SWAN LAKE

SWAN LAKE

 

I was washing the supper dishes,

and on the radio came “Swan Lake.” 

Since I don’t dance, I conducted. 

As I waved my dishcloth in time,

it dawned on me like slow winter sunrise

that Pyotr was himself a swan

trapped by his times in the form 

of a bearded man. 

                                 If he lived today

he could dance in feathers and white satin, 

caught and steadied by a beautiful prince.

No sorcerer would do him harm.

He would be full of grace and celebration.

And at the end, he would ascend 

above the Lake, and shine. 

TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING

TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING

Awoke this morning 

with the National Anthem

playing in my head.

I despised it in my youth

for its warlike passion, and 

I have changed my mind.

O say, can you see? 

 

I thought about my father,

battle-fatigued farmboy

who drank to forget how 

his B24 was shot down,

how his buddy blew up

beside him. How he 

always stood for the flag.

Does the Banner yet wave?

 

I thought of my Oma,

fifteen years old and alone,

wearing a red flannel petticoat 

her mama made to keep her warm,

how she saw Lady Liberty

standing in the harbor

in the dawn’s early light,

how she watched the Lady 

grow larger and larger, 

lifting her torch in welcome

to the home of the brave.

CORNER OF YOUR EYE

CORNER OF YOUR EYE

 

Does anyone believe in magic now,  

meaning—magic? The wonders of science,

sure. Coincidence, synchronicity,

but magic? Pixie dust? Fairies tickle

your ankles? Elves steal your children?    Ointment

so you can fly? I want belief. Because

when the unexpected. They want us to

believe we cause everything. It’s what we

eat. And we don’t walk ten thousand steps. But

sometimes it’s just chance. Or something else. You

turn and skip and drop your grandmother’s vase;

your dead dad’s iron keys fall out of your

pocket. You step outside as the shooting

star passes overhead while the owl is

singing. The white deer crosses your path. Out 

of the corner of your eye you see a

flicker, and you hear, for a moment, an

echo of some forgotten god’s uncanny laugh. 

CAMINO

CAMINO

 

Trust the way is what she says, and stretches

her wings out to the edges of the sky 

before she becomes part of the air, this 

sunrise gray and new north wind. How did she 

fit between these trees? I’ve never known what 

to do about oracles or visions. 

The way? Jesus said he was and Auden 

wrote about how it leads to unlikeness, 

the land that holds it, the land made of it. 

Nothing is as it seems, remember. 

On certain paths, that becomes clear. Or 

perhaps, completely unclear. As I said, 

     I’ve never known what to do. Trust the way, 

     whatever that might mean today.

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?

 

 

 

FIRST LIGHT

~in astronomy, the first use of a telescope

1.

A wall is not a bad thing

when one is ten years old and afraid.

Imagination is a good wall:

the goddesses of ancient Greece,

the stories in the stars, the fairies

living under the grasses and in the trees.

And girls in books,

their strength like stone:

Jo and Meg, Velvet Brown, Anne.

 

God makes a good wall, the sturdy one

I met at St. Luke’s, who spoke Elizabethan

in Father Pickard’s imitation British,

who smiled down on pious children.

Hymns made a sure foundation, 

the blue choir robe a kind of armor. 

And when one came of age,

the flat dissolve of the wafer, 

the strange warmth of wine.

 

2. 

Hadrian built this wall 

to keep wild blue people out. 

On our side, sanitation, hot baths,

birthday parties and socks.

On their side, the gods only know.

Dirt-floored huts, animal skins,

raw meat eaten with the hands?

Superstition. Barbaric sacrifices.

Look over the wall, if you dare.

What is hiding behind those stones?

 

3. 

Shall I list the things I fear,

what the walls keep out?

If I give them names,

will that give me power?

Can I clothe them,

give them form,

and seeing their weaknesses,

laugh them into oblivion?

Are they nothing 

but shadows after all?

Bears under the bed?

Barbarians painted blue?

 

4.

Sixty years ago

I could not stand

in front of Mother and say

Daddy is drunk and I hate it.

I’m going out into the field

to pull myself together

and then I’ll come back

and get on with my life.

I want you and Daddy

to solve this. 

Without my help.

 

5.

When my little grandson is afraid,

I can tell him:

This is what’s happening.

This will happen.

The mower is noisy

but we’re safe if we stand here.

The big truck will drive away.

The bird will not bite you.

Mommy will come back.

The shot will hurt and then

the hurt will stop. 

 

I can tell myself:

This story is mine.

The barbarians

are my grandmothers.

Nothing lasts forever.

I can open any door.