Poetry - October, 2004

Poetry

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.



Poetry

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.

Poetry

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.



Poetry

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







Poetry

Laying on of hands

Only with dogs and children
and sometimes a woman weeping
on a bus station bench, hands
folded across her face like a veil.

The stranger passing
can only bring himself to stand
beside her, allow his hand
to settle on her shoulder, fingertips
touching, then lifting, then lighting
poised, muscles taut
for flight at the first ripple.

Only in a public place:
soldiers too sober to notice
a plain woman on a bench.
Widows on pensions, touring America,
passes clutched deep in pants’ pockets.
College kids lost in travel diaries.

Only the janitor, himself invisible as khaki,
sees as he kneels beside the bench
to save his back retrieving
the paper coffee cup—its handles
the halves of a valentine,
unfolding wings,

a woman rising
in a man’s overcoat, wiping her eyes
with a wadded hankie and laughing
at nothing . . . nothing at all.