Poetry - November, 2004

Poetry

Praise prepositions

Going down the list: after against among
around, I think how trivial they are,
how low their self-esteem,
how like safety pins they merely connect.
Prepositions are the paid help we’re not allowed
to talk to, the maids in black uniforms
who pass hors d’oeuvres at parties.
Or rather, if we could laugh together,
they would be the forbidden joy
leaping like sparks between us.
Who can survive without connection?
All winter, green waits for the sun
to wake it from its nap and so we say
sunlight lies on the grass.
Even the simplest jar connects—jar
under moonlight, on counter, jar in water.
Imagine prepositions in the Valley of Dry Bones
stitching the femur to the heel,
the heel to the foot bone. And afterwards,
they got up to dance. Between, beside, within
may yet keep the chins and breasts
from tumbling off Picasso’s women.
If I could, I would make prepositions the stars
of a book, like the luminary traveling the navy sky
the night sweet Jesus lay in his cradle,
pulling the nameless, devious kings
toward Bethlehem, and us behind them,
Poetry

The agonie

Philosophers have measur’d mountains,
Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with a staffe to heav’n, and traced fountains:
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sinne and Love.

Who would know Sinne, let him repair
Unto Mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skinne, his garments bloudie be.
Sinne is that presse and vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruell food through ev’ry vein.

Who knows not Love, let him assay
And taste that juice, which on the crosse a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love in that liquour sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as bloud; but I, as wine.

Poetry

Search engines

We’re here to gather evidence, to find
The DNA—or at least to lift the finger-
prints of Deity. A treasure hunt
With clues craftily concealed, but there
Nevertheless. If clouds drifting dreamily
Across the moon’s congested face won’t do,
Or waves that threaten passion in the
Higher sense, beyond a Category
Five, make you shrug, consider numbers,
Counting to infinity. Boot up
Your Apple, and see how many zeroes it
Can prophesy. Click a remote: note
How mice, unwired, can still point
To sites unmentioned in the manual.
Divide three into ten, and claim eternity.
Poetry

Object lessons: Glue

“It did what I wanted it to do,”
said my sister of the carefully composed
little book of old family photographs
she’d arranged with sheer vellum slips
between the pages,
“so they could see through to the old
faces, maybe circle them, write things,
mostly gather round close and remember
because the book is small.”
Their knees would almost
have to touch.
Poetry

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.
Poetry

Barnet Knoll Brook

      —in a time of war

Here’s what’s to be read, or part of it,
in mud by the brook after last night’s storm—
storm that scrawled itself on sky
in color and light, here then gone.

It was matchless. Thus I won’t even try
to speak of such flash. No, back to the mud,
to the scrimshaw of busiest rodents—voles,
mice—and the paired stabs of weasel,

and the lissome trail of a gaunt angleworm,
who lies there still, just under the brush,
carnal pink or its tail showing out.
Small gnats make a veil on my face.

I choose not even to wave them away.
But for my mild heavings of chest
after the climb to this upland water,
the still of the place is absolute,

and the fullness too: the water striders
in the pool above the fortuitous dam
of sticks and debris are water striders
up and down: they stand on themselves

on the surface reflection, foot to foot.
How many grains of sand in the world?
So one of my daughters wanted to know
in her infancy. “A gadzillion,” I’d say.

“I love you more than that,” she’d answer.
What have I ever done to earn blessing?
I choose to believe in grace, believe
the splendors of the universe

lie not in my eye but rather subsume me,
small drab me, one part of so many.
Beauty not in my eye but including my eye,
which tonight may see the cavalcade

of star and planet or cloud again, gravid.
When I consider all this, What is man,
that thou art mindful of him? and the son
of man, that thou visitest him? It seems right

to have knelt, although one kneels by habit
by this brook. The pinespills sunk to its streamstones
would take my lifetime to tally up,
and more would keep coming, please God, keep coming.























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.