words: Is it too late to invent America?

sand

braid

task

invent

rife

mauve

 

 

Is it too late to invent America?

1.

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.

 

2.

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.

 

3.

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.

words: OBSERVATIONS ON A HOT SUMMER MORNING

raven

flimsy

brush

live

set 

crane

worry

 

 

OBSERVATIONS ON A HOT SUMMER MORNING

I recognize my friends by the worry behind their masks.

In town, the biggest crane we’ve ever seen

looms like something in a surreal movie set. 

 

Early this morning, I walked past a meadow

overgrown with weeds, the hopeless sticks of elm.

Raven flew close, brushed me with the shadow of her wing.

 

What does it mean to live these complicated days?

Have all days been this way, and ourselves

too caught up in flimsy occupation to notice?

WITHOUT EVENT—A ZUIHITSU AGAIN

WITHOUT EVENT—A ZUIHITSU AGAIN

~with thanks to Ray for showing me the form

1.

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.”

2

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.

3.

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.

4.

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. 

5.

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.

6.

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. 

7.

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.

RESETTING

 

 

RESETTING

1. 

Not the old patterns,

or variations printed on different cloth. 

Orange fleece instead of black wool.

The kind of comfortable shoes, but red.

Yellow candles.

The same time, but silence instead of prayers.

Most of the people, but not all.

What the crows talk about.

Where the bobcat crosses the road.

Music in a different key.

Cypriot O Antiphons.

Black currant juice, rye bread.

Things that smell like roses.

White tulips. Marigolds.

 

2.

I do it all the time.

Twice a year, all the clocks.

The weather station

whenever something goes awry.

The computer to accomodate

change, to fix a glitch.

The stove, the microwave

anytime the power goes off.

Why not now

during this long and changing time

of glitch, outage, awry?

 

3.

How should I pray?

No bloody psalm cries

and paeans to a thunder god.

No reconstructed ritual.

No begging for heaven;

I don’t have a soul to save.

 

I know a different god,

not father, but

farther, unbribeable,

god of asteroids, black holes,

god of hurricanes and floods.

Job’s god, who makes no sense,

no sense that matters now.

 

Jesus died for love 

and we’ve overburdened him.

Byzantine, Victorian, 

witch-hunter,  rough-rider,

Supreme Court Judge.

The wineskins split

and the wine is spilt away.

Salt has lost its savor,

and someone turned out the light.

 

The wind blows where it wills,

and not where we expect.

Over the shattered walls

of shuttered holy houses,

through boreal and coral forests.

It breathes in the hearts of foxes,

between the beaks of owls.

The sun is warm but the wind

is cold and carries too much rain.

 

Teach me to pray.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

It’s about being lost.

Really, really lost.

Squandering half the family fortune

and eating pig food and crawling home 

without even a name to call your own.

And it’s about saving and working hard

and being responsible

and no one notices or cares.

It’s about getting paid the same.

It’s about being meek and poor

and hungry and sad.

It’s about being left for dead

then rescued by someone

you’d cross the street

or maybe the ocean

to avoid.

It’s about a wedding reception

with all the wrong sorts of people

but you’re there, too.

What’s that about?

 

It certainly isn’t about the rules.

It isn’t about going to church

and potlucks and biblestudies

and committee meetings.

It isn’t about being good

so you’ll go to heaven when

you die. It’s not

about saving 

your little 

soul.

 

It’s about letting everything go—

every flying buttress and rose window,

every pipe organ and bible

and prayer book and linen cloth

and silver cup—

every attitude,

every certainty,

everything you think you know—

in order to buy

one pearl.

 

It’s about bread and salt.

It’s about a lighted lamp.

PASSAGE

PASSAGE

She went to the oracle

bringing an offering

of incense, a white pebble,

a drop of blood

on a leaf of thyme.

I am empty she said.

 

            Go deeper the oracle said.

 

But I’ve seen the crystals

growing from the floors

and ceilings, I’ve slipped

into the green waters filled 

with white salamanders

and blind fishes, 

I’ve touched the walls

covered with luminous worms

and spiders with legs

as long as my arms.

 

             Go deeper the oracle said.

 

I’ve been all the way in,

she said, all the way

to where the walls

are covered with paintings

of antlered men

and dancing women,

of suns and moons

and disembodied hands.

I’ve tripped over the bones 

of wild bulls and giant bears. 

 

             Go deeper the oracle said.

 

But there is no door, 

no passage, 

leading beyond that deepest cave. 

The only way left

is the way back out.

 

         Ah then, said the oracle.

         Ah.

BREAKING

BREAKING

It’s what happens when you see it,

when you know it’s all free as God.

 

One day it’s all duty,

but the rope breaks,

or a bell rings far away.

You see someone else

doing the thing you could not do

and all the stars come out  

and your closet door 

blows open wide.

 

And now what do you expect?

Nothing.  Nothing, at last.

Perhaps sunrise.

When you drop a cup, it will fall.

You will not glance off Earth,

go careening into the dark.

But the rest, not a thing:

consistency least of all.

 

Even what you will do tomorrow.

Sunrise, yes, yes,

but the color of the clouds,

the way the wind moves which new leaf,

where the sparrow sings,

the pattern of the towhee’s scratch.

What treasure will disclose.

How many orange tulips,

and  asparagus from each deep root.

 

 

 

published in Ruah, 2005

NOT POETIC

 

 

NOT POETIC

~after a discussion with fellow poets about the uses of euphemism 

If shit’s not a poetic word,

then how about excrete?

How else can one describe what’s left

of things we creatures eat?

 

For water one must often “make”

urine ‘s not elegeeic;

and piss though not poetic,  

is onomatopeeic.

 

I’m sorting through my old poems and posting a few that I still like. Including this naughty one, written maybe nine years ago.

GONE

an older one:

 

GONE

A statue of the Virgin Mary,

weighing 250 pounds, has disappeared

from a shrine outside a Vermont church.

Police have searched a nearby forest

and cemetery, to no avail.

~June 15, 2012

Tired of inactivity, disgusted

by the behavior of some, infuriated 

by the treatment of others, alarmed

by heat and melting ice, bored

 

with candles and flowers,

The Blessed Mother shook her feet

loose from the cement and shed

her heavy cloak.  Police

 

will find that later, 

along with the halo,

caught on a snag 

under the bridge.

 

Where is she now?  

 

A thin woman in a white dress–

she might be anywhere.

If I were so inclined, I might

tell them to look 

 

at the Farmers’ Market.  

Or in the hospital

cafeteria.  Maybe she’s reading

in the park.  Or maybe

                                       she’s just gone

to that place where all good divinities

go, where it’s quiet,

where nobody needs anything. 

Where nobody even remembers your name.

 

O: The Magnificat Antiphons, part VII

O: The Magnificat Antiphons, part VII

 

7. O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,

the hope of the nations and their Saviour:

Come and save us, O Lord our God.

With us—where else would you be

except everywhere?

Those galaxies, universes

bubbling into being,

stretching out and letting go.

Photons, quarks in their crazy flavors.

Magma flow, the frozen layers.

White shells and bones.

All the acorns buried under leaves.

The burning horses, stray dogs.

The toddler with brain cancer.

The addict under the bridge

staring at the river.

The black man, shot dead

even as I write these words.

With us.

The woman grinding the last of the grain,

drawing the last bucket of water.

If you’re not with us,

where are we?

And if you are with us,

where are we?

Where?

Emmanuel.

O Come.