words: SESTINA FOR THE SUMMER OF 2020

 

cap   rigid   lemon   peer   draw   meadow

 

SESTINA FOR THE SUMMER OF 2020

Like a drawing  by Van Gogh,

I stand rigid in the meadow. I wear my white cap. 

I peel a lemon, and peer at the trees.

I wear my white cap

though the brim is too rigid

for me to bend against the lemon-

brightness of the sun. I stand alone, peer

into the middle distance like a drawing

by Van Gogh of a woman in a meadow.

 

It is August, and the earth is dry. The meadow   

crackles with brown grasses capped  

with seeds. The summer draws 

to a close. Have we yet let go our rigid 

sense of what is real? My peers 

cannot guess. News sours me, like lemon.

 

When I was young, I wore lemon

cologne. I lay in this meadow 

beside a man—my peerless

lover—who wore a Greek fishing cap.

But our bones have gone rigid

with the years. We have drawn

 

living water so long. Now we draw

water grown bitter, like lemon

rind, and brackish, from a rigid

bottle. A butterfly wavers over the meadow

searching for one plant to cap 

with one pale egg. I peer

 

at her with shaded eyes, my only peer

now in this tight-drawn

season, this heated season, capped

with grasses the color of dried lemon  

peel. Under my feet, the meadow 

soil is hard, cracked, rigid

 

with the hard rigidity

of this rainless summer, a peerless

summer of an anxiety that a meadow

cannot know. The trees live on, drawing

their life from deeper water. The lemon

sun beats and beats on my white cap. 

BIBLE STUDY

BIBLE STUDY

The people were tired 

of being held down,

tired of the collusion 

between the occupying power

and the religious power 

too prudent—or too timid—

to stand with them and declare

enough is enough.

 

They’d heard him bless 

the poor, the hungry,

the mourners, the persecuted.

They’d heard him curse 

the rich, the sated,

the scoffers, the praised.

So when he rode into town 

on a borrowed donkey,

the common people–

the ordinary people–called out

Blessing and Peace and Glory! and

Save us, please. Save us!

 

The powers were alarmed

and tried to silence the people.

And what did he reply?

Turn then, if you would,

to Luke 19: 40-41

and read what he said.

And read what happened next.

 

 

STORYTIME

 

STORYTIME

 

If you don’t have fairy tales, how do you live?

The Miller’s Youngest Son answers the riddles.

The Serving Girl rises from the Cinders 

to marry the Prince. If you give a cup 

of cold water to the woman at the well 

you will receive a jeweled reward. If you don’t,

you will spit serpents for the rest of your life.

If the odds are against you, you will win— 

the youngest, the fool, the poorest, outcast, 

the least likely to succeed. Isn’t it

what you want to believe, you, who like me

are all those things and more?  If you finish

the witch’s tasks and don’t ask for  answers,

she will give you all the light you need.

BADLANDS

Old prompts: “Imaginary landscape” and “grass”

BADLANDS

 

Gray hills like something

a child or an artist

dribbled on the gray plain.

 

Sunrise  dazzles.

Late summer sun crushes the air, the thin grass.

Sunset is unspeakable.

 

The moon is impossible.

I could watch the sky

for years.

 

 

 

Words: April, First Peepers

blow

flip

scope

quicksilver

 

APRIL, FIRST PEEPERS

Just after dusk,

the moon was already high,

its quicksilver light

rippled in the brook

that flips along the edge 

of our scrubby woods.

I heard one peeper,

then another, and another, 

blow their wild love song

to Spring, to the world,

oblivious of the scope

of our human cares,

oblivious to everything

but their need to go on.

ODDNESS AGAIN

ODDNESS AGAIN  

  ~That Bluebird Fair is back

Oh, how the edges are odd! 

Bread from white flour,

coffee carefully measured.

Opera in the afternoons.

Friends on the screen.

Walking on the other side.

Stop, says the sage, and I stop

in the driveway when the dog

stops to pee. Before sunrise:

a robin is singing, a cardinal,

a dove. Look: the bare trees

against a gray sky. The house

with her red roof, smoke rising

from the chimney, a light

shining in the kitchen window.

 

(Brother David Steindl-Rast recommends practicing “Stop. Look. Go” as a way of remembering to be grateful.)

Words: Play of Passing Shadows

warp

sidewalk

twisted

cave

 

PLAY OF PASSING SHADOWS

Seventy years and more in this cave

learning to weave. Firelight flickers

shapes on the walls, twisted shadows

of things unimaginable passing

on the sidewalk wound around

out under the sun, or so I’ve heard.

What is the sun but a bigger fire?

All I know is here: shuttle, warp.

The threads are given, the pattern mine.

HUNTER

HUNTER

 

 

Life has given me a yellow dog

who noses the ground.

Shall we go hunting? I ask her, 

and she laughs.

 

She eagers her way down the drive,

shows me where deer trailed 

into the woods, where rabbits

skittered into brambles. 

 

She raises her head

to catch something in the air—

a whiff of owl? A drift of horse 

from the neighbor’s barn?

Fox, fisher, coyote, stray cat? 

There is so much out there

to track and find.

 

Hunter ascends at dawn, 

her crescent no longer

the crown of youth but

the mark of crone. 

 

She glows in the cold sky

above the house where

my husband still sleeps.

Her light is enough to see by,

and what shall I see?

There is so much out here

to track and find.

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.