for, but when
mirror was finally identified,
like looking glass someone explained,
I understood face to face
only was that God’s face
lurking behind mine as I peered
at the medicine chest in the morning
or would we have eyes
at all if we made it to heaven,
drowning like moths in a sea of light.



Autumnal diary

For just this day I thank you, Lord—this day
when in a new and lonely empty place
appeared a friend with whom I could retrace
through forty years an undeserved array
of other moments shared, and so survey
as back across a pathless hillside face
a hidden net of tangled trails where grace
had always, always canopied the way.
The bits of furniture he left behind
will be of course in constant, welcome use
but they will also serve as types that bind
with unseen ligaments of love my loose
days here to many others far apart
in space and time but very near in heart.

Lot’s daughters

Genesis 19

I

At first—a leering mob circling
the house, jeering, dancing naked,
taunting the guests with their sex—
the daughters thought their father brave
to step outside, lock the door behind him,
stretch his arms out in protection.

But then, even he offered them up,
a sacrifice to protect strangers.
Their father. The only
“righteous man” in a city destined for flames,
“Do with them what you like.
But don’t do anything to these men.”

Then their eyes were like Isaac’s
below the knife,
the ram not yet in the bush,
the blade gleaming.

II

What dread dug in the daughters’
betrayed hearts before the rioters,
struck blind, stumbled, fell down,
unable to find the door,
Lot tugged back safely to the house?

And later,
when they left that life behind,
eyes straight toward Zoar,
did they hear their mother turning,
her stories sliced off mid-sentence?

What kept their gaze fixed?
Their father’s almost-sacrifice
or the intervention?