VISITING THE GRANDCHILDREN

VISITING THE GRANDCHILDREN

Books. Markers and tape.

Blocks go together or not. 

From this height, piles of leaves

look too small for jumping

but they are fine.

The trail by the river is inviting

but too long for feet and too

embarrassing for the stroller. 

Were we ever so busy?

We don’t remember.

The house is filled 

with scampers, changes, babble. 

Firefighter hats and a monster cape. 

Harmonicas and a little tin drum. 

What’s in the closet

and who knows the words?

What we want and don’t:

peanut butter, another story,

a good night’s sleep. 

To be the first one found, or

the last one lost.  

 

 

Imaginary Paintings: Poet in Garret, November

POET IN GARRET, NOVEMBER

~attributed to Jan Vermeer, 1703

You see at once that she’s cold,

the way she hunches

over the table in the fireless

room. Light from one small

window slants across her page.

She is half-turned toward you,

her lips are parted, her eyes

focused on a word appearing

just above your right shoulder.

Imaginary Paintings: All Souls’, The Witch

ALL SOULS:  THE WITCH

~The Kilkenny Book of Hours, c. 1410

Outside, a half moon, waning.

Inside she sits by the fire, 

gray cat on her lap.

Her clothes are unremarkable

and her long gray hair is unbound

and mingles with the cat’s fur.

On the plain table, a wooden

bowl of apples. Garlic

and onions hang on pegs. 

A single dove shelters

on a rafter. A sudden wind

blows open the door.

 

 

This was originally for Pentecost, but I think it works for All Souls, too.

LABYRINTH

Red boards, white halls.

Posters and paint.

 

The inside of a piano. 

A washer full of light.

 

Two stairways

to one long corridor.

 

You do not have a clue.

You do not need one.

 

If you are lost, cry out,

no doubt someone

 

will hear you.

You will always be found.

 

What you do 

is up to you.

 

At the center—

no minotaur—

 

a glass door. Behind it,

earnest, commanding

 

fairies are waiting.

What did you expect?

 

Their Queen,

at first glance seems

 

innocent, unwinged.

Little do you know. 

 

Her throne a desk.

Her wand a pen.

 

Enter at your peril. 

Are you ready

 

to love the edges?

To practice not-doing?

 

Are you ready

to change your life?

 

 

 

DRAWING LESSON

I wrote this years ago for my friend Maggie, who at age 80 started modeling for art students, because, she said, “They need to know what old people look like.”  She liked the poem, and recorded herself reading it back to me. She died a couple of years ago, in her 90s. I miss her.

 

DRAWING LESSON

—in memory of Maggie Miller

 

Here you are, most with a world ahead,

some with half a world behind,

come to draw the human form.

And here I am naked before you

so comfortable, easy

in my eighty year old skin.

 

I love my folds,

metamorphosed mountains.

You think you can draw 

an old woman, dear babies?

Lean in, look hard.

It will cost you all your life.

 

I have been down deep, 

through muscle, sinew, bone.

Loved long a man long dead,

borne a son and let him go.

I am learning how to pray

and I laugh when you ask me to tell.

 

In my time I have come

to the heart’s solid core–

heat of life and more–

Now over you I pour 

my fire like water.

From where I lie I see

the place the stars will rise.

 

RESETTING

I’d already posted the first stanza. Here’s the whole thing.

 

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.

COMMUNION

COMMUNION

 

All morning we cleaned the shed beside the church—

one of those places all over America

where the hungry poor come to stand in line

for day-old bread and canned beans,

for commodity tubes of hamburger,

bags of shredded orange cheese,

MRE-style pouches of beef stew.

We hauled out the cardboard and the plastic 

from the cases of cans of corn 

and mac-and-cheese and fruit cocktail.

We scrubbed down the rusty metal shelves;

we vacuumed up the dust, tidied the refrigerators.

We made room in the freezers 

for the dated meats and donuts and pies 

another crew pickes up from the market.

 

We didn’t talk much. 

We know each other well enough 

to work in silence— 

four women, the Tuesday volunteers,

each of us old enough to have a few scars.

At noon, Phyllis handed out some 

blueberry muffins she’d baked. 

We took a break, ate 

standing outside in the parking lot

in the late September sunshine.

Then we got back to work.