The traveler ponders some rumors that have reached his ears

He’s heard stories of amber, of winter storms that deposit
yellow knurls and knuckles the length of the long beach
that runs north to Palanga, of roads jammed even in winter
on a fair Sunday with beachcombers eager for treasure.
He’s not found that road yet, shy or distracted or put off
by some vague sense that the old powers should be
cautiously approached. He’s read that the Christians found
this land hard to enter, the people stubborn, claiming
to be happy with the gods they knew. That’s been centuries.
Still the borders mean something. Still the news is bloody
and not so far away. The traveler read in the U.S. news
that there’s new word form Vilnius: if the Russians come,
stay calm. Show up for work. Hug your children. The traveler
has noticed nothing scary, but he knows he’s wearing
a snug cocoon of ignorance. Anyway another source insisted
that the message was mostly about storms, fire, earthquakes,
the Russians only one of many perils that need forethought
but not fear. He doesn’t know whether the bundled souls
he passes on his night walks are brooding on blood, or thinking
only of their doors and dinner and a drink, or wondering
how much amber the last storm of winter washed up
on the beach, how much waits half-buried to give itself
to any walker, golden as cool fragments of a lost sun.

The still pilgrim’s thoughts upon rising

Blessed sleep and the long call of light.
The morning a mercy of birds.
Returned from the black hole of being,
she finds all as she left it last night.
The chairs askew, the table crumbs,
the dishes stacked up in the sink.
Yesterday’s dress tossed across the bed.
It’s enough to make her think

of how the world just waits for us
attending to its nightly song,
of how we breathe in time with it
and rise again with each new dawn,
of how we bear the miracle
and find ourselves where we belong.

Christmas poem

This house I have stands deep,
Dimensionless in me.
Here I can sing and weep.
Here God can come to be.

Flimsy as an old stable,
It’s a porous place to dwell.
I’ve proved hopelessly unable
To seal it off from hell.

The Holy Innocents
Are growing every day
In number. Someone repents
And, turning, turns away.

This house I have stands deep,
Dimensionless in me.
Keep Christmas here, Child. Keep
Your weakness bright to see.

The word became flesh

A flash of colored wing;
peacock, pheasant brilliance—
turquoise, scarlet, green, bronze,
settled soft to downy quiet.
Then he spoke a greeting,
the same tone as the deepest bell.

He addressed her as favored.
Favored? By what? By whom?
Even her wonder and her awe
did not erase her reason.
They conversed between two worlds
until she clearly understood.

When she consented and he left,
she wondered how her world would be
able to wear such brightness.
His words still rang the spring air
and one, which seemed the sum of all,
resounded, rounded, and remained.


Two geologists made this word
from the Greek, petros for stone,
and ichor, for the liquid that flows
through the veins of the gods.
They wanted to name the scent
of parched earth after fresh rain:
The reconstituted redolence
of salted silt marbled
with terracotta. This old,
dry world brought back
to loamy life—another name
for mercy.