Saturday, April 21, 2012


“That high light which is the only object of your longing.”
-Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, C.XIII. 86-87

It was a light like early morning,
like late afternoon. Yellow
and white and glowing.
Shimmering, fringed with fire;
Everything was holy.

He told me in a letter, in a look
that there was another. How good
to feel my heart change within me, loosened,
plied by love, consoled by the promise
of what I could not buy.

The corridor stretched its walls of glass, molten in sun,
leading me to the next house with its wooden stairs.
She knelt at his feet, her hands weaving.
I could be glad for them. I can, I will.
I am.

Quote: “Plied by love” – Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, C.XIII. 39
English translation by Allen Mandelbaum.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Longing Makes the Heart Grow Deep

When everything falls back strange and empty
And we are no longer hungry, even,
No longer met by desire,
No longer thrilled by the sea.

desiderium sinus cordis.

We are covered in this great love,
that never needed us.
Come, Holy Spirit.

Everything comes close,
nothing comes in.
Nothing gathers to be fed upon,
everything eats itself away.

Come, Holy Spirit.

Pantheon, Roma

The first walls look frangible as a sliver of bark, yet
They endure. As they have endured two thousand years.
For me, tucked a corner of the fountain, they are
The only walls that matter.

Attempts at permanence rise everywhere:
The marble steps, the stone fountains, the painted shops
Left and right, but only here
Does the sun send a light that dissolves time.

This room is ancient, eternal.
A throbbing cavern, an incandescent dome.
Light pierces the shadows beneath its pillars.
It is a home for the soul.

Tidy bells of nearby chapels chime,
These clang in almost-rhythmic, aboriginal tones.
Other roofs keep out the sun and snow, but this
Is a wide open eye through which all nature pounds.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Master's House

To him, who’d never heard
Of any world where promises were kept
Or one could weep because another wept.


He is out of place
in a world like this. A world
where wealth is taken advantage of, where
trust is only lubricant for trade.

He is the kind of master one hears
discussed by fence posts: “Well, he’s rich,
I suppose, but no businessman.”
He grows, but he grows etiolated.

This master, like his house, is painfully visible.
Ashamed of his shoulders and large,
awkward hands, his gently crowded teeth.
“He’s a good man, though.”

Just too trusting to prosper,
too moody. Simple. Young. Embarrassed by his power, yet
bound to show it off in a fantastic mansard rooftop
and pseudo-Gothic porch. Fragile as the glass in his windows.

He has the utterly naked look of someone 
being stared at, someone American and gawky. 
Someone who is about to be left alone 
again, and can no longer stand it.


Do you know I hear
your voice above all others,
even when you speak
low? That I memorize
your footsteps, know
your stride. Remember
the color you wear
and notice when
you enter. Want
to be seen, and also
want to hide.

I could not sleep. I thought
I’d sweat and falter, but I spoke.
And you said, “that was kind.”
There is a deep loneliness
I thought you understood,
in our hush. Stairways
remember as do doors, trees,
front porches, and water troughs.

I wonder if I was new
to you. Or something chronic,
old, common. You’d heard
it, no doubt, a dozen
times. Did I disgust
you? I could not
hide. We can only be lonely
for so long. I did not know
until I saw your eyes.


I cannot speak, I cannot
sing. I too am desolate,
desolate and even ashamed.
I will not stay in our house, now
it is so desperately empty.
I will go somewhere and become
lost. All that is present is a single
pair of tracks straightening
into the distance.

Quotes (In Italics, in order): W.H. Auden, “The Shield of Achilles.” Hirsch, “Edward Hopper and the House By the Railroad,” Ibid., Ibid., Carolyn Forche, “Travel Papers,” Hirsch, Ibid., Ibid., 

Credits: Edward Hopper, “House By the Railroad,” Terrence Malick, Days of Heaven.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Maundy Thursday

The day before
you died,
it was spring.
You told me
I was wild,
and you loved me.

The wind blew from everywhere
at once. You snatched
my hand and steered
me, through stinging
nettles, to the ridge.

We stood, clutching
the wire, swaying
like windblown grass.
You wrapped me
in laughter, drew
the whole world
into your eyes.

I remember no single tree,
or rock, or flower,
only The import
of a thing surrounded,
Here in body.
You did not know
you were making symbols
for the rest of my life.

Italics: Richard Wilbur: “The Eye”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I will be lost among the many things that fly.
The streets, the soil, the dry
Unyielding stones will throng against the sea
To be swallowed up, and I
Will leap into the sky, a waxing flare
Among the millions thrown against the air.


Estranged from every home, I am closer
to the one I left eight years ago. Remember again
the green anoles, the color of thrasher eggs (white or green, 
always flecked). The way the humid air buzzed, was thick with insects
like glittering specks of dust. The doves, the nut tree’s bitter leaves,
the afternoon shimmer over the street.
The tiny gold hook on our white
dining-room window shutters.
The light. The lush.
The rainstorms.

Easter Vigil: Duomo, Orvieto.

What do you mean hiding behind a red curtain and
letting it drop amid clanging bells, to reveal your bare body?
You pose with a hip cocked, an arm thrusting that white banner
with its crimson cross into the towering space of the nave.

Did we come to the theatre? Were you sniggering while we
dropped tears and chanted Christo pietà! in the shadows,
holding together the cracks of our cheap taper candles?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Via Crucis 10: Jesus is Stripped

I remember how she said, in Auschwitz,
That Jesus was completely naked.
Artists honor him with a white rag, or even a gold swathe.
But the truth is,
They stripped him.
Clothed Him in sarcastic red. Stripped Him again.
Re-clothed Him in His own robe. Like some doll to be changed
On a whim, or
Left naked on the floor.
He died. They stripped Him again, and quartered His clothes.
There is no shame of ours He did not know.

I remember how humbled I felt just wearing a hospital gown.
Helpless, acquiescent.
How did God feel to be seen in full humanity? Not some chiseled hero,
But a sweating, bleeding, quivering man. Weak and incontinent.
He must have died by degrees.

His mother must have felt their violent disrespect. She was pierced as well.
How feeble and small His disciples must have thought Him,
In spite of themselves. He had knelt half-dressed for them only hours before,
To wash their feet. Now
They could barely look at Him.
He wore only the woman’s nard. A beautiful thing.