Poetry

Poetry

Bleeding heart

(Dicentra formosa)

Finally, a flower after my own.
       You there, hanging

in unashamed bivalve clusters
     at the feet of ancient cedars.

So few of them left, you know.
     Is that what breaks you? Is that

what makes you wear your sweet pink
     ventricles on your green sleeve?

                                         —Rockport State Park

Organic ink

Petals unfold from your tongue, you speak crimson
velvet freshness into being. An opening bud of careful
precision, a floral life floating on your breath, bees, and boundary.
 
You expand a mystery of molecules, at your word atomic spice
springs into breeze; you dizzy hummingbirds, intoxicate butterflies.
Shining beams play, shimmer, light your Shulamite, invite a tango.

You draw. Come, find my notes poured out in the garden, etched among
lemons and limes. See, the lost apricot awakens! Sweet shoots adorn
black crumbling branches. On every cell I inscribe: what was dead is alive.

You wait for me to discover your love among the leaves and thorns,
(will I perceive it?) your hidden blossom of wonder, a shy heart-shaped
valentine of third heaven, a sachet for this moment, a marked downbeat

of song, a bodily inhale of my eyes and skin and hair and breath. Filled
with rising melody, your unspoken lyrics whispered on wind, I join
your written roses in swaying dance, in blood-red bloom of belonging.

Kierkegaard’s canary

“and freedom looks down into its own possibility, laying hold of finiteness to support itself”

—Vigilius Haufniensis, “The Watchman” of Copenhagen, The Concept of Anxiety

Kierkegaard’s canary was happy
as a lark until Kierkegaard set

it free. Now the whole bright world
spins out beneath its flight, its heart
in palpitations. Yes; the whole

bright glorious world spins,
the whole bright, blinding world.

Sweeney’s

Hauled an old longsleeved cotton shirt out of the drawer
Yesterday and once again time ground gears and shifted
Back forty years and this very shirt which was then more
Shirt than holes is handed to me by my lean gruff almost
Always quiet tall older brother who is of course my hero
And I gape at him unbelievingly and say Really, for me?
And he nods and so I come into possession of his college
Shirt earned playing football for a tavern or something as
Quotidian as that but not for me, not at all for me—that’s
The point. Whatever we think is quotidian isn’t. The pub
Was called Sweeney’s. It closed long ago. I would not be
Surprised if this was the last Sweeney’s shirt in existence.
I’ll always have his shirt in a drawer. If I touch it, here he
Is in the room with me, smiling at how a shirt can make a
Kid speechless with astonished joy, even forty years later.
Isn’t that amazing? We hardly ever say how amazing it is
That you can freeze time and reverse it and make it caper
And spin it back to anywhere anyone you used to be. Isn’t
That amazing? A snatch of song, a scent, a battered collar,
A ratty old pub jersey. So many time machines. Yes, time
Wins. My brother withered and vanished. Yet here he sits
On the edge of the bed snickering at me as the shirt hangs
Way down past my knees. No religion owns resurrections.

Brancacci Chapel

Young Masaccio died before
his paint had dried, but
his time-battered fresco tells all:
how man in the midst of figs and wine
reaches for the whole banquet
and loses all but the crumbs,
which taste like poison.
 
Their sin is fresh; the doors of Paradise
slam while heel still crosses the threshold,
driven out by the upraised sword
of a crimson-winged messenger of God
who points their way to a world of dust.
His flowing garment billows
around their nakedness.
 
They walk toward us, look like us.
His woe is inward, head bowed.
His hands cover darkened eyes;
from his mouth, muffled sobs.
Yet he strides forward
to face the wilderness
which yet he does not comprehend.
 
She does. Her foreshortened face, skull-like,
gazes up into the looming abyss.
Eyes strokes of gloom,
from her mouth a scream of agony
for what she sees ahead:
needles passing in dirty rooms,
children shrunk to skeletons,
men strapped with bombs.