Poetry - May, 2012


Not by sight

—railway therapy, Indonesia

The Jakartans offer themselves fully to the tracks,
a row of living crucifixes stretched across the rails.

They spread their arms along one side, sling their necks
back over the steel, and tilt their faces to the sky.

On the other track they prop their ankles, bare feet
pulsating to the low voltage of faraway trains.

They believe the charges emit sparks of insulin, release
the blue current of sleep, liquefy arthritic hands.

Though the signs warn of fines and arrest, they stay.
They stay though their children nap and urinate on the rails.

And when freight trains thunder by on parallel tracks,
wheels just feet from their trembling chests, they press

even further into the steaming metal, believing in a healing
no doctor has proven, no faithful like I have prayed for.


Under cover

We see God in the shape
he shows to us. For some, fire.
For others, holy smoke, oil,
a running river, sheep’s crook,
muscular right arm that holds
against the dark, the dread.

It is the oddity of poets
to not see the world straight on
but at some slant, under the skin,
behind the scrim—a scurry
of leaves, clouds. God speaks
his presence in the wind.

I sensed him even in the ink
warming within the pen before
these words arrived.



The same morning I press my shorn chest
flat against an x-ray machine, my sister
pushes from her body a baby girl.
Praise God, whose hand passes over itself
like river currents as it gives and takes,
pulls one film from the whirring machine
while pushing in a new, unprinted slide.
Praise God for this fearful doubling, over
which I will sometimes weep and curse.
Little breathing at the still whole breast
of my sister, little gold seed of death
awakening as the first sun touches its tendrils.


Psalm 46:5, in which they come for the body

They are coming for the body; a nurse certifies
That who she was is no longer resident in what
She was, selah. They turn out to be one woman.
Her name is Helene. Selah. She eases what was
A woman onto a gurney. A daughter assists her.
Though the waters roar and be troubled, we will
Not fear, though the mountains vanish in the sea.
Selah. Would you like your mother to be facing
Up or down? Up, please, selah. She zips the bag.
She did believe, yes she did, selah, she received
The glories of the Lord each and every day with
Her eyes which remained hawkish until her final
Breath. Is that so? says Helene, selah. Transplant
Candidates, then, certainly. Sign here . . . and here.
I will drive very carefully, absolutely. His mercy
Upon her soul, selah. She trusted in thee. Refuge
She will discover in thee, and her husband’s arm,
And her mother’s kiss, and all calamities are past,
Selah, and housekeeping will come for the sheets.
God is in the midst of her, and God shall help her.
There is a river; the waters of which have no end;
Amen and then again amen. In the lobby a father
Is reading the sports section while his child gulps
The biggest soda I have ever seen on this blessed
Wild and weary earth; amen and then again amen.