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.

Heeling

It’s the coat I notice first, several sizes
too big, and blue as the sea, an ocean
to drown in, and clearly not hers. It was,
I guessed, his, just two months dead, and
she, his wife for scarcely a year, stays
afloat, barely, marooned in his clothes, in
anything that keeps him close, the scent
and touch of cloth to skin. But it’s the shoes
that pierce my heart—gunboats, we called
them when I was a child—and they do look
like boats, his New Balance sneakers that
carry her, heeling, over sharp breaking waves.

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.



Tree

It is foolish
to let a young redwood
grow next to a house.

Even in this
one lifetime,
you will have to choose.

That great calm being,
this clutter of soup pots and books—

Already the first branch-tips brush at the window.
Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.