30 December 2016

Seasonal Offerings


Exodus
the exodus of the child into
a foreign land
is not so strange
it happens, every day, though the
faces of the tax collectors and
the soldiers change
the journey, so tiresome and
wearying,
waiting to see which way
the wind blows, depending
upon dreams and visions,
creased heavily with cares,
last-minute luggage packed hastily, but
the baby gifts placed carefully
at the bottom of the case,
redolent of riches, incongruous,
strange, yet predestined
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Seasonal Photograph
the image of you, a year
older, taken in a State park in
the blazing sun is most un-Christmas-like,
though bordered by bells, tinsel, and holly
the green of cactus behind you, the
red of your pocket handkerchief will
have to do, the marking of another
year of lines, told in your visage, of
the ordinary passage of time
balanced by the words of some ancient hymn
of celestial words and promises as
familiar as your intake of breath, the
tapping, impatient, of your fingers, as the
days tick down towards puddings and
roasts, the blank boxes, bereft again of
their silken ribbons, their work done
--------------------------------------------------
Journey
we come, bearing gifts, across
deserts, green-brown patchworks of fields, guided
by those stars we seek out, blazing
away like the fire stoked in the
furnace, warming hearth, and home, and
heart
and we wait, too, for the
cards carrying the annual weather report, proud
robin preening in his gilt border, puffed
out breast a drop of blood against the
snow, (when seen at a distance), scent
of balsam and pine surrounding one,
the ranks of gingerbread soldiers
amassing in air-tight tins, raisin-studded,
crisply brown and fragrant, promising
that Christmas will, indeed, return, as
surely as the clock tolls twelve and the
candles are extinguished only to be
lit again, light piercing through darkness,
needle through the dark cloth in which
we were shrouded
----------------------------------------
Natal Star
His natal star rises still,
Eastwards, beacon-bright, burning
through the fog like a hot
knife through butter cut into
the pudding, fruit-thick, we stirred
and wished upon
and herself only half-done
with the Christmas shopping,
moving, so, from dark into
light, she loops great
strands, twinkling round
her wrists, her reflection tinsel-ribboned
for the Christmas:
baking great cakes of currants
and ginger, fragrant as
the first gifts to
an infant child
smiling upon us after
Adam stumbling and
spilling all those apples
upon the earth
and bang—go the
crackers
and bang—go our
hearts
when we realize
His saving grace
moving from the basement
crawlspace with the boxes,
back into the light,
bearing gifts from their hiding places—
and out of wrapping paper again,
and down to the shops,
and the post office,
and the grocery,
to pile up gifts of grace,
perhaps, for Him
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Angel Voices
these celestial hordes, their angel
voices disturb the air pearl-thick with fog
obscuring distant lights, the glowing orbs
strung, necklace-like, along the dip
and rise of the metal spines of a
distant bridge
while we wrestle with rolls of paper,
order hampers of food and the
first snow, potently mixed with rain,
lashes against the pane, window into
the world beyond
corners squared off by telephone lines,
the demarcation of bordering hedges
overhung with lights boldly emblazoning the
way of that jolly old housebreaker,
stolid redsuited fellow, spreading good
cheer and leaving a trail of crumbs
in his wake, the glasses of milk only half-drunk
in his haste, best of all
houseguests with his wink and his
waddle, father of Christmas forgiving even
the naughtiest of children (so
that no one, ever, receives coal
anymore) given the new benchmarks,
progress reports, and
projections for the next quarter,
everyone given the benefit of all our
doubts,
ripe for self-improvement in six easy steps
---------------------------------------------
Vigil
so the silks and lace rustle,
perfume rising, warm on this
vigil night, the
long lists gone over twice and
twice again, the unlovely long
weeks of January pushed further
from the mind in favor of
this candlelight and the petals of red flowers
in flaming circles bordered by green,
suffused in pinescent, thickribboned,
again, in red and the
organ resounds with familiar
strains and dark is made light again,
night made day and
the gifts are opened with a
snip of the ribbon the
next morning, the carpet littered
with a thickness of paper waded
through like fall leaves, the
scent of breakfast hanging heavy in
the kitchen, the
pot scalded, again, for tea
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Angel Wings
out of the Christmas box she
comes, again wingless, her
angel wings must be glued on,
glued on, glued on, every year for as long
as he can remember, her winsome
red-painted mouth puckered into a
bow, about to bestow a kiss eternally
wings drying, in a safe spot, she
waits for Christmas roses to
bring the bloom to her cheeks again, the
hothouse flowers crowded thick
amongst the lilies and the hyacinth,
not for them the four smooth walls of
a cardboard box—no they are
born to glory only to die and rejoin the
earth, while she stares on, blue-eyed,
golden haired, forever in an attitude
of arrested flight
-------------------------------------------------------
Lights in Winter
lighting the candles we remind ourselves
that the winter is but a long
night and that the heat of
summer, spent basking, like a
lizard, in the sun, will come again
and the green proliferation obscuring the
blue of sky, that too, will return
the miracle of light that
pierces darkness,
the flash of a jeweled brooch piercing a coat,
glinting beneath an electric light, small
suns to remind us of
that largest sun breaking through
the darkness to light our way
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sugared
tinted granules of sugar melt
and harden into pools of
green and red, the colors of the spring we
are promised throughout the
darklong weeks of winter, the
berries bloodred against the
white of snow, the shining snow
glared upon by the sun, the
sacrificial dinner of fat-
slaughtered goose upon the
table, while the sparrows peck
outside the door, hungry for a
few crumbs to drop down from
this heaven of munificence, the
rick-rack of apron twitches, striving always
for perfection, the candy stripes echoing
those embroidered upon
the napkins, quick hands arranging
landscapes of cottonwool and mirror flecked
with iridescent specks, catching the beams from
twinned candles, waxy tapers slim, red, burning bright
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Bird of Dawning
the bird of dawning singeth all
night long and so
rends her rest to pieces,
shattered as the curved
metallic sherds on the carpet
fallen from her hands
reflecting on the
bells tolling twelve
singing, ringing, then
peace in the absence
of sound
needles fall silently, thick
with pinescent, unlovely side
pushed to the wall, garlanded
gold, crowned with a
single star
----------------------------------------------------
So Much……
so much to do that even
an army of elves wouldn’t be
a help, better, so, to do it
on her own—who cares if it
takes all night, or occasions
comment on her listless eyes,
raised, again, at the sight
of the deliverymen, heavy-laden,
striding towards her door and
the hundred undone things unspooling
as the spindle of ribbon loosened and
tumbling down the stairs
tangling, finally, in the cat’s paws,
praying, sometimes, for the
peace of January
-------------------------------------------
A Chara, Mo Chroi
and you said you would be
sorry were the time to come
when my letters would not longer
reach your mailbox
and the annual letter arrives,
white as snow, ivory oblong, heavily stamped,
addressed in chickenscratch,
informing me that the trees,
fallen to some obscure tree-disease, have
been uprooted and, in their place,
new ones, a fast-growing variety, planted
down, black earth tamped thickly around
their roots, a promise of years to come
and now your voice is carried to
me through the howl of wind seeking to
breach the storm door as I wait, endlessly,
and would I could open the door to
receive you in, to jaw over old
landscapes, new-painted, the honeycomb of paths, squared,
we once walked, and this is
my Christmas letter to you, a chara, mo chroi
--------------------------------------------------
Grey Pearl
grey pearl of sky draws
down around earth so
quiet-blanketed in white
footsteps are muffled and
all quiet save for the
occasional scrape of
metal against pavement
shuddering up
shrubbery bearded
in a temporary disguise
of white, icicles hanging from
the eaves a toothy grin
of cold
imperfect fields of green and brown now
perfected white, shine
back, glittering now, under the
sun, eye-blinding bright
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Blank Copy Books
another blank copy book opens, waiting
to be filled with copperplate
resolutions (before we’ve lost
everything but a stub of a pencil and
the back of an old envelope, only
slightly torn) and the rosy glow of
New Year’s dinner not yet worn off and
perhaps a freshclean blanket of snow
mirroring your newmade soul and
for at least one moment
all seems possible, and, maybe,
even likely
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Beneath the Constellations
beneath the constellations
bells are ringing, bells are ringing
beneath the starry skies
we are singing, we are singing
of that night so long ago,
of those words threading through
this tapestry of night, blue-
dark, lit by that singular star of
fire, heralded by
an angel choir
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Tangle-Thick
this tangle-thick of corded
lights confound one, yet we
persist, determined to
light the way of others
with garlands of red and
green and white-hot
illumination, pale cousins
of those new suns perpetually
being born
while deliverymen come, bearing
gifts, to the door
and the sphinx still stares,
impassive, across Egyptian sands,
under the thronging stars
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New Year
the song resounds: another year
done, another yet to begin
the muddied pages of the
desk diaries changed for new
the scrawls of March and
April as indecipherable as
Sanskrit to your tired eyes, the
days slipped by too fast, tied
up now with ribbons and good
intentions, the slipknots wound
round the needles, fashioning a
new garment for a new year
when all
shall be
in abundance
-------------------------------------------------------
Burning Daylight
burning daylight with those
ordinary tasks after the season
has expired and all is quiet:
jewel-bright ornaments, small
mirrors, placed back in their
boxes, egg-fragile, shimmering
crimson, gold, eggplant-purple, back to
the attic they go, their
service done for another year,
each burnished with a thick
layer of memory, of that year or
another, touched with tender hands,
supremest care
------------------------------------------------------------------
Our Song, Now Done
and now that our song is
done
birds throng on the
boughs
angels stir the air
and
all will be merry
though the chill winds
blow
a fire leaps up
licking the coals
banishing sorrows

15 October 2016

In Light

to awaken, finally, from a long sleep
and see the dawn, at a
distance, rosy, the small green
plants forcing their way up between the
paving stones, obstinate and unyielding

then shake the ashes from your wings, a
sparrow, if not a phoenix, quick and
finely feathered, escaping that
series of cages, stairwells,
sinkholes

to soar, free of your fetters,
each journey starting but with one
step, hardest in the bleak morning
after the music has stopped, the
reverberation turned to a death
rattle, to turn away, then, and
the floor, still unsteady beneath your feet,
set your own course, being careful, of
course, to skirt the sun

lift off is the tricky part,  the view from
the summit, though, is worth the wait,
greeted as an old friend, bereft of
you for so long, the light of
life in your eyes again

see the stars, strung out like
diamonds against the sky?
each one is a wish.  make those wishes yours.


In Darkness

falling into the arms of sleep as
she once did yours, the cold clasp
of Morpheus quieting her feverish
thoughts until she hears that
click in her head that makes
all go still.  The words stop.
the crack of ice floes in amber,
held in her hand, the blur of neon
across her eyes--she shakes her
bottles like castanets and
keeps time to the music--she
won't let you in--it is
all hers, winding, snakelike, sinuous,
around her brainpan, and the
needle-pricks spell out, in swollen
flesh, help me, help,
me
my mother, my father, the silver
spoon you gave me is blackened, flattened
with this disease of mine
that sickens me so, the
desire that plays along my heartstrings,
veins a conduit for rivers of
poison, this dark desire suffocating
every suffering moment
and still I shake my castanets,
count out the tablets like words
of love, yes, yes, yes, my little
my lovely ones, pale moons clattering away in your hollow music,
the sound ever receding

a finger points to the lines
written in the sky:   I have
died a hundred times or more, it is
an art, like anything else; I
do it so well, with the thick
finality finally muffling my words,
closing off my mouth for all time

14 June 2016

Cloistered

from pools of ink-black
coffee in anonymous
office buildings piercing the
sky, some words are
written during a lunch hour,
then some more, and
some more, savoring of
the street, and music,
and the tenor of the
times and having a
Coke with you I do
not think of statuary,
but of a kiss stolen
in the Cloisters, next
to the quiet tomb of
some great lady, her
solemn face in
perpetual repose, her
husband close by

away from the din of
the city, where the
steel pierces the
clouds, accepts
his kiss, for better
or for worse, as
well him as another

Noontime

the open skies look
down upon the patchwork
of green, brown, black
ribbons of road newly
dug, ever expanding
veins to tap fields thick
with wheat, alfalfa, corn

the bounty of all that
springs up here, the land
arable, the water pure
still, and the song of the
birds clearly
heard, the dawn chorus
a prompting to the day's
labor

the land grown over with
simple spires and towers, pointing
heavenwards, the weathervane
spinning to show what way
the wind goes

and generations are born
and die
and still the lilac by
the dooryard blooms,
redolent of the promise
of spring, and, as we
tend to the land, so
she relinquishes her bounty

Upon Arrival

setting foot upon a
foreign shore, black
clad, starting the
work of taming an
unruly land, resolute, unsparing

the stones dug out for
fences, the land marked
out in acres, trees crowning
mountains, green parapets
in this new Eden of
forbidding landscapes,
jagged jewels yet to
be smoothed

in this ever-expanding
America neon often
lights the way now, in
place of the stars the
pocked the sky, beacons
to a better future, with
bread and land for all,
the story still undone, it
goes on, unstoppable

07 May 2016

Untitled I, Untitled II, and Untitled III

UNTITLED I


take me in your arms again as
another spring is born from winter

place your lips on mine and
overhead the birds shall
sing a song fit to break
the heart

furrow-fields, lines straight,
without error, all too ready
for planting, dew-damped, fading
into the distance, a horizon opened up
until infinite, beyond all our poor calculations

how long will it take for the seeds
to sprout?  Only a skilled
farmer knows, winking and peeking
at the sun as it rises and sets, other
propitious signs well-known to him, his
visage fairer than any other

and buds burst along the branches,
newly green, tight-folded, waiting
to be plucked


 .....................
  


UNTITLED II


the woman says:  do not try
to make me small; I am the
colossus who straddles the earth
and engenders all that is good,
mother of all the world, grown
out of the sea, though no
pillar of salt ground down
to grace your table

no doll to be tucked into
your coatpocket, or a book of matches
struck, one by one, their brightness
lying, extinguished, on the landing,
dimmed forever to a smudge of ash

mother of all, subject to none,
rising above the lines of littered phrases
meant to trammel her in.  No.  She
eludes these nets of sarcasm, scar-casm,
gleaming ivorygold, sinuous, sailing off
to better waters


 ...........................



UNTITLED III


do not mourn me when I
am gone.  Know that I am
with you yet in every sprig
of green you find beneath your boot

each squawk of birdnoise, each
crack of thunder, flame of lightning,
sudden wind stirring up the leaves to
dance in brittle circles

only tell the bees, so that they will
not decamp from their hives, that I have gone,
and let them know of those who will
voice the customary funereal words,

walking, stiff-suited, noose-tied, in dark
clothes, pinch-shod,
mouthing forced formalities through
the fug of flowers, so distant from
the sweeter noise of buzzing hives
under the summer sun


16 February 2016

River

too big to fail, too
old to trust, the
water sullied by
glowing particulates, threading
thick through the life-blood
of this landscape

and who shall hear her
call, soft through the
night, winding through
the trees, now bare in winter,
waiting for the green garb of
spring?

will it come again?

or shall the rivulets shine,
doubling and redoubling mutations,
reworking our DNA until we are
what?

fault lines and faulty
thinking: a poor pairing
indeed, piercing the ground
with poisoned daggers, killing
the one who bore us


Charnel

scraping the plates, the
heaped bones into the
charnel of a bin, kitchen
meat-fragrant, redolent of
blood burnt over a steady
flame and she thinks of
him and his dear bones,
that finest of frameworks
and how she (once)
pressed her lips to his

still, there are greens to
be chopped with a blade,
silver steady, pressed
against the board, the
ribbons adorning a blue
bowl, crowning the cool
china like a triumphal
wreath, waiting for a
fine seasoning

as she would season your
brow with kisses, peppering
his cheeks until she was
hungry no more.....

and still, the pitchers to
be filled and the linen
cloths, these winding sheets,
to be pressed and put
away

oh my dear, my darling one,
do not abandon me!

Fairy Tales

drops--that will not pierce
the skin--pelt the flesh
like pennies against the
wall--a coin toss, the
rolling of bones, all in
life a chance, the
chancers standing on the
corner with their matchbook
manifestos, eyes snapping
like a leather belt around
the ears.

this too
shall pass
shall pass

and all will be light
again, the unnerving glory
of a spring day encapsulated
in a single pill, to be
taken with a glass of
milk

we are good children (or
were, once-upon-a-time)
when we still believed
in happily-ever-after

keeping company with the
kith and kin of the forest,
those familiar gnomish elves
who practice good magic
and reward the
simple and deserving, answering
thick riddles with
common courtesy