Forty new O Antiphons
Look at this trunk, burnt hollow,
keyholed from side to side.
Yet, in spite of a few dead limbs,
a crown of leaves pushes against
Last night we walked along the river path.
The full moon rose and shone its pale light
across the water. It did not feel like night
but, rather, evening or morning or something
in between, blue and smoky, like the last
set of a Jazz Man’s song. What could go wrong
on a night like that? The sick & suffering
lay a few hundred yards from where we walked,
the hospital windows just out of view.
For now the world was just me and you.
We strolled slowly, eyed the sky and talked
of stars, how far they were and how long
Dear Sir or Madame, begins my scribble,
“Too stiff,” says I, which ends that quibble.
New page—Old Friend! I start to scratch,
but soon cross out. What words can match
this Word I am replying to
sent by a Love that I once knew?
You may not hear from me that much,
but today I thought I’d get in touch . . .
And when I get the words just right,
my signature’s nearly in sight,
I blot the hopes leaked from the pen,
reset the margins, try again.
My crumpled drafts carpet the floor—
Some days I notice angels everywhere—
light glancing through windows, flying
through stained glass as if through air.
A human ear shaped like a wing,
curiously curving to admit a flare
of sound, tells me of angels listening
to my listening, even as I sing.
Somewhere between our soil and his sun,
between the puddles we drive through
and the oceans he tunes, somewhere
between flickering streetlights and stars,
caves and galaxies, the music of the spheres
and the half notes we play
we think we caught him, calling him away
from the immanence that surrounds him to heed
our cries and sew back the fabric of our lives,
like some button on reason’s foolscap.
We believe the fervor of our voices will gain
the favor he should crown us with,
Good books line my shelves, but I don’t read them.
Three sentences in and my mind wanders off
like a toddler in search of a snack. I stuff
her full of junk food—hours of CNN,
the Cuomo Boys, the president who pretends
to be the president while the rest of us
look away. Other offal she devours,
Culture Vulture, the New York Times, hours
after hours. She is starved and getting fat
on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Chat.
She Zooms all day on an empty tank.
Who do I blame for this, who do I thank
Just last November
I laid you down
in that thicket
of snow, a quiet
safe place for you
breadcrumbs in pond
water, the minnows
biting. I will always
remember you whole,
stiffly painted. They covered
your birthmark, mistaking it
for a scar. It was a wound
the Lord gave. You are
a wound the Lord gave.
I caught the gleam of her silver bracelet
as she stroked her son’s back in church
that Sunday the missionary came.
The gesture invited a burst of sunlight
that poured through the stained glass
and over our shoulders, down the aisles,
swam through our ribs to reach the world’s night side.
Dawn on the plain, and gray sky.
The grasses bend in light wind,
cold enough that breath is smoke,
and hands are cold. Though skin
on legs and arms is chilled,
they stand still, a countless number,
at least three hundred.