The poem that I wrote this morning, for “poetry month” is pretty ghastly, even by my daily poem standards. So here’s one I wrote awhile ago.
God so loved the world that he gave.
Please stop there. Don’t go on
about belief. Remember
what Jesus said before
conditions were applied.
A pearl. A treasure in a field.
A banquet open to all who’d come.
The father who released it all—
Everything I have is yours.
The Samaritan gave. The fig tree didn’t.
Uncautious servants took a chance.
Take what is yours and go your way.
Give to Caesar his silver and gold.
Forgive us our debts as we forgive.
A dishonest steward did.
Some bridesmaids claimed
there was not enough.
A lad assumed there was
and gave his lunch
for thousands to eat.
Twelve basketsful of crumbs.
A sower’s wild casting
made more and more.
And more: lilies and ravens.
And still: your cloak and coat.
Another cheek, another mile.
Blessed are you who are poor.
BY WAY OF CONTRAST
Grandmother’s silver coffeepot—
fine filigree around the handle,
chasing and repoussé patterning the lid.
The matching creamer,
sugarbowl with tongs.
Her white linen napkins,
bone china cups.
My Mr. Coffee maker.
My red ceramic sugar bowl
patterned with spirals and stars.
My white creamer—novel souvenier
from Columbus, Ohio.
My red-checked tablecloth.
My heavy blue pottery mug.
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.
Tired at last of myself,
the way I’ve been for seventy years—
tight and worried, wanting my perfect way—
in a swoop—and was it fell?—I laughed.
Laughed at the coiled clay vase that wanted
to be a fish, laughed at the poems
that wouldn’t be printed in little magazines
and at my past earnestness
about the importance of that, laughed
at my belief that those pants would
make me leggy like the model in the catalogue,
that this diet or pill or “spiritual practice”
would fix my — everything.
And last night I split a bottle of Switchback
with Jean and we laughed at our husbands’ old jokes
during what would once have been
a nervous attempt at “dinner party”
and we made spontaneous
ice cream sandwiches for dessert
from crispy brownies and ice cream
straight from the carton, and I’m still laughing.
Between inbreath and outbreath—
you know the place.
Water enters grape,
It is not the time.
It is the
THE CHAIR THAT WAS FIRST OWNED BY MY GREAT-GREAT UNCLE ASA
March Prompt #7
He wasn’t actually my uncle. He was my cousin’s uncle, on the other side of her family, you see, but we called him uncle because of that chair. It was passed on to my cousin’s Great Aunt Martha (not my great-aunt, just hers) who was his second daughter-in-law, and she passed it on to her son Freddy, who of course was my cousin’s actual uncle. He was the youngest in that family. Johnny, the middle one, married a Brady girl, and we have, at least my husband has, connections to the Bradys since his sister-in-law’s first husband was a Brady, and her oldest daughter. She didn’t marry his brother till he died. My husband’s. brother. Anyway, Freddy—my cousin’s real Uncle Freddy but we all called him that, used to come to Thanksgiving at my Aunt Bet’s. She was my cousin’s mother, Dad’s sister. So he was my uncle’s brother by marriage. He was the oldest. Never married. No one ever said why, but we have our suspicions. And one Thanksgiving, when he sat down at the table on that rickety old chair—you know how everybody has to haul out all the chairs at Thanksgiving if there’s a big crowd and there was always a big crowd at Aunt Bet’s since she and Dad were two of seven and Uncle John—not the John who married the Brady girl—that was Freddy’s brother—my uncle who was Aunt Bet’s husband had the same name— was one of four and by then they all had kids, except Uncle Freddy, and she always took in strays besides. People, I mean, but she did take in some cats, too, but mostly they stayed up in the barn except that orange one that everybody called Blink because it was missing an eye. But he sat on that old chair and even though he was pretty skinny it broke under him. Bumped his head on the edge of the table on his way down. We all laughed, and so did he, but he was never the same after. Neither was the chair, so Uncle John threw the chair in the fire and Uncle Freddy had to sit on a stack of apple crates they hauled in from the shed.
March Prompt #1
No purpose but pleasure:
Tai Chi before breakfast,
coffee’s bitter “Aha!”
Not to clean the air
but because it’s lovely,
the pink cactus flower
above the desk.
Bread is not nutrition.
Wine is not a drug
to make you live long.
It’s not exercise,
the morning walk
with the dog.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE HOUSESITTER
If the door has blown closed, open it.
You do not need a key.
Feed the birds.
There is seed in the blue jar.
Pick the apples, eat the cherries.
Make wine from the grapes.
Do not eat the yellow pears
for they are bitter.
The garden is full
of deep green weeds.
Cook them in oil.
They will make you strong.
When dew shines on the leaves
go out and wet your feet.
The copper basin holds rainwater
to wash your hair.
Milk the goats
at sunrise and sunset.
Drink what you like
and make the cheese.
The dogs will kiss
The cats will sing
you to sleep.
They will tell you
what they wish to eat.
They will tell you
what to dream.
the owls will come.
The great gray owl
will speak. Listen.
greenleaf too limp to carry
loose empires coming Sunday
no mungs avail
keep demoing rasp
and sometimes demo straw
Found at the Food Coöp.