the owl in the tree,
her sleeping face in the morning,
the red tip of her yellow beak.
Enough, bitter green tea
in the perfect blue cup.
Reality of the absence,
indication that the presence mattered.
There is no conjuring
will summon it again.
Enough, the January lettuce
sprouting in the cellar, under the lights.
Faces of friends and strangers
over their coffee cups
in the corner café.
Once in a dream,
a baby told me it needed to be changed,
but I looked for food,
never asking its hunger.
Once Augustine wrote of the god-shaped
missing piece, the restlessness.
They tell me it is enough
for me to open the door.
But the door is open,
or there is no door.
dough rising in the bowl,
scent of soup on the stove.
Enough, the love
webbing like wild vines
from each beginning of time.
Forgive the dancer.
While the Pakistanis and Indians are testing bombs underground
she is tying on her long skirt,
lacing her shoes,
pinning up her hair.
While a little boy shoots up a cafeteria full of kids in Oregon
she is stretching out her legs,
bending her back,
arching her feet.
While three white men in Texas drag a black man behind their truck
she is tuning her heart and her breath
to the heart of the music,
the breath of the drum.
As bitter rain burns through the trees
she leaps into the light,
opens her pliant arms to all the wonder in the world.
Old events, but the point is the same.
Son, thou art ever with me,
and all that I have is thine.
Every day he got up before cockcrow
to milk the cows and clean the gutters.
He cut and stacked and hauled,
came into the house every evening
sticky with sweat
and fell asleep right after supper.
His face was always sunburned,
his hands were rough and scored with cuts.
The work was his, and the worry:
the price of milk and grain,
drought or fields too wet to mow.
And the beauty was his as well:
warblers trilling in the hedges,
soft tongues of calves,
the scent of ripening corn.
early apples, sour and green.
Then that brother came home
and there was the party.
A little calf killed,
the beer drunk up,
litter all over the lawn,
and for what?
To celebrate the return
of a wastrel they were better
off without. And his father,
bewildered and happy,
standing in the kitchen explaining.
I know he’s no good.
I know he’ll be off again.
But all he’ll ever get is a party.
Let him enjoy it,
and later, when they’ve all gone
downtown to the bars,
you and I will have a single malt
out on the porch
and watch the stars.
Snow banked over the steps
of the summer theater,
its bells silent as bats.
with white lights
and soft brittle flowers.
Stars follow their cold roads
above the clouds.
I cannot stop the snow.
Lights from the windows
pattern the outdoor trees
with the ghosts of owls.
Please check one:
___This is the Archetype of Poetry: heavy and shining,
it fills ours hearts with song
it sets us yearning for the green hills of Heaven
it makes us want to love every one, every thing we see
it is giving us the courage to do what we can to change the world
it is much too good for our paltry publication. We will get back to you when we’re worthy.
___This is a fine poem.
Clearly you have the vision, you have the gift,
and yet we have no room for it in our current publishing schedule.
___This has potential.
Keep up the good work.
Keep sending us things.
___Perhaps you should try another kind of writing:
Manuals for Toaster Ovens?
___We don’t publish stuff like this.
Please remove our name from your mailing list.
___Who in the world told you you could write?
Your work sucks.
Get a job; get a life.
I wrote this years ago. Don’t ask me why.
That one is crumpled like a scrap of paper
she thought she didn’t want,
but changed her mind, and salvaged,
smoothed out as well as she could.
His is small and bouncy,
no one can catch it–
it’s slippery, elusive–
a transparent glitter-filled superball.
That one is thin, lean, hard, strong,
a wing bone.
It moves swift, deliberate,
no time, no flesh, to waste.
This one: an empty flower pot
stained with moss.
This one: a formal garden
with no weeds, nothing out of place.
Here is one large and welcoming,
wide, soft, slow: a sofa soul that holds
between the plushy cushions
secrets, like lint and scattered change.
birches bent in arches filigreed like churches
oak and popple pop and crackle
ash and maple split in time
spruce and hemlock hold together closing like umbrellas
and over all the sharp clear smell of fresh cut pine.
January 8-13, 1998