Poetry - December, 2006

Poetry

Poetry

      There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

                                    –Mark Strand

What shall I do with this book I love
so much I’d like to eat it? Meeting
the poet at a reading, I would cast
my eyes down. I’d walk behind him,
not stepping on his shadow. If he told me
I was half blind, I might lose sight
in both my eyes. At home, everything
I write becomes infected with his
wildness: for instance, this, which
I never planned, which has no ending.

Where shall I put the book, so full of life
my car could barely stick to the Expressway?
When my cold encyclopedias sense
its goofy brilliance, they climb and hang
on one another like Chinese gymnasts.
I must subtract to make a place
for the book to live. I lift out histories,
then other listless volumes. I toss my boring
files, erase the answering machine,
renounce the desk, computer, pens.

Only the illumination of St. John stays.
In my study’s scooped-out heart
I wait beside the book, which glows
with light borrowed from some distant star.
I look at St. John’s face. He gazes from
his throne, his eyes blazing with love
and understanding. Tongues of flame
play over him, sent from the Source
who is both arsonist and fireman,
and in his right hand, he holds a book.





Poetry

Kingdom come

So she took a look back,
what did it matter?
Her city ablaze,
righteous anger engulfing it.

Would you look if you knew
the Holy Just One
chose your city to demolish—
you children, your friends,

even people you hated?
Wouldn’t their voices cry out
to haunt if you didn’t?

But this is not a story
of redemption,
no gopher wood ark, no rainbow.
This is a story of flood

without water, of ruin,
not forgiveness.
This wife turned her head
to look back and became

the very thing
tears are made of;
crystal, salt,
regret.









Poetry

Rondel: Beside water at nightfall

So near to evening, thoughts against thought will run,
    unsettled in currents: fish, aswim down suddened light.
    Upon the bank, I’ve slowed to discern the turn toward night
in the songs of birds. Even water itself is by dark undone.

Trees and road, hill and distance—all coaxed into one.
    Stern shapelessness, I cannot place myself. Wouldn’t know right
so near to evening. Thoughts against thought will run,
    unsettled in currents: fish, aswim down suddened light.

like this, then—boat that drifts for the shore, done
    with floating blind. At the edge of my vision, a white
    something. Sand bar? Rock break? There’s not enough sight
to say. Will I learn at last how much such doubts have won?
So near to evening, thoughts against thought will run.







Poetry

What ever happened to the Baby Jesus?

Near chamomile and rosebud potpourri
a pair of porcelain camels rest, bit players
glazed and unaware of this faux Nativity.
Peasant extras lift their silent, pleasing prayers
with seasonal adoration. None harbors
signs of panic: no goats or stable maids,
no wise trio, those dazzled star readers
bearing gifts of frankincense and myrrh.
Not the puzzled carpenter from Galilee.
Not the curious shepherds, nor the virgin
exhausted still from her spotless labor.

These figures encircle a barren trough.
Where have you gone, O lost Christ child?
In truth, the Messiah’s size is the stuff
of legend: he’s been abducted. (No Ascension-
Come-Early before the ministry begins)
Not much bigger than a packing peanut,
the babe’s become an object of devotion,
begotten for those tenacious paws’ wild
swatting or mouth that totes the Savior in haste.
We spy the vacancy and know the culprit:
fat Larry, golden pear and roly-poly cat,

that ring-tailed and recidivist felon.
Regular brigand of the infant Son,
he mocks this fragile coffee-table cast.
We joke that his is a holy commission,
converting birthplace to an empty tomb,
Bethlehem yoking the born and risen.
Each time He’s someplace new: laundry room
or water dish. Under chair, in basement,
unknown manger now. And still His grace
and tiny lacquered limbs feel ever present,
embodying their reliquaried space.

Poetry

In Advent

Among the drift of lists across my desk,
this one—“call the cemetery for reservations,”
a narrow room for my body at final rest.

I will ask, is there an open space
somewhere near my mother or brother? Room
for two, perhaps, among the roots of cedars

under the sod and the one who now rolls
over it on his mower, mustache damp
in December fog, his headphones full of love songs.

We’re in the time of waiting for our salvation,
that slow movement toward the final night,
when light is nothing but breath inside

a cave, earth hiding its treasure until
we are ready to receive it. That place
we travel toward like the Magi, weary

and expectant, laying our gifts on the straw.









Poetry

Ave Maria

Why does the angel always hold out a lily?
Is it because she is a lily of a lady;
As lithe and surprising, as pearlescent?
Or because the starring petals trumpet good news?

Or was she essentially being asked
to consider the lilies;
pulling sidereal considerations
down to the lilies of the field?

And these lilies with magenta freckles,
spring-green ribbed where the petals fold,
looking like blood and passion with
their fragrance of spice and memory.

Isn’t looking into their center to glimpse glory;
to spiral to heaven, dew-eyed, dusted
and trailing copper pollen?
Is there any other word but yes?