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.

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BACK TO THE EDGES OF ODDNESS

BACK TO THE EDGES OF ODDNESS

 

Since midsummer, fairies with green wings 

twinkle around my eyes all night long. 

They beg me to be invisible, 

offer me fernseed and a cap woven 

of milkweed and thistle fluff. 

The dog is restless when they are in the house, 

and my husband can’t sleep, 

and I can’t explain. The cats 

don’t seem to mind.

 

Whatever shall we do with realism, 

reason, logic, the sciences that deny 

the way things are? A cloud of demons, 

their sharp laughter, the steadfast angels 

raising their lavender shields. 

Every tree has a soul;  early in the morning

you can hear them singing to the sun. 

Their music wakes the birds. 

Angels are stars, balls of flaming gas. 

Everything is real, but more or less 

than anyone can imagine. 

God is everything. 

Nothing is mutually exclusive.

PRAYER

PRAYER

Jesus, we need you in all your forms—

rising in beauty from seafoam,

black-tongued and stamping in battle.

We need you one-eyed, wandering in disguise.

 

Please rise again in beauty from the sea, 

steal the sacred flame and flee.

Give us your vision; open our eyes.

Split the mountains and come down. 

 

You brought us fire. We made you sorry.

Come now with Medusa’s head on your shield,

protect us from your thunder.

Mourn with us through our sorry land.

 

We need you with shuttle and spear,

cloven-hoofed, drunken and mad.

Walk beside us as we cry; hold our hand.

Crouch with us, hungry, underground,

 

and dance full of wine and song, and mad.

Jesus, meet us at the cross-road with your lamp.

Return with all the daffodils of spring.

Split the earth, drive your wild horses up.

 

Come to the crossroad and fill our cup,

add our skulls to your garland.

Ascend through the rock and carry us away.

Descend to us in all your forms.

ST. MOLUAG

This is more or less a work in progress, but today is St. Moluag’s feast, and I couldn’t resist.

 

 

ST MOLUAG

13th century, artist unknown

Tempera on board

He stands in his thick brown robe

before the church that bears his name.

The sky behind is gray with rain,

earth around all unflowered. 

In triumph, he holds up his severed thumb.

 

Move fourteen hundred years along—

Isle of Lewis, the sky still full of gale. 

A dozen people trail into the stony church. 

We have stood the gales a thousand years,

light in the darkness, singing in the wind.

They comfort the stranger, 

laugh at the storm:

We will stand on until the end.

For more about the church:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teampall_Mholuaidh

 

For more about St. Moluag:  http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/adversaries/bios/scot_pict/moluag.html

 

 

THE DELPHIC ORACLE

THE DELPHIC ORACLE

~Mary Pratt, (Pre Raphaelite Sisterhood, 1848)

 

Smoke rises before the girl 

seated on her three-legged stool. 

Behind her, the cave mouth

shades into a purple dark.

 

The supplicant stands

like a pillar, her robes

still as sculpture.

Keep looking.

 

Smoke mingles

with thin cloud in the pale

sky, shaping horses.

Keep looking.

 

The supplicant’s arms are rising

toward the heavens.  Listen.

Between the sky and the cave,

the oracle has begun to speak.

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.

Ash Wednesday: Trusting in the Sun

Ash Wednesday: Trusting in the Sun

 

It will return. It is

returning. Six o’clock

and already the winter candle

light is not a sharp

circle on the table.

 

It was a tough

winter, a tough fall.

Four dead, your own

new scars, the surprise

of seventy years.

 

You’re needing morning

bird song—a robin,

a cardinal. You’re needing

good news. And today

the reversal—just as the sun

 

is warming through the wind,

as the maples are giving 

their juice, your old

religion makes it Lent.

Well, all right.

 

If the meat is gone,

you might as well fast.

Someday again, days

will be longer than nights.

You just have to wait.