Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Get Up From Your Bed of Powdered Ice

Get up from your bed of powdered ice
You produce of the island, stretched lean and pruned in Pensacola,
Pressed down, shaken, and released in Pennsylvania.

Get up from your dreams of carrying your Mother
Who first began to carry you in Texas
And listen to your sister whisper “church yourself” in sleep.

Shake off your sore, your lame, your heavy lashes longing for the sea.
Feel the sunrise in your tired bones,
Refuse the flutter, but feel the sap of spring. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

4:42 AM, November 21, 2010

Who is committing suicide tonight?
Or why else was I aroused to stir my bed of four hours
To pace the halls, to the see the children safe asleep, as an “anxious mother full of anxious love”?
Hall lights greeted me like an ill-timed rooster, bright and brazen then as they would be twelve hours later. “If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning…”
But this is no curse, this wakefulness, this restlessness.
It bespeaks of a thinning skin, a Ghost, and a responsive heart.
Glad to be assured, I glided back. Not to bed, but to be aware beneath a desk lamp, on a leather chair.

A few short days, and I myself will be hovered over, will lay my head on living-room pillows with the properties of peaches, wet cornstarch, and alligator hide.
Then I’ll be inside the arms that taught these arms the embrace they now are known for by my friends.
There I’ll smell fresh bread, the must of a barren chimney, the clean hot steam of the dishwasher as he hums during his morning shower.
There I’ll be at once aware of both my roots and my new limbs, and will marvel how both grow together so that I will not topple.
So here, as a mist-swathed moon glances over her shoulder in reluctant farewell,
I wonder who first owned this stolen hour, and how I may return it with impunity.

"Oliver James," Fleet Foxes
Proverbs 27:14, NIV


Gut me from navel to neck, 
And fill the cavity with love.
Gouge out my eyes and replace them with orbs
That perceive as well as see.
Slough off the skin of my fingers and face
That I may better feel Your discipline 
And more tenderly administer Your grace.

Ant Lions

Under the green light of the branches, where You birthed me,
Under the streaked sky’s flying engines, wings, and whines,
By the gravel’s grating crunch like ice cubes, cold and dry-
Here the sweat of my upper lip is like relief,
Like exhaust from a burning, bleeding heart that sparks
With friction, “It’s fractious”, foolish:
Pulling two ways and never brave enough
To let one side win.
Cicadas grin and cackle wickedly.
But it’s only my interpretation, because they riddle me with bullets so my irritation
Will lure out the devil, like the spittle on the pine needle aggravates the ant lion
From his hollow in the sand.

Home Poems: for the Northernists and my Father

All the Moths in My Hair Will Swarm to This Light

The broken branches of the mulberry tree still cling on their living brothers.
They will not fall until a strong wind comes;
My father will not pull them down.
Small trees I once could not climb have surpassed me.
“Son, you can carry me now.”
The tadpole is dried up with the puddle.
The sage blooms, the sage flowers in purple. The ferns converge around the rocks and northern wall. Woolly mint swallows up the strawberry bed. And I am content to watch.

Hurry home, heart. Gather up your frayed ends. Leave behind the noise of yesterday; consume the sunlight before it fades.
Who is to say this will be here tomorrow?
So close now, like your brother knocking on the wall between your rooms,
Like your Mother’s photographs looking like you, suddenly,
Like cut grass clinging to the tops of your feet.
The grass is strewn with fur.
Stop this harried grasping after life and observe:
What went before you, and what will happen after.
You are a small pear blossom. Flower now, and shrivel bravely.
Do not call fruit a burden, though it bears you down.

Carry on a conversation with the sparrow, the thrasher, the cormorant, the wren. Let the slow wisdom of the grebe seep in. Support the hearty robin, respect the hardened city pigeon.
You are not nidifugous; stay at home while there is a home to have.
And make it glad.
You returned too late for the may-apple, the child of the mandrake, the sole fruit of its two umbrella-arms.
Now wait another year. Years see changes you would not expect. Cast your crumbs upon the waters, for in many days you will find full bellies in your wake.
Loved, loved, loved, comes with every wind.
Do not forget it.

The tadpole is dried up with the puddle.
The grass is strewn with fur.
And there are thorns in the honeysuckle.
But the grass, trees, and sky combine in fireflies
And the porch light signals me to come inside.

Another Old Cliché

One thing that grows harder with time
Is believing.
Seeing only the day-to-day leaves a tannic aftertaste.

Then sorry thoughts bend their lips to my ears, asking me why am I so old?
Better save the bitter for the winter, when all the world embraces aged thoughts.
It seems somehow wrong to be weary in spring.

Leads to another life are hinting at me from the trees, the gasping fish, the headless snake.
One thing never leaves:
The empty space.

Spring leaves stick closer together
In numbers.
Safety is found in knowing you are free falling

And stretching out your arms to the air.

The Memory of Birds (Older Version)

I neared her house and saw her squatting in the front yard, in the shade of the big maple tree. There was something in her hands that quivered slightly. She was looking up the street, so she saw me at the same time I saw her. She smiled, but she didn’t get up. I smiled too, not knowing what to say, and crossed the lawn to her.
            I felt tall and awkward, walking up to Eliza sitting there in the grass. She didn’t say anything until I was right in front of her, and then she asked,
“Would you like to hold him?”
I grinned and said yes. She told me to sit down. Then she placed the warm, fluffy thing in my hands. Geoffrey adjusted his stubby wings to regain his balance after the transition. I wasn’t prepared to feel how light he was, and how small. Like a handful of seedpod dandelions. The queerest thing was the sensation of his body against my fingers; I could distinctly feel his breastbones beneath the down. That surprised me: there seemed to be nothing but airy fluff and a thin membrane of skin between my fingertips and his bones. But nearer to his feet I felt no bones, only his belly, warm and moist. It swelled in and out. His little feet clutched at my skin in a funny way. I laughed, and Eliza looked at me, enjoying my initiation. I felt like I should say something so I asked,
“How old is he?”
She answered that he was probably about two weeks old, but she wasn’t sure because she’d only had him since Friday. She said she knew this because his eyes were well open but he still had baby fluff.
I was always impressed by Eliza’s solemn knowledge. Maybe that was why I loved her so. She was a child, but her mind was sensible and probing. I still don’t know what she saw in me; I was such an overgrown excuse for a teenager. Maybe she sensed how I appreciated the meaning in things, the way she did.
I gazed back down at Geoffrey, who was blinking and rustling his little sheathed wings. I bent my head to inspect them. Each feather on his wings was growing out of a semi-transparent tube, made of quill material. The tips of his feathers were already free and fanning out, but the roots were still tightly bound up in their tube-sheaths.
            With my face close to Geoffrey like that, I smelled him for the first time. It was a curious delicate smell: eggy, a bit like mild urine, and sweet. I didn’t find it offensive, and leaned there, inhaling for a moment. Then Eliza moved beside me and I saw her pick up a recycled yogurt container from beside her left leg. She reached into it and pulled out a small worm. She took it with both hands and methodically tore it into three bits. They wriggled and exuded guts, but she placidly lay two of the pieces on her bare knee, and leaned over to feed Geoffrey the third. I watched her in silent admiration. I had never known a little girl to be so unconcerned with such things, and I wanted to say so. But I didn’t. As her hand neared Geoffrey, he lifted his head with open beak, and flapped his tiny wings and chirped. I could feel his whole body straining up toward that bit of worm.
“Don’t parent birds sometimes eat and regurgitate the food for their babies? I asked. “What if you spit on the pieces to help Geoffrey digest them?” I was hoping this was an educated question.
Eliza leaned back and squinted for a moment while her mind worked. Then she turned back to her knee and picked up another bit of worm, saying,
“Bird spit is different from human spit.”
I nodded. And I watched Eliza carefully feed Geoffrey the last two pieces. He was warm, and my palm sweated, so his down stuck to my skin. When I gave him back to Eliza my hands felt refreshed by the air. Eliza took him in a motherly sort of way, and I felt something like a father. Protective, and proud, and a little in wonder.

As I walked home I wiped my nose, and smelled Geoffrey on my hand. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The First Morning

This is a place to pray.
I place “where prayer has been valid”*
Here there is an ache in the ribcage,
And against the throat, and in the pit of the stomach.
An ache of loss, and suffering, and resilience, through a battering,
Like the cold gray swells that that pound against the coast.
Even the young, greening trees are hushed into reverence in the morning,
They sway meekly, afraid to make a sound.
The threefold white of the sea and the sky and the mist in the dawning air hallows the room so early, that there is little chance of sleeping late. But I am satisfied with a rest no sleep could give.
A rain begins,
Pattering on the left-side panes,
Blending into a rhythm on the lawn.
The night is gone.
An un-met future awaits me.
The un-wet rocks are not convinced that my pleasure in them warrants my acceptance.
But there is little that cannot be worn away
By patient love.

*T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets: Little Gidding