Poetry - May, 2013


The farm wife finds her necklace in the junk drawer

That’s what’s left of it—
      six safety pins
from a chain I once wore
      beneath my dress to Saylor’s
School and Forks Mennonite
      Church. Who’d suspect
vanity in a girl so shy
      she seldom spoke? I liked
how each pin clicked shut
      to link to the next
and how they encircled me
      like a charm of daisies
I counted round and
      round. Some would have said
that was a sin. The same
      folks who’d pocket a shiny
buckeye against the ache
      of rheumatism.
I took my necklace off
      when I joined my life
with Pete’s. I needed pins
      for diapers, school notes,
lost buttons, loose straps—
only the quick clasp
      of hidden silver fixed.



If the tulip had bloomed any sooner,
it would be small, I imagine, or pale.
The work of green is the major thing,
and what is that work but rest
beneath the sun? Sure, cells scoot,
bearing the sugars like good news,
but the main task is reception.

You cannot say we should receive
the sun all at once, instantly develop,
nor call the gladiolus inferior for failing
to overtake the tulip.
Nature wouldn’t like it that way.
To bless us is to bid us wait.

The strengths subsequent to dependence
and delays reflect the feeding rays,
not an egoistic show.
This is why they are a sight to behold—
both fragile and bold.



He was up in the choir loft, tuning his pipes
of the old century’s wind-pump organ; I heard
taps and bangs on metal, strange half-throated off-
notes, near-notes, puffs, sighs and cough-blasts;

and then he was playing—Bach, Buxtehude, Peters—
it was a young Jehovah’s making, a bright hands-full
soaring over oceans of soul-light, filling the chill of the chapel
with a lush of breathing. Now, in my everyday listening,

for the poem,the music, I am Mary before the ash-soft fall
of the messenger, I am John after the disappearance
beyond the clouds; I listen to the silence beyond the thuck
and thudding of a day’s importance, to hear the hum that figures

a countryside of darkness, the sounds of April
whispering over into May, the thunder of apple blossoms
dropping from the tree; I listen for the tune that my days make
in the works of love, in the notes’ approximations to a symphony.


Sea of Galilee: Aerial view

From a satellite the Sea of Galilee
looks like my heart, but dark. Jesus

walked beside it one day. He said,
“come I will return the blood

to the empty space.” They say dark
matter makes up most of this place,

which neither emits, nor absorbs light.
From this height the green moss around

the sea masks the fact of mostly desert.
The mountains to the east must be

my lungs. I breathe in the nothing that is
actually everything. Moss from the sea,

full of fish and leaves and other debris
might make its way to me on the jet stream

anchor itself in my esophagus. Jesus told me
to fish in this sea. Cast my net, take up

my boat, because I might bring someone
up out of the water. Someone to fill my heart

with fish and sand. Blood and bark.


Excavating the sky


I would excavate the sky of clouds
to know You, Yahweh. Yahweh,

my nails are black with soil;
I am rummaging for Your holy light.

Yahweh, thunder, storm-deity,
I no longer fear You. I have spoken

the unspeakable name: Yahweh.


Once, You placed sweet thorns
in my leg and in my groin

to make me weak, to bring me
near to You. Now, as an open fridge

in an abandoned lot,
my earth is empty of Your Spirit. Now,

Your silence is absurd as wreckage
and my body is empty of Your Spirit.


Each morning, I rise like
the wrestling Jacob, running

through parking lots. I pray,
“Break-open my counting brain;

make me Your Holiest fool.
What blessed psych ward

must they leadeth me to . . .”


Aquinas, broken, in the Lux Aeterna;
Blake seeing God through his window;
Ginsberg in his East Village flat,
trapping the Archangel of the Soul.

I walk into my future; no vision in my pocket.


But this winter night, my feet touch
chilled cement in honor

of firm gravity. Near the porch,
a girl invites me to the economy

of tenderness. I run a bath where
dreams rise like lavender steam

above my skull. In my room,
I punch in letters, mixing words

to bring out sparks. And it is You, Yahweh.


A parable on blindness

My father awoke blind at age seven,
casualty of a viral infection.
With his sight restored six weeks later,
lessons had been etched
in his vision. When his children
were born, he added names as rich
as chocolate over cream:
Joy, the eldest, was his Piggy;
Laurene he called Boosie;
Duckle Dunn he dubbed me.

Sometimes I thought we were as feeble
as Chinese maidens, foot-bound
to home, yet when he broke
his ankle, he filled his days
as my playmate, trimming paper
dolls to please me.
He didn’t intend to cripple,
spent himself in ways
my mother couldn’t imagine.

What later disabled his dreams,
birthed his despair?
Phone calls to beg orders
for the oysters he peddled
after his business failed?
Brothers who betrayed
by siphoning customers?
How I learned to resent his failures:
the overdue rent, unpaid bills.
Only grief when he died
could stir me to see.