Poetry

Poetry

The song sparrow

Walked out to the car this morning to find a small brown
Bird deceased on the windshield. A young song sparrow,
Neither naked gawky nestling nor chesty feathered elder;
A sort of a teenager, I guess. Cause of death not instantly
Evident, nor did I spend time determining its gender; no,
My brain got stuck on the teenager part. It’s so fearsome,
Being a teenager. Everything is ten times louder. They’re
Braver and stupider than any three older people; they are
Three people, most of the time. This is discombobulating
In the extreme. But we have no sympathy for them. We’d
Prefer to forget we were them; we deny that we ever were.
You know we do. If we wrote our histories we would skip
From twelve to twenty, from generally bucolic childhood,
At least fitfully, at least while finding refuge from trouble,
To beginner older idiocy, which itself takes a decade or so.
We get so impatient with teenagers. We want them to leap
Past stupid. But stupid is a great teacher, isn’t it? Flailing
At least teaches you what alleys to avoid, if at all possible.
We have no mercy on them but they are in a thunderstorm,
And probably it seems like it will never end, and we whine
That they are wet yet again even after we advised as re wet.
And how wet we were too, brothers and sisters, how moist
And soaked and sopping and bedraggled we were, not even
Fully feathered at the time, trying to figure out how to soar,
And where to soar, and who, if anyone, would soar with us;
And if we were blessed we had parents, maybe parents who
Loved us even, but so often they just stood and sermonized
As we fell out of the nest, frightened and thrilled and lonely.

Starry Solomon’s plume

(Maianthemum stellatum)

Starry, starry Solomon’s plume,
your constellations float

in clusters lowly wise,
zig-zagging asterisks of light,

reminding thick and shaggy cedars,
though they breach the nether skies,

that even smallest things may be
arrayed on earth as they are in heaven.

—North Cascades National Park

Andrew son of Jonah

He’s always been my level-headed son
& so I let him wander the wilderness
after his bruised-reed prophet
since he’d always return        to mend the nets
& chase another catch     I’d thought

Simon was the impetuous one
but Andrew was as steady as a boat on sand
When the Baptiser admitted      he wasn’t the man
he pointed out the Lamb of God
& Andrew was caught

He followed        & brought Simon
& some other local boys along too
What was I supposed to do?
I only had a fishing life
& he had much more to offer      than I’d got

I only wish it had been when I was young
that Messiah came      not leaving me to fish
& grow old       with the same ache in my bones
my two sons following the unknown
leaving me with naught

Baptism

A pane breaks into water as we enter death
and burial to imitate Christ. Faith is measured

this way, by one’s willingness to submit
to what one cannot comprehend. We rise up

as new creatures, but in what sense have we
shifted? In those seconds under water’s

smooth door, do our bodies lap over
this world’s edge to the next? Do the angels

who see us rejoice
to bear witness before we rise up, closing

the door between us? Our lives’ balance
on the wing of what we give up, yet desire.

A bird imitates, but is said to have no
perception. Yet some believe it was a bird

who plunged the primordial sea,
bringing mud to the surface to form the earth

we’re made from; their wings opening in the shape
of a cross, our fondest dreams of flight.

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.