Poetry

Poetry

Brother Mars

Hubble pockets light years, eons, sees eye
   to eye with dust, a small drop of water.
   NASA’s robot stalks tiptoe, a cat’s paw
on the prowl to report if there is life,
beeps back a monument of stone and ice,
   an unresponsive mountain in orbit.
   Delicate antennae translate the laws
of physics into a mourner’s sigh.

But the frozen droplet, like the sea
   to a drowning man, whirls its rueful hoard
of thanks deferred, of love unvoiced, the pleas
of miracles before the eyes, the mystery
   of the heart, the mind’s Post-it notes: Praise the Lord,
Carpe Diem and Memento Mori.

This will be a sign for you

It might have been an aspen, a fairer specimen
than the ghoulish leather hands of oak-fall
that wind-whip a crackling plague on my lawn.

Lime and canary, it bore the bitten beginning
of a bruise, a brownish canker of dissolution.
I froze, calculating this token of mid-autumn,

and with nothing to match its cool fruity smoothness,
when you said, here daddy, I said, thanks buddy.
See you at three for the last soccer game of the year.



Estancada*

The air in my barrio
bulges with ash, the remains
of dead poets, dried-out painters,
and sick-sounding musicians. Skeletons
of talento that never found breath.

I sit, estancada, in this hole,
condemnation filling me.
My dying ideas crinkle and shuffle
but no one, not even the flea
on a cat’s hairy back, wants them.

Dreams peak in my mind as dusty dirges,
polvo floating down Figueroa to settle,
abandoned. In a one-room apartment
the homeless grow and light fires for the warmth
of words I will never write and they will never hear.




*estancada—stuck, bogged down, stagnating







All Saints communion

—All Saints Episcopal Church,
Virginia Beach, April 1996
Having accepted from one palsied priest the cool,
the lucent wafer, having dipped it duly in the cup,
I pressed that sweet enormity fast against my tongue,
where on its sudden dissolution, I received a taste
of whose I was. I rose again and found my place.

As I knelt and tried to pray, I heard a little differently
the words the priest intoned as he continued offering
what passed for bread among high Protestants. His words:
the body of Christ, repeated as he set that emblem
into each pair of outstretched hands. My eyes were shut,

so each communicant returning down the aisle became
something of a shadow illustration of the words. In that
fraught moment, they became as well absorbed into the vast
array of witnesses, whose cloud invisibly attended
our sacramental blurring of the edge that keeps us separate.