REPORT: MARCH 8, 2022, 6:30 A.M. I don’t yet know the news from afar. Here, the backyard is a sheet of ice. In the low spot in the drive, the gravel has washed away, leaving a narrow ditch. Before sunrise, the sky is gray and yellow. All the undones of autumn poke through the grubby snow. A rabbit scrounges for seed under the bird feeder. The dog looks out the window and begins to scream at a squirrel. Coffee’s good. The north wind is rising.
tough sleeve bag wave half fire
WHAT WE CARRY
Each of us carries a bag, a tough bag,
filled with the weight of our times and years.
Each of us is half-dead these days. We wave
to one another across the firewall.
We wave, and blink our eyes. For each is still
alive, one sleeve rolled up, scrubbing along
however we can, lugging our bags,
bearing our bit of the impossible load.
Is it too late to invent America?
While the sky outside turned mauve,
Kushner’s Belize said, “I hate America. . . .
You come to room 1013 over at the hospital. .
I’ll show you America.
Terminal, crazy and mean.”
In a city rife with AIDS,
every day he did his tasks.
Compassion isn’t what you think.
Nobody knows what Jesus wrote
in the sand, but the men dropped their stones
and crept away, one by one.
No one is without sin
and it’s a commonplace to hate in others
our own grimmest angels.
I hate people who aren’t compassionate.
America has never been great
and we’ve never had a decent metaphor.
From the beginning, the pot didn’t hold us all—
why should we stew and amalgamate?
How about a braid—not of hair, but of water—
slow river moving over a delta,
living streams carrying their histories,
interlacing, winding toward one sea.
THE TRICKSTER IS STILL AROUND
Not Loki or Enki,
not Coyote who stole fire
or Wakjunkaga who made
himself some women’s parts
and gave birth to three sons.
This one carries his tiny penis
in a jumbo jet. His wives
and daughters are plastic dolls,
his sons the undead.
He eats honor, shits coal.
His houses are built of bones.
Make no mistake:
somewhere under our nice
we want to be like him—
possess without limit,
rule without shame.
He shows us, uncovers us.
Unless we change our lives,
he will never go away.
WITHOUT EVENT—A ZUIHITSU AGAIN
~with thanks to Ray for showing me the form
Our son sent a photo of our grandson at his pre-school graduation ceremony. He’s sitting in the backseat of the car wearing a cardboard hat with “2020” painted on in glitter. He looks so happy and proud. I’ve heard there are juniors at the High School here who want to do a drive-in graduation next year, because it is so much more “personal.”
I have seen—has the world seen?—the photo of a black grandfather carrying a wounded white racist to safety. ‘I’m protecting our kids,” he said. Take up your cross and follow me.
I don’t have Big Girl Underpants—mine are all the same—so this morning I put on my Big Girl Lipstick and brushed my hair behind my ears and took the dog for a walk again.
In the late 1880s, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a poem in honor of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez. This is how it ends:
. . . . . .while there went/ Those years and years by of world without event/ That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.
The prayer beads I carry in the pocket of my jeans are mostly wooden relics of my old Camp Fire Girl days. Four onyx beads. Two pewter suns salvaged from broken earrings. A tiny diary key. And an onyx cross, maybe half an inch long.
Ever since that first Gulf War I’ve had doubts about intercessory prayer. What about all those people who don’t get prayed for except in a generic way (Dear God, bless all the people in the world.)? I pray in a generic way these days. May all beings be free from suffering. At least that reminds me that I’m not alone, which may be the whole point.
As I walked this morning, I noticed a tiger swallow-tail fluttering along the roadside, parallel to my path. She seemed to be looking for flowers, which are fairly scarce along that shady stretch. She ignored a patch of spindly buttercups, landed finally on a plant I didn’t recognize, and began feeding on what I would hardly call flowers, just nubs of pale greenish white, hanging in clusters at the ends of the leaves.
The people were tired
of being held down,
tired of the collusion
between the occupying power
and the religious power
too prudent—or too timid—
to stand with them and declare
enough is enough.
They’d heard him bless
the poor, the hungry,
the mourners, the persecuted.
They’d heard him curse
the rich, the sated,
the scoffers, the praised.
So when he rode into town
on a borrowed donkey,
the common people–
the ordinary people–called out
Blessing and Peace and Glory! and
Save us, please. Save us!
The powers were alarmed
and tried to silence the people.
And what did he reply?
Turn then, if you would,
to Luke 19: 40-41
and read what he said.
And read what happened next.
LOCATION OF THE MUSE
She comes and goes? Or he?
Better: They come and go, the Muse.
Some mornings They wakes me
with Their laughter, leads me
down the road singing.
Some mornings They’re in, oh. . .
California, maybe. . . fighting
over water. Or in Poland, painting
rainbows around the head
of Their sister and brother. I don’t think
They ever goes to the white house
or congress, though it’s likely
they thrives on the Mall
among the placards and
in the quiet halls of the Museums,
which, after all, is Their houses.
April 19, 2019: REPORT
Here in Vermont, for instance, it’s Spring.
A robin sings in the scraggly pines
next to the drive. The sun rises through deep
pink cloud, so rain coming. Daffodil spikes,
free at last from the long weight
of snow, have pushed up through the mass of flat
leaves out by the mailbox.The dog says
a rabbit, or something, under the yews.
The house smells like fresh coffee. The ink flows
easy, like the inconsequential
run-off brook through the woods beside the house.
The house still stands.
RESPONSE: A WOMEN’S PANTOUM
This was put together from a collection of emails exchanged by a group of older women after the synagogue shooting.
Let us be rivulets forming in the rain—
not a road that horrors walk upon.
We melt, we sink, our face slides off our bones.
We have no words, only tears and silent prayer.
We cannot become the road the horrors walk upon.
Remember: the magnitude of solidarity is a resurrection of massacred faith.
There are no words, only tears and silent prayer
for that temple, the store, the church, another school.
Solidarity is a kind of resurrection of faith
in rain on the windows and little girls playing
around a temple, a grocery store, a church, a school.
Let us not collapse to the ground. Look—
rain on the windows and little girls playing,
yellow chrysanthemums in the grey light.
We must not collapse to the ground;
we must move vibrant through this year of dying.
Yellow chrysanthemums shine in the gray light,
a flock of crows flies against the gray sky,
vibrant, through the dying of the year
the way a leaf is picked up by the wind.
A flock of crows against the gray sky
melts and sinks. We rise on our bones
the way leaves are picked up by the wind,
the way rivulets form in the rain.
Beware of the tiny gods frightened men
~Hafiz, “Tiny Gods”
Beware of tiny gods,
so easily displeased
when humans break
the rules. The ones
who are obsessed
with doom, allow
no room for breath
or ease. The tiny gods
who mistrust peace,
who are themselves,
and made by, fools.