Poetry - November, 2009

Poetry

Forgiveness, second verse

                "Nevertheless man, though in honor, does not remain;
                He is like the beasts that perish . . ." –Ps. 49:12

Another fall, another shift
of cloud. One hawk, two

hawks sift the patient or impatient
grace of crows:

who owns the skyward lamppost, who has
air rights to overfly the trees.

Down the road, a stone's throw
from their motley argument, the asphalt

where death's gray squirrel body
lapsed from bloodied substance

to the white signature of
nothingness

a year, two years ago

this day records in dust
in the hollowed crucible

where mortality erased itself
a newborn chuff of grass.

















Poetry

Jesus climbing trees

Let this, too, be a source of praise,
that trees meet in the park like six-
winged seraphim, stooping low enough
for a boy to find foothold
and swing himself to a crooked seat.

This act of grasping something greater,
knowing that one's weight won't break
the boughs, that weakness allows mastery.
The sudden slip that bloodies the thigh,
the husky bark rasping one's shin,
then the elation of hanging by the knees,
trembling, maybe, but trusting the limb.

Surely Jesus, too, climbed trees in Galilee,
frightening Mary by exceeding her grasp,
then flinging his body from the upper branches
and returning to earth, triumphant and flushed.

He must have enjoyed as a boy the enabling flaw,
must have loved the flesh He knew would fail,
trailing for hours the ascents of his nimble creatures:
the ring-tailed raccoon, the unseen lizard,
the silent beetle, armored and green.





Poetry

Prayer

I’ve heard of scuba divers in frozen lakes
with tow lines up to snow machines, idling in the sun.

These divers turn upside down, inflate their vests
to press their feet tight against the underbelly of the ice.

With that false tug of gravity in place, the illusion is complete
and they can signal for a pull from up above.

They skate, I’ve heard, across the bottom of the ice and then,
like me, follow their breath bubbles down: To fall up through
a hole into the sky.





Poetry

Christ Pantokrator

Chilandari (Athos), 13th-century Byzantine icon



Our Lord of Flaked Paint freckling
sallow skin and emerald robes,

Our Lord of Mudpuddle Eyes
that look away in weary irritation,

no one can touch your loneliness,
God cut off from God.

You who flamed a world into being
with only words, stood

in the midst of bickering men,
fig trees dying, and sparrows

falling to the ground.
Were there days when heat and dust,

the smell of stale crowds
pushing you from place to place,

asking for one more resurrection,
food for thousands

or withered hands healed,
made you want to slash the canvas,

fly back to heaven and start fresh
on some new world far away?

Days where your head ached
from sun on sand and water,

where your throat scraped raw
from shouting Blessed are . . . to men

who would go home, forget, and return
to nail you to a piece of wood?

No one understood your stories,
could grasp that you would trade

legions of angels
for nine ungrateful lepers,

the friend who turned you in,
and never enough sleep.

Our Lord of Omnipotent Frustration
with your halo like a setting sun,

your hand is raised as if to bless me,
though I can’t imagine why.





































Poetry

Necessities

My house burned down a month ago, so today
I walked to the bookstore and bought myself
a dictionary, a Bible, and a calendar.

What else does one need, really? For Malvolio,
in that dark cell, it was candle, paper, and ink.
That was his sacred trinity by which he could
be sane again—or at least be proven so.

Me, I need to make sure of the meanings
of words, then to invest them with holiness,
and then to know when I might use them
(or utilize them, as an administrator would say).

On Monday, February 2, I plan to employ perspicacious.
Then, on Easter, resurrection is scheduled
for its grand debut. And so on. I’m saving horror
for Halloween, and thanksgiving for Thanksgiving.

Among poets of old, this was known as decorum.
Proper words in proper places. On the anniversary
of the fire, I will simply say, damn.