The bridegroom comes

He fell in love with her jade eyes
searching for him on the river bank

a few miles above Mobile
at her father’s fishing camp.

He spoke to her through
Gulf breezes and gray-dawn gulls

and lavished prophecies on her
the way tides speak of the deep.

Anointing her words, he poured
ancient Seraphic chants and

refrains, without rhyme, into her
voice as joyful as timbrels at betrothals.

Next to her curl-edged Bible
she kept her cigarettes, lit lamps

waiting in the moonless, salty night
ready when he called her back

across the river raptured with stars,
their flasks overflowing with oil.

Psalm 137 for Noah

Come darling, sit by my side and weep.
I have no lyre, no melodious voice or chant.
I meditate on the Zion I could never grant you.
My son, my roe deer, my rock-rent stream.            
My honeysuckle, my salt, my golden spear.
Forgive me your birth in this strange land.
I wanted your infant kisses, your fists clasped
round my neck. I craved you, though you were born
in the wake of my illness, my dim prognosis.
I was selfish: I willed you this woe, this world.
You inherited exile for my sake.

What people gave me one night in rural coastal Oregon after I told them stories in a lovely tiny library

A stack of brownies as big as bricks for my children.
A small paper bowl of red and orange salmonberries.
An antler from a spike buck, perhaps three years old,
Perhaps a black-tailed deer, perhaps now gargantuan.
Cranberry syrup made up the coast about eight miles.
Handshakes of all sorts. A photograph; their one son,
Just deceased; we just thought that you should have it.
Blackberry jam, homemade. Honey, homemade. Salal
Sprigs, elderberry sprigs. Canned smoked salmon and
Tuna, caught about two miles to the west of where we
Stood in the library. A baby girl hoisted up so she and
I could look each other in the eye. She sneezed. Books
To scrawl upon. Huckleberry leaves. A cougar’s tooth,
Gleaming. A man gripped me by the shoulder and said
Nothing. His was a remarkably expressive grip. People
Give you things without any things in their hands. You
Know what I mean. They are eloquent without needing
To speak. We hardly ever talk about this. I shuffled off
With my arms full. I had been slathered by the glorious
And only a little of it was in the basket I tucked into my
Car. People were hungry for something. I knew what it
Was and it wasn’t me; but I could tell stories that could
Point to what it is we are all starving for. We work and
Yearn and struggle and dream for it. Occasionally when
We gather together, if there is humility, if there is story,
If there is honesty, then there is just enough food for all.

Without the guidance of the noonday stars

Where will I be when I confront the dark
the stars have lived in for millennia?

I’m no ascetic, I love what I call
earthly paradise, the vegetable stand
beside the road, I love to buy, devour
seconds after purchase, peach juice on my chin,

my sticky fingers unfit for anything
except delicious licentiousness,
licking them clean, tonguing sweetness, myself.

But to keep hungry, I need that wavering
incertain doubt provides my stars at noon,
the luminous I think I’m making up
some days. And other days I count on, countless.


Born of damp and demise,
little prodigies haunt the shadows,
like conversations we live
to forget. Wild mushrooms
lift their spongy overnight ears,
and muscle aside the fallen
eye-shine of chestnuts. Among us,
the old argument crops up,
and both parties hunker down
in the woods. This is where
we get the verb mushroom:
we, who launch our ripostes, seeding
the air beyond what it can hold.
What if we can’t find the truth?
The man losing his faith in speech
utters blurred shapes, like those caps
and stems, ghostly with foxfire,
savvy and sprouting, in hopes
they illumine the woodland floor.