Poetry - February, 2013


Jesus is nailed to the cross

One year Marie gave up TV for Lent.
If Jesus Christ could bear His cross, then kite
on it three hours so we’d repent,
sacrifice in return was merely right.
I swore off sweets, only to break my fast
with thieved chocolate, watching Lord of the Flies,
a film exposing my black soul. Aghast,
I rushed to my sister’s room for advice.
She was asleep, my parents too. Spilling
from the TV, English schoolboy savages
marched the house, whetted for blood and killing.
I screamed for Jesus. But His ravages
snared Him, like a film, in cruel depiction—
as if it were my own crucifixion.


Knitting in the wild

Douglas Fir campground, October 2012

The pale bits—twigs, fibers,
pine needles—sun-struck,
fall through the lazy air
as if yearning to be embodied in
my knitting, like gold flecks woven into
a ceremonial robe.

Then surprise—a new marvel!
Like a parachutist, a very small beetle
lands on the greeny stitch I have just
passed from left needle to right;
the creature’s burnished carapace
mirrors precisely the loop of glowing,
silky yarn that he has chosen.

When this shawl ends up
warming someone’s shoulders,
will she sense the unexpected—
this glance, this gleam,
this life spark?


The actual you

What are the things I should know about being homeless
That I would never imagine myself? I ask a girl who was
Homeless from age thirteen to age seventeen. You never
Saw a nicer more pleasant neatly dressed kid in your life,
This kid. The only way you can tell who she used to be is
That she has a bunch of steel teeth. Any hint of difficulty,
She says, you move. Move anyways, on general principle.
Any safe spot you find will eventually be found by others.
As for new friends, trust but verify, as some old president
Said. Learn to lie with a totally straight face. Brush teeth!
I still have trouble not lying immediately and defensively.
That’s a problem for me. I got so good at it that it’s tough
To not be good at it anymore. The best way to get by is to
Perform, to not be who you really are, so the actual you is
Not in danger. You can shuck the person you perform like
A snake shucks a skin. Teachers here tell me I ought to be
In theater, I should try out for plays and musicals, but that
Is exactly what I am trying not to be, which is good at not
Being the real me anymore. Does this make sense? You’d
Be a natural, my teachers say, and I have to laugh because
Natural at not being me is who I don’t want to be anymore.


The whole weasel question

Consider the case of a mathematician, in this case
My oldest brother, who is (a) halved by an illness,
(b) stilled completely by it, and (c) reduced to ash.
Trust me, he would be the first to note that finally
He finished his travels at 0.00416666667 of what
He weighed for a long time. I bet then he’d spend
Weeks poking into what else weighed exactly that.
I’d get a terse note with a list in his meticulous ink:
The cardinal on average weighs 0.992 of a pound,
And the long-tailed weasel weighs exactly a pound.
A letter like that is exactly like a zen koan, I think.
It’s as much a door as a statement. Let us consider
That we have all just now received this terse letter.
It sits there grinning on the table next to the coffee.
I don’t know about you, but I am going to dive into
The whole weasel question. We have so little time,
And there’s so much to be discovered. I want to be
Able to be conversant about this the next time I see
My brother. He’ll want to know. He’ll have missed
A lot of time that could have been devoted to these
Things, and someone has to carry the ball, whether
It’s weasels or cardinals or cancer. How mortifying
It will be if he asks me about something, and I have
To say I didn’t pay attention, man, and he will stare
At me with that laser stare and not even have to say,
And what was it you did instead of paying attention?