Poetry - September, 2013

Poetry

Poem for a son going off to college

Looking at photographs of the kids. One of them is going
To college tomorrow. I used to wear that kid like a jacket.
He fell asleep instantly given the slightest chance. School,
The car, even once during a time-out at a basketball game,
Although to be fair he was the point guard and had played
The whole first half and been double-teamed. He could be
Laughing at something and you’d turn away to see a hawk
Or his lissome mom and when you turned back he was out.
But tomorrow he’s in the top bunk in a room far away. We
Will leave the back porch light on for him out of habit and
In the morning we will both notice that it’s still on and one
Of us will cry right into the coffee beans and the other will
Remember that it felt like all the poems we mean when we
Say words like dad and son and love when I slung that boy
Over one shoulder or another or carried him amidships like
A sack of rice or best of all dangling him by his feet so that
All the nickels he put in his pockets for just this eventuality
Poured down like something else we do not have words for.

Poetry

Gone to grace

—in memory of the Reverend Malcolm Grobe (1931–2013)

Before Malcolm’s funeral got started,
I stood talking with John the blacksmith, who told me
He’d been spending some pretty hard hours
With a pair of two-year-old Friesian mares
Who’d never had their feet trimmed.
In a flash, I thought of a feral donkey
In Ireland, back thirty years,

Poor animal, lowly mount of the Christ,
Hobbling on hooves long as breadloaves.
This had nothing whatever to do with Malcolm,
But somehow it did, as it happened.
Malcolm had once pronounced me as husband.
A wonder. I’d gotten the girl,
More than the clumsy hero can fathom

When it crops up in sappy movies.
So Malcolm is part of a long, joyful marriage,
And the family it made, including
The children he baptized. One reading
Came from a funny note
He’d left for the pastor, which said in part:
“Non-judgment day is coming,

Beware.” I could virtually feel Malcolm’s voice,
Insisting as ever that God
Was too big to conform to anyone’s will.
There was no one so evil or ill
To have strayed beyond the Lord’s grace, he claimed.
He was frumpy and funny but mostly
Just good. An accomplished athlete as well,

Improbably fierce on the courts,
Although he loved his every opponent,
He’d wanted his ashes interred
In a tennis-ball can. It might seem absurd
That I conjured horse or burro,
But as we mourners chuckled and wept,
I imagined I heard soft words,
Malcolm’s, and knew his hand would have stroked

Those neglected, suffering creatures.
That funeral day, for all who were there,
Was so painful I’d almost swear
It hurt them to stand on God’s green earth.
For my part at least I wished
I could somehow walk for a while on air.

Poetry

Sonnet

if suffering doesn’t bring about
resurrection the longing inherent
to suffering will do it (intuit
a spark a fire intuit Christ non-
existent for three days not simply
somewhere else in heaven or hell but
in a cave behind a stone a body
without the electricity of a soul
the empty zeros of the abyss
being filled up by G-d knows what
those cold moments utterly void
of love in the living room or the kitchen
the loneliness inherent to this
haplessness of all varieties of war

Poetry

Sonnet

joyous G-d with a diphthong for a heart
speaking guttural utterances
and finding some soil to dig into
calls man up like a whirlwind from the dust
to name the animals and watch the rain
from within the cleft of a sheltered plane
like all reality entering in
to a room at once even the windows
are unable to stay shut and the grass
all around bowing down in the breeze lies
plastered to the ground laughing all the while
“and what my love do you want to call this
cloud of dust” a hippopotamus
Adam says jokingly though the name sticks