COMMUNION

COMMUNION

 

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.

THE END OF POETRY MONTH

~a manifesto, or possibly just a rant

 

People who write poems do it ALL THE TIME.

Even when they aren’t writing.

When they’re walking, eating,

sitting in the coffee shop staring out the window.

When they’re watching movies,

running errands,

drinking with friends.

ALL THE TIME.

And once a year,

in the cruelest month,

you haul them out,

put them on display,

act like you care.

THEY ARE NOT LIKE A DISEASE

requiring an awareness month.

You do not pay them a thing

and they do not ask you to.

Maybe they should. 

Maybe they should

go on strike.

In April.

No bookstore readings,

no interviews. 

No new poems.

The extremists among them might

knock poetry books from library shelves,

might stand on street corners.

Their placards might read

 

NOT POETRY MONTH

HAVE YOU NOTICED?

RESPONSE: A WOMEN’S PANTOUM

RESPONSE: A WOMEN’S PANTOUM

This was put together from a collection of emails exchanged by a group of older women after the synagogue shooting.

 

 

Let us be rivulets forming in the rain—

not a road that horrors walk upon.

We melt, we sink, our face slides off our bones.

We have no words, only tears and silent prayer.

 

We cannot become the road the horrors walk upon.

Remember: the magnitude of solidarity is a resurrection of massacred faith.

There are no words, only tears and silent prayer

for that temple, the store, the church, another school.

 

Solidarity is a kind of resurrection of faith

in rain on the windows and little girls playing

around a temple, a grocery store, a church, a school.

Let us not collapse to the ground. Look—

 

rain on the windows and little girls playing,

yellow chrysanthemums in the grey light.

We  must not collapse to the ground;

we must move vibrant through this year of dying.

 

Yellow chrysanthemums shine in the gray light,

a flock of crows flies against the gray sky,

vibrant, through the dying of the year

the way a leaf is picked up by the wind.

 

A flock of crows against the gray sky

melts and sinks. We rise on our bones

the way leaves are picked up by the wind,

the way rivulets form in the rain.

PRACTICE

 

PRACTICE

Let there be no routine.

Let the white cat disturb

your meditation,

the black cat interfere

with your tai chi.

May the dog demand

to go out while you’re trying

to pray. 

May your husband knock

on your study door 

because he cannot find 

his glasses. 

Your old friend will call

while you are chopping onions

in a mindful way.

Answer the phone.

ADVENT, 19

ADVENT

 

19.

   ~John 14-17

 

Well, John Gospeller, we’ve come

at last to the core. We know

that we can see. We know

that we’re unbound.

And was it worth the trouble?

 

Because, because—-

The comforter comes—

to whom? 

What is asked in your name 

is given—

to whom?

Mansions in the Father’s house?

Well, hurrah.

And how many

are shut out?

But then, this is about

the inside, isn’t it?

About the closing door.

Not about the poor old world.

Not about the wedding feast.

Salvation from the world, yes?

Stand back and watch it fall.

 

Good cheer?

I don’t think so.

Let us, as your Jesus said 

(and then didn’t,

for three more chapters),

arise and go forth.

Salty salt.

Unshuttered light.

 

 

Maybe I’ll visit the passion and resurrection after Christmas. Maybe. . . 

PROMISE

PROMISE

 

We keep showing you:

 

The little frogs, the birds.

Islands and mountains,

drowned rivers, 

fertile fields.

Brown leaves out of season.

 

Trees move so slowly.

 

Don’t let dread freeze you;

ice is deadly as heat.

Keep moving. 

Stay together.

Stamp your feet.

 

And promise us 

 

you’ll save something:

one sparrow, 

one sapling.

One patch 

of hallowed ground.

 

From 2015.

THE STORYTELLER

THE STORYTELLER

Oh, the wildness of the teller in her cave of bone!

She finds dragons in stumps, faces in every carpet—

 

how will she make it cohere?

Was it once upon a time, or ever after? 

 

Snakes and bears are real enough,

and mirrors trying to reflect what’s fair.

 

She searches her fallible senses

entwined with shadowed remembrances

 

and pieces a pattern, a dream, a tale— something

that might be true, or that someone might believe.

 

The smell of whisky, the texture of satin,

a whisper behind a half-closed door—