Poetry

Poetry

And afterward, repenting

Wasn’t it Augustine who said, evil is matter
out of place? He kisses his love
as he pivots from the brothel gate,
his ardent heart already gritty
with guilt. I imagine the big A
trying to shake sin from himself
as I haul our red rug out and shake it.
Dear God, what we track in, how sin sifts
like fine silt into our deepest grooves!
And once inside, the dirt forgets
that it’s our backyard. We keep tracking
the outside in, sweeping it out again.

Or that’s what I get from The Confessions.
How love, like soil, is out of place for, maybe,
half its orbit. How sinning and repentance follow
one another like all the circles on this fickle
earth, rain taken up by clouds, then falling
on us again. Maples spinning whiffs
that grow to seedlings. Children begetting
children. And every insult you bestow
whirring like graying underwear
in some dryer of regret.

Way back in Christianity’s kindergarten,
Augustine had it figured out. He guessed
our remorse and longing as he closed
the brothel door, seeing a woman
gaze at the sooty outline on her white sheet
of a tall blacksmith the morning after.




Places I have rested

God saw everything that he made, and indeed, it was very good. . . .
And God rested on the seventh day. Genesis 1:31

I can rest any place, dear friend,
although I have my preferences, lairs

much visited. I rest in Seamus Heaney,
bog lover, prodigal who remembers home,

chaste as the pope in a pub, language
lush crowned king. In that miser

Emily Dickinson, who counts the night’s
small coins to see no word is overspent,

each berry pinched until it bleeds.
In Robert Hass soliloquizing on

swans, cats and blackberries,
caressing vowels for the long embrace.

In Die Meistersinger—six hours
of Germanic glory—a lot of culture

in sausage, beer, bony knees,
lederhosen and busty maids.

In Joe Turner, who invented light,
splashed it across the channel ships.

—I never knew the sun could breathe.
But I rest best in wild canaries

outside my monastery window, tiny
fallen suns, frantic out of orbit, flashing

a wilder yellow in search of their gods.























Caught music

Aloft because chaos dances, elastic,
flowering. Generous, how impulse jumps—

kept lively. Melody nudges open—prospector,
questioning. Remember summer?

Tallying us, vireos, wings x-rayed yellow,
zeroed along bare cliffs. Drawn even from

graceless hollows—imagine—juncos, katydids,
luscious mango noons. Our passions

quickened. Rondos, serpentine: the unsung,
voiced with xylophones. Yodels. Zithers.







Incarnation

Suppose I scooped the whole sky in my hand,
I couldn’t hold it. Yet hearing a goldfinch,
I feel, well, yes, that tiny song might clench
the whole primordial rumpus of the wind.

I wonder if she felt the fearful flame
fly into her womb? What did she hear?
Or maybe when God enters time,
he’s quiet. Is the child in the manger
meek so He, who fills all place, won’t scare
us?
              After my mother’s death, I stood in darkness,
bereft and tiny on an ocean pier,
a spent coin. Night opened its purse
and flung me up, expanding toward the stars.

From what I know, I reason in reverse.



The exact likeness of grief

Swinging a pitching wedge, my father lofts
Seven golf balls over my mother’s grave.
To spare the grass, he hits from the shoulder,
Picking them clean from the thin lie of dirt.

It’s fifty yards, I’m guessing, to the woods
Where all but one of seven disappear
In yardage he can manage, length to spare,
At eighty-eight, his knees beyond repair.

He limps to her grave site, his love an arc
That ends among trees. The flowers he’s picked
Follow him in my hands; he turns the club
Upside down and uses it as a cane.

“Some day you’ll know,” my father says, meaning
His knees, and then again, “Some day you’ll know,”
Meaning this trip to a grave, this choosing
Of flowers, orange ones I cannot name.

My father, the prophet, bends to the vase
Of wilted stems. My father, who’s warned me,
“You’ll see” a thousand times, lifts the fresh buds
From my hands, steadies himself on my arm.