Poetry

Poetry

Jacob's Ladder

At first, I saw their faces, close together,
And in their distance they were like the weather,
The satisfaction found in abstract thought,
The feeling of the sunlight when it’s caught.

Then they moved closer, barefoot on the ladder,
And less transparent as they moved toward matter.
And so it was that they became more human,
Their otherness unfolded to illumine

How I could be. Inside my human body,
I tried to understand, but was not ready.
I slept. I watched the swaying of the rungs,
Heard whispering of nighttime on their tongues—

Then nothing but the planets in their voices.
The space they left was filled with human choices.

Georgia Baptists, Mercer settle on separation terms

Close to an hour more of light
since December’s solstice stood
the calendar on edge, balancing
my dwindling days between the here
and the hereafter.
This late January thaw
has turned thoughts to spring again,
those Holland-ordered bulbs I bedded
late into November already showing
green above the gray and crusted soil.
You’d think, with seventy winters now
beneath my crust, that I’d know better,
learn to stay hunkered warm against those drifts
that still must slump against the garage door.
Yet an old, insistent summoning,
wiser than winter’s experts,
sends me back to the seed catalogs,
makes me check trowel, fork and leaf mold,
bends my head to bloom and blossoms yet unseen
but lending never-ending fragrance
to every lifeless, frigid scene.



Ordinary time

These midwinter days that bridge
Epiphany to Lent
can seem anything but ordinary
as the steady waxing light reflects
across old December’s glaze of ice,
a biting wind hisses across
the stark bones of the bracken,
and treetops signal sparse
against a sky expecting still
more snow before nightfall.
Scarlet and speckled birds
announce themselves about
the brightness of the holly,
spray from the creek creates
bright frosted chandeliers among
the tangled overhanging branches,
and dusk draws down its spangling
of stars so crystalline they lift the eye—
heart too—toward a principality
that banishes any vestige
of routine predictability.
Ordinariness exists—if at all—
within the desiccated soul,
too distracted by its fearful self
to notice.

What ever happened to the Baby Jesus?

Near chamomile and rosebud potpourri
a pair of porcelain camels rest, bit players
glazed and unaware of this faux Nativity.
Peasant extras lift their silent, pleasing prayers
with seasonal adoration. None harbors
signs of panic: no goats or stable maids,
no wise trio, those dazzled star readers
bearing gifts of frankincense and myrrh.
Not the puzzled carpenter from Galilee.
Not the curious shepherds, nor the virgin
exhausted still from her spotless labor.

These figures encircle a barren trough.
Where have you gone, O lost Christ child?
In truth, the Messiah’s size is the stuff
of legend: he’s been abducted. (No Ascension-
Come-Early before the ministry begins)
Not much bigger than a packing peanut,
the babe’s become an object of devotion,
begotten for those tenacious paws’ wild
swatting or mouth that totes the Savior in haste.
We spy the vacancy and know the culprit:
fat Larry, golden pear and roly-poly cat,

that ring-tailed and recidivist felon.
Regular brigand of the infant Son,
he mocks this fragile coffee-table cast.
We joke that his is a holy commission,
converting birthplace to an empty tomb,
Bethlehem yoking the born and risen.
Each time He’s someplace new: laundry room
or water dish. Under chair, in basement,
unknown manger now. And still His grace
and tiny lacquered limbs feel ever present,
embodying their reliquaried space.

Poetry

      There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

                                    –Mark Strand

What shall I do with this book I love
so much I’d like to eat it? Meeting
the poet at a reading, I would cast
my eyes down. I’d walk behind him,
not stepping on his shadow. If he told me
I was half blind, I might lose sight
in both my eyes. At home, everything
I write becomes infected with his
wildness: for instance, this, which
I never planned, which has no ending.

Where shall I put the book, so full of life
my car could barely stick to the Expressway?
When my cold encyclopedias sense
its goofy brilliance, they climb and hang
on one another like Chinese gymnasts.
I must subtract to make a place
for the book to live. I lift out histories,
then other listless volumes. I toss my boring
files, erase the answering machine,
renounce the desk, computer, pens.

Only the illumination of St. John stays.
In my study’s scooped-out heart
I wait beside the book, which glows
with light borrowed from some distant star.
I look at St. John’s face. He gazes from
his throne, his eyes blazing with love
and understanding. Tongues of flame
play over him, sent from the Source
who is both arsonist and fireman,
and in his right hand, he holds a book.