Colors From Miller’s Fork

Green:    The sheen persimmons leave on teeth.
Red:        The stripe when rhubarb’s ripe.
White:    When heifer pails her milk.
Red:        Her teats when city cousins try.
Black:     The snake who spooks the dogs.
Red:         The largest crawdad’s claws.
Silver:     A boy should own a knife.  And keep it sharp.
Red:         The yard where chickens died.
Violet:     Supper. Porch. Talk. Twilight.
Red:         The coals that warm our dark.

 

 

What I Saw When We Passed In The Hall At Church

To Barbara

I see you’ll teach pre-Raphaelite to me
with words long cosseted away, such words
I’d thought were shot along the Somme.
I see  your hair and think of “tress” and how
the poses those old painters loved are full of you
and how that curl along your back is why that dress.

I cannot picture what your softness could be for
But only for to warm my touch
which is no preface to another’s touch.

I picture how I’ll stop you on a stair
with all the others either up or down:
the party noises up, the kitchen noises down,
and on the landing in the moon-stare there
we’ll spiral inward, secret, secret.

I learn “boudoir”, the room without a use
except the mirror, there to turn your gaze inside
and while you sit, “rondure” is how I name your back
against the dark of all that’s less important.

I see that we will make a son
and name him “laughter in the night”.
I’ll learn how woman is the sabbath of the world,
she has no use beyond her contemplations
of her gestures in the mirrored light.

Do take this woman as your wife;
her yoke is easy, and burden, slight.

Mockingbird

For Barbara.

“I wonder where the mockingbird is from, and where it went.”  You said.

You’re Job, I said, when Yahweh sphinxes him for fun.

You said “It came a second night but then last night was gone.”

Job blanked, I said, on when the mountain-goats give birth,
He blanked on where Leviathans cross seas,
He blanked on why the wind both woos and kills.

You said:  “It sang beside our bed two nights, not three. Not three.”

I said I can’t explain antiphony,
it seems its own reward
and when the bird has said “amen”
another sound insults the word.

The Boundered Lip

 

My father, from his hospice bed, looked off into the distance and led a church service for an unseen congregation.  I scribbled down his words and phrases as he moved in and out of coherence.   After this,  no more words.  He died a day later. 

So son, now come on up and sing, we’ll wait.
My breathing spell is cracked.  We run the show
and not the angels, though.  I love your songs.
Did I misuse the privilege to call on you?
In disregard, in deadly disregard?

Are all the speakers working?  And the tapes?
My son will lead our dedication of this space
with such an instrument.  Just take your place
and bring the love of God because we’re wicked,
wholly wicked, wicked tongued and wicked faced.

I’d run a nail through two-by-fours
along your butts to hear you praise the Lord.
A deadly disregard I fear I’ve used
and now my breathing spell is cracked
and I do fear the blindfold.  My son will come.

God’s angel is the lip that dares to bounder
here.  To bounder, did I say?  Did I say hate?
I hate the blindfold.  Son, don’t wait, you come
on up and play the love of him who walked
embodiment.   My breathing spell is cracked.

Did I misuse the privilege to call on you?
My deadly disregard is what I fear.
You hear the spirit and the bride say come?
The boundered lip, the  breathing spell that’s cracked
breathes come, breathes sing, breathes hear.

Could we with ink the oceans fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry,
Nor would the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

 

 

Barbara, Christmas 2013

If you put all my joy over all our pots together,
It would not touch how I feel about this cast-iron pot.

Let all my joy from all our pots be plopped together
and it slops around, with room, inside this iron pot.

I never thought I’d find a black utensil packed together
with a lid and poke inside and thrill to feel a pot.

When old we’ll need to lift it’s weight together
or I’ll bend beneath the iron.  But today I waltz this pot.

 

Daniel

We ate our people’s roots but no-one’s meat
or wine, and hung our harps on willow wands
unplayed by winds.  I read our people’s book
and found the number there of years we must
be slaved.  From sorrow we’d forgot to look.

I turned toward the wall and would not play.
I told Yahweh it must be His to count
the years, I said “We are your portion
in the earth.  You’re poor.  We’re all you’ve got.”

The instant when our sins should slash a vein,
when lambs are hushed their crying by a blade,
the legate Gabriel enpierced my room.

A word went out.  He said.  An actual word,
resuscitating sentences, germ cells of books,
as books are matrices for nations.  Words
went out at dusk and I have fought celestial
orcs to bring them home.   Get up, get out,
go virgin to a virgin couch and and kiss a virgin
mouth, plant stories in your fields, fire
pots for wines, and sing new wedding psalms
beneath your virgin vines.   Go home.

Maundy Drinking Songs

Fragments overheard before the police came.
I jotted down what I could, then I hid in the cupboard.

Chugging song

Come now, sing now, happy tunes
and drink, drink, drink — we’re in our youth.
“Fool, fool, deliberate fool:
can you drink the cup?
Or will it drown you?
Down, down, three times down,
take the triple-bath, play the triple-tool.
Fool, fool, deliberate fool…”   (repeat)

Continue reading “Maundy Drinking Songs”

What is There

The mist collects to droplets on the leaves,
slight inches from my eye.  I stare.

I do not see the force and law that forms
the silver globes.  I do not see what’s there,
for spinning wild is how the atoms mean
the world.  I stare.

Simple, still, and silent balls, the water
drops just make for me the maelstrom
into symbols.  And I stare.

All men by nature want to know for sure
and poetry is knowing what is there.
The poem is the end of artifice, I’m sure.

And then suspicion that this thought itself
will wisp into some final sucking fire,
this thought that thought is simultaneous
and simultaneous is how to think.

When I affirm that God is one in essence,
essence still, and silent and indeed so simple,
and yet hypostases, yet three, are he and he and he,
the creeds seem end of artifice for me.

I know I think too much, while grass in blades
is choosing how to shape the tuft of blooms,
yet bees are hyperlinking blooms in air,
yet atmospheres are swirling over continents,
yet continents are spinning, wild, the world
into the artificial silver globe among the drops

He stares.  He stares, He finds His thoughts take shapes
as artificial lines.     Yet good.  Yet very good.

Marriage Writes A Letter To The World

You say you know of love.
You heard there was a man who kept a vow
which cost him songs and woman flesh: you sneered,
and sneer replaced your syntax.  Faithfulness
you smeared and so killed story, so you cannot not
betray, and be betrayed.  You riddle Raphael,
demand of Gabriel his password, and the blessed
Michael you sequester for his shots.  You animate
and warm by devil arts, demanding angel proofs
from pronoun parts contorted in a double helix.

You say you know of love.
You nominate yourselves the chefs of love
with tongues forever virgin of the delicates
of love, unable to obtain old age of love.
So smug, and stupid, and smug regarding stupid,
sitting while befouling hind and feet
in excrement, so proud to sit and trowel
it round to front, then back, for it is warm.
Adjust, again, the angle of your friction
and engorge, and say you know of love.

I say I know of love
but only pose a naked contradiction
for sublimity can only be reported,
never proved.  I say love flares in stories
framed by rituals and vows, an agon held
as precious for a lifetime, paths where righteous
souls all trip but rise their seven times per day
to say “I do.”  And this, Oh this
is plot and character, the grail, the rose, the wind
that spins the sun and all the summer stars.

I say I know a love you do not know:
in sickness and in health,
both warm and cold,
in hunger and in wealth,
nubile, and old:
“I do.”

When you lost this you lost it all.
Down, your house is down.  How great the fall.

Do you hear what I hear?

My sixty-first November carols me.
The stuttered snow, the huddled hawk, the moon
(so bored above the pasture-scape) all wait
the coming Child again,  again the church
plays Mary:  is the future good? How can it be
the angel’s hail is not a curse, since I’ve
not known a man?  Again the carols fling
their seeds, the smallest seeds of all the seeds,
along our deep and dreamless streets.

Mashup: Meditation

Sit in water that is over your head,
As if a bird in your hair should be left asleep.
Gaze silently on the Word.
Ask nothing, offer no advice, and when your monkey mind
does monkey, so what?   Do care about your breath,
your hands, and watch the sun melt on the hill.

And even monkeys need a home eventually
so, listen, East, the Spirit deep embedded
never ceases gathering the monkey clan
like mother spreads her skirts
to sing a lullaby which quiets
all who don’t wander off.

Even the Firs Glance Up

Geese form lines in a grey February sky.
The sky is the color of a goose feather.
Pools in the fields are the color of a goose feather.
Last year’s corn is stubbled at the edges of pools.

The geese can read the signs.
From a thousand feet up their lines
etch deep into the cornfield pools.
Starlings watch their own pictograms
form, melt, and re-form toward the name of spring.
Each bird is simple as a child, but the flock is literate and savant, and this is a wondrous thing.

As the sun sets, a cold rain drives in.
Cold, but not too cold for the twitching roots.
Even the stiff firs stretch, and glance up.

Advent Retreat, Gethsemani Abbey

At first you force your silence,
then it smothers all your verbs
and burrows to the inner edge of words.

At first you force your silence,
then it ponds the stream of thoughts
like rocking sleeps the child.

At first you force,
then even reaching for a spoon is pianissimo.

So let legato breed legato, then, but note the danger signs:
the thistle’s nod in matin breeze seems like a secret handshake;
you see the clover’s fourth from far across the courtyard;
your own name sounds odd.

You’d best start back toward the surface.

And The Bird On The Wing

Though swallows promenade about the barn
in shaker reels, I track them each by each
to guess their names and grandma’s names
and memorize their iridescent oddities
of feathers.  Top, they wear the sober gray
of Oxford dons, but underneath they flash
like dancehall tarts.  It is a country pomp.

I’d bring you here to sit and watch.  Eavesdropping
at the swallows’ ball would be my Christmas gift
to you.   Please say “they’re perfect!”, but if not,
then I’ll persuade you how they signify the One
who said He counts each feather, signify the One

Who knitted figured swans into His temple silks
where mortal eyes were never cleared to look;

Who hemmed His levites’ robes around about
with woven pomegranates, for no cause;

Who frets a kid might boil in mother’s milk
or oxen spend a sabbath in a ditch;

Who doodles in the margins of His book
things high and low:  the sweetness of His laws;
the date when I shall die; a running count
of berries bagged and labelled with the year.

You see?
But winter’s murders haunt their barn.
I’d lift with fingertips their feathered dead
from under January snow into my house
of many mansions,  seat them at high windows,
dry and comb their plumage for no cause
though never cleared to see immortal skies
I’ll fly them back to join their nesting mothers
in the Kingdom of Accounted Feathers.

If it were not so, I would have told you.

My Resumé

I’ve talked of poetry beneath the summer stars.
I had a Form to take my pen.

I heard the Holy Ghost correct my spelling,
heard Him recommend Dante.

I have known the operation of the Blood of Christ
in conversation, at the kitchen table.
And I saw the sword protruding from the preacher’s mouth.

I’ve painted July suns in cerulean streams:
the colors all were water;
the brush, Kolinsky sable;
the paper, pressed by hand.

I smiled some simple smiles with noble women,
and a noble man, and children.

I have managed, on occasion, to live only by the mercy of a brother.

I’ve failed abjectly, and began again. And failed again. Began again.

I can clarify your thoughts.
I can confess my faults, and will append that list if you desire.