Poetry - April, 2010

Poetry

What in the wind

This was a gale that formed a fist,
a punch turning into a full kick that almost
sent me flying downhill. The Greek word
translates as “a movement of air.” But this
was karate; I loved the force of it, its full
release and enthusiasm.

In my tedium, I wish I might
keel over when that other spirit blows, or that
that fierce, holy breath would fill me to
almost-bursting, a red balloon
buoyant with air, pressure inside and out,
and no strings attached.

Poetry

Exchange

I am fearfully made and I imagine
the sleek curves of my kidneys and
the round red onion shape of my bladder.
I will never see those parts with their perfect forms,
their elegant overlaps sealed in my skin.
All I know is their transparent function, or its change,
or that blind nerve dance we call pain.

I will never see those long pale ropes that take
my food and turn it to steps or speech. All I know
is the wonder of containing such exchange,
that lets the morning eggs and the noon bread
rise as song in the kitchen, laughter in the back yard,
rise as indignation, care, or grieving,
rise as love or longing or belated thanks.

Poetry

Rubrics

Things go unnoticed around here
while we do the important stuff
the singing praying sermonizing baptizing.
We don’t read the instructions
want to get on with it insert the batteries
push the button watch the screen light up.
Script stage directions steps one two three are all
fine print we think, or don’t until
we find ourselves at home
watching rain soak the garden
and notice that the screen has gone dark.
When is it that we turn to face
the back of the church? Do we stand or sit
at the Psalm and is there anything at all
about bowing as the cross makes its leisurely progress?
What words are to be said
while earth is cast upon the coffin
and who was it after all
who was supposed to meet the body

and go before it to the grave?

Poetry

At Hawkshead

Wee Agnes Sawrey widdow & Dorothy Tyson Spinster do severally make oath yt ye Corps of Margaret Tyson of Gryzedale in the Parish above s’d beeing buryed the first of Aprill 1696 was not put in wrapt wound up or buryed in any shirt sheet shift or shroud mad or mingled with Flax Hemp or any Coffin lined wth cloth or any materiall but what is made of sheep wooll only according to a Late Act of Parliamt made for Burying in Woollen. In witness herof wee the saide Agnes Sawrey & Dorothy Tyson have sett our Hands & Seals. Aprilis, Ano Di 1696.
                —Parish document in St. Michael and All Angels Church,
                   Hawkshead, Cumbria

In Norway when you die,
they clothe you in a gown
of purest white. Egyptians
sucked out organs, layered
presoaked linen strips
around each desiccated limb.
It matters what you wrap a body in.

I am one of the few that walk
the footpaths on the fell today
who put on wool against the sharp October air.
The scattered sheep are unimpressed.
Warming these hills with active tongues,
they are unaware that Parliament,
to buoy the trade, once ruled
that only wool could be the spun
and woven garment of the dead.

Agnes and Dorothy held to the law,
picking softest weave of shift
or sheet or shroud to lay against
the body of their Margaret—
like the Marys in the story,
who laid his body out,
washed and oiled, and put,
wrapt, wound up, and buryèd
each limb in swaddling clothes
to match the ones his little body
wore in Bethlehem—the cloth
he wore to meet with life
and fight with death—
he who newborn slept
among the shepherds
and their silent, woolly sheep.





Poetry

Casting wafers

In the back ward of the Alzheimer unit,
I prepare a table for communion
and drop two wafers on the silver plate
with a quick hand motion—a throw.

Dropping on the tray, two dice
tossed below the foot of the cross
stare back at me with their white face
uncubed, flat, and circled.

A shiver shoots through my spine:
we are soldiers still casting lots
for Jesus’ robe. I stare at the snake eyes
and wonder what I have won.

Two signatures: the sign of white crosses
stamped, nailed an imprinted metaphor
of bread stumbled through my eyes:
the body of Christ passes over my tongue.