Poetry

Poetry

Triptych for Taran's broken heart

            Plow

At the first cut the earth does not thank the blade.
Is it rape then?—the bite of steel, its point
incalculably harder than dirt, its mark
the hiss of death, the metallic taste of sorrow.
And what does the earth cry, its tangle of root
a living shroud rent by force? Memory
longs to preserve what has already grown.
The furrow is wet with tears, brown heart exposed,
underworld of worms and slugs prey to birds,
dreamless of deep new roots, of shade:
the palm tree of Deborah, towering crown of green.

            Harrow

The ravaging is not yet complete.
Jeremiah’s voice rages against Yahweh’s
violation, at first petulant and then violent
in return. It has always been so.
Sixty discs slice the remaining sod,
merciless, efficient: vestiges of cover
criss-crossed into oblivion. Blind stalks
mourn the loss of the sun, overturned
into darkness, food for the coming reign.
There is a quiet loss, the peace of death—
stillness in the wake of wrath.

            Seed

The thunder god is always the god
of heaven and of death. Rain and death
both bring life, black earth signifying
a bed, a womb for golden seeds dropped
from the mouth of the god, for a cause
not one’s own. Is there a more tender bliss
than the sweet swelling, the burst seed?
Tendril roots uncoil, the seedling unfurls—
moon-pale shoots beneath green and gold.
The seed takes possession, the violated
earth sings, the rich strains reach heaven.













Heart

Now there is only the heart—
oiled and rosy
as a hoof—and within its wooded walls
lives an evergreen:
on each bough, the jeweled gestures
of birds in winter.

There is the pain of isolation,
thus any snowfall becomes solace
layering each needle, each
feather so slowly
that both are gradually disfigured, made
similar, then hidden entirely.





Miriam

    Her house was a three year old’s drawing
of a house—two windows on the second floor
with two below to flank the door.
On the porch a pair of supermarket tube
and webbing chairs in case a guest or two
dropped by plus one where she could lean way back,
a coverlet across her knees when fall
was in the air or she felt ill.

    The shades she always kept exactly so,
the ones above just low
enough to hide her on her way to bed,
the ones below up high to let
some daylight in. Now that the house is empty
as a drum, they’re every whichway
like an old drunk’s stare,
and somebody’s pinched the supermarket chairs.

    Sweet Jesus, forgive me all the days I spotted
her in one of them and slunk behind the trees
across the street. A caller on her porch
for all to see she would have rated
with her trip to England on a plane,
or winning first prize for her grapenut pie,
or the day that she retired from the Inn
and they gave her a purple orchid on a pin.

    Or having some boy ask her to dance,
or being voted president of her class,
or some spring morning with her room all warm
and sunlit waking up in Spencer Tracy’s arms.









Neighbor

You’ve gone AWOL and only
Jesus can bring you back, not this
poem that I began with the lie
that we can overhear your laughter,
not hubris or tears and rain.
You are an ocean who’s left
the nest of earth I thought you’d promised
not to. The sky who folded up
your blue tent and took off.

What remained, they packed off
to flame. Before the day we sat
to make your legend in the church,
I could almost feel your curious, dare-
devil spirit peel itself from the wall
of death like a cartoon character
and bop out to explore. So tell me
what you learned. Is it possible
to breathe astral, heavenly air?

And tell me. Was it worth it?—
all that sturm und drang you pitched
against our brother Death who’d rather
work in secret—swelling, hemorrhage,
collision of blood cells, collusion
over charts, snarled traffic of the body,
roads under construction, accident,
the rampage of doctors to prevent
the clever kleptomaniac from winning
as long as possible. He could only
steal your body. Which I miss, it’s true,
oh god, true. The screen door you
banged every afternoon, now silent.







All Eve's Children

It was not meant as exclusionary,
the way the boy
laid his arm along the pew,
not touching her back
but cupping the bowl of his hand
over the girl’s shoulder,
exactly the way
his father encircled his mother
in decorous Sunday embrace.

Near in age and adoring,
his forsaken younger sister
saw the story of all Eve’s children,
an enacted parable of man leaving
father and mother to cling to wife,
heard Scylla and Charybdis’ seductive hymn,
felt the tension of two great loves,
perceived in a piercing moment
ties tighter than the bonds of blood.