Poetry - August, 2008

Poetry

Small prayer in a hard wind

As through a long-abandoned half-standing house
Only someone lost could find,

Which, with its paneless windows and sagging crossbeams,
Its hundred crevices in which a hundred creatures hoard and nest,

Seems both ghost of the life that happened there
And living spirit of this wasted place,

Wind seeks and sings every wound in the wood
That is open enough to receive it,

Shatter me God into my thousand sounds . . .







Poetry

Visiting hours

A friend of theirs had been festering
like an old sandwich, rotting
a little before disposal. They had to come,
but it got to where they held their breath
before they stepped inside the room.
The wife remembered how anything
with mayonnaise had to be refrigerated.

Even a sack lunch in an office was suspect
if stored under the desk for a morning:
egg salad was the worst.
The husband recalled a tiny door
in the stone wall of an English church,
stage right from the modest altar—a place
for lepers to take communion. Only part

of a soul could pass, and precious
little of the smell. The wife and husband
talked with their old friend like this, backing
off from his suppurations, unwilling to think,
This is our body, unwilling to think,
Dust to dust, slipping their elements of decay
into the outer cold and darkness.



Poetry

When my daughter asks me why

Maggie, her grandparents’ dog,
can’t come with us to the zoo,
we say she’s not feeling well
and try to leave it at that,
bring up tigers and polar bears,
offer Twizzlers and juice,
but all she wants is the dog,
asks if we gave her medicine,
when will she come back
so we can fix her with
a screwdriver, today’s new word,
so many new sounds,
so much new these days
we can’t keep track
of all the people and places
she knows, and the names
of things, reminding us
we cannot save her
from the word, or save
ourselves from having to
explain what dead means,
as if we’ve waded through
all we were taught
and emerged on one side
or the other, unable
to dismiss or believe
there’s one true voice
that could reveal a pattern
we’ve never picked up on
in the sunlight and trees,
some force behind why
that could lead us beyond
our parents’ loving euphemisms,
beyond we simply don’t know.
Poetry

Two Annes

                           (For Hutchinson and Bradstreet)

One took the colony by the heels, slapping its flank
until it issued a broad cry of rage. Tall and forbidding,
she waxed both sharp and sweet, flying in the angry
face of magistrates, chafing the tender hearts
of the unregenerate gently with her tireless voice.
She coaxed as women labored in their cramped beds of pain.

The other fashioned quills and parsed her poems in clean
white sheets. Still, her clumsy child shamed her,
walking on stumbling feet, as real a “monstrous birth”
as the first Anne’s tissue of stubborn clots. What was it
she tried to say, poet in a wife’s starched linen,
submitting to her tasks and thanking God without
conviction for each bitter loss? Sarah, Hagar
in exile, she too never went back; the stormy Atlantic
roiled, keeping her margins, her heart rising
within her and rising, rising again.