THE SWING

THE SWING

~after Marc Chagall

 

His mouth is open, mid-sentence.

The soles of his shoes are yellow,

his pants are green, his jacket

is blue. The figure behind the swing

is a brown blur. The swing

is in mid-arc, coming toward

the artist. In the ether 

above the child, three cats

and a dog named Crazy

who is brown as Earth

are springing into being. 

Crazy went away once

for a fortnight. When he got home,

he fell asleep at once. The animals

came with the swinging child

when he drove from California

to Vermont in one day.  The cats

are named Thak, Willy, and Quilly.

They all died before you were born.

 

 

~Realized the next day that this is an imaginary Chagall painting. NOT Cassatt!

 

 

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THE DOG OF CHAUVET CAVE

THE DOG OF CHAUVET CAVE

 

Only one.

Painted in yellow ochre,

her black eyes shine with calcite.

Her teats are distended with milk, 

her curved tail suggests motion.

You wouldn’t notice her.

Indeed, she was not noticed 

for years since she is small,

overshadowed by the horses,

the lions and bulls;

since she was not officially domestic

for another twenty thousand years.

Beneath her, in the dust,

a fragment of mammoth bone.

Painted above her head, 

a single handprint,

again in the yellow.

A small hand, carefully placed,

poised as if to caress.

I HAVE FOUND MY CARAVAN

I HAVE FOUND MY CARAVAN

. . . someone untied your camel last night

For I hear its gentle voice

Calling for God in the desert.

~Hafiz, trans. Daniel  Ladinsky

The camel loosed herself.

She ran off alone,

early in the morning

before I rose to load her

with the burdens of my day.

She was running free

between the dunes

as the Milky Way

faded into the silver of dawn.

When I whistled, she came,

docile, but with the wild gleam

of starlight deep

in her long-lashed eyes.

WRITING ABOUT JESUS

WRITING ABOUT JESUS

~feast of the Annunciation

 

The rules don’t measure.

The untouchable saves you

and you must do the same.

Thieves and beggars at the banquet, 

obedient sheep abandoned to wolves, 

so much wasted seed.

 

Today the sun is warm on my back.

I’m waiting at the café, for my friend.

 

Star in the East

adorns the horizon,

guides around the globe to everywhere

the redeemer is laid.

That which was before the beginning,

contains the whole,

there is nothing drifting sideways 

at some unspeakable

angle, far from the fields

of gravity and love.

 

Hail Mary, 

Fear not.

Everything

matters.

 

A woman talking on her phone in the corridor 

makes a silhouette against the light.

 

The firstborn 

made flesh.

The only story 

is ours.

 

Creeds lean away, defining.

One substance—what else?

One essence, one congealment.

Do you understand?

m=E divided by the constant

through whom we live and move.

 

The sun is warm on my back and 

I must shade the page to see. 

For the time being, 

there is nothing between me and the light.

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.

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.