THIS IS THE POEM I’LL NEVER WRITE

THIS IS THE POEM I’LL NEVER WRITE

–about how they kept me

under the bed

and sang songs to make me cry and then laughed 

at me until I learned to stop. 

 

About how

the only safe place was a castle where 

every evening we watched the sun go down

while we sang Gregorian Chant and ate 

burnt marshmallows. 

 

About the teacher who 

wouldn’t let me read beyond and the teacher 

who stole my arrowheads and the teacher 

who slapped me when I played the wrong notes and 

the teacher who made a pass at everyone 

but me. 

 

About the horrible gray skirt, 

the stubby brown oxfords, the home-made prom 

dress in a shade of peach that made me look 

dead. 

 

About how

I gave birth on a ferris 

wheel while my boyfriend ate cotton candy 

and drank Coke and promised to marry me 

anyway, and didn’t. 

 

About how later 

I married for love but the next day ran 

away with a Costa Rican cowboy 

who recited poetry and really, 

truly believed in God. 

 

About how I 

grew old in the rainforest, how I lived 

on plantains and beef, and bore five daughters 

who died and one son who lived. 

   

About how we 

finally gave up making love and

the cattle ran away and the forest 

burned around us and now the only things 

that make me cry are the deaths of dogs.

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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.

DOUBLE SIGHT

DOUBLE SIGHT

An aberration in my eyeglasses

gives me a tiny bright star next to Venus,

down and to her right, as if

her hand is curled in a fist,

slightly raised.

 

I like to think of Venus

with a fist—a soft

Tai Chi fist with all the strength

of exquisite balance behind it.

Love-and-Beauty smiling a lazy smile,

knowing that hate-and-ugliness

is nothing but a nattering nuisance,

a foolish foe with no notion at all

of her power.

ADVENT, 5

Advent 

5.

           ~John 3:1-21

You have heard the chant,

answered the call,

drunk the water made wine.

All that was yours has been stripped away.

And now you are in a dark room.

Your feet root in the earth,

water rises up to your neck,

and from somewhere, a wind.

You shiver there, alone. 

And when you think 

you might have died,

a light shines in the darkness—

you are surrounded by lamps,

there is a lamp in your hand,

and the circle presses around you

and you are part of the circle,

robed in white.

And no one outside the circle,

and no one outside the room,

is saved.

 

 

ADVENT, 2

ADVENT

2.

     ~John 1: 19-51

 

Where is what is true?

Visions of ladders and lambs and birds,

voices from the desert and the sky.

This is the Kingdom of Metaphor.

You who have no guile—

come and abide awhile.

 

 

 

I have decided to read the Gospel According to John during Advent. It was my favorite gospel until I was in my late 40s, when I decided that it was anti-Semitic (It is–there’s no way around that) esoteric and exclusive, and that it probably has little to do with the actual life of Jesus of Nazareth (very likely true). I’m trying to read it again for the first time in more than twenty years, this time not as theology–it is the most “theological” gospel–but as poetry, written by a 2nd century poet trying to make sense of what Jesus was all about. Let’s see how long I can keep going. . . .

ADVENT, 1

I’m trying for a Poem-a-Day during Advent. Here’s the first:

 

ADVENT

1.

Incomprehensible, 

word made flesh among us—

that which shattered 

to make the worlds

congealed—

light made flesh.

We can not receive

until we turn,

look over our shoulder

to glimpse the shadow

as it turns away.