Poetry

Poetry

Daughter

I don’t remember. I was twelve, not yet
aware of how a parent dies before
a child’s bewilderment. I lay beset
by fever, lost to life. I will not bore

you reconstructing how they called my name
and wept. They were perhaps more deeply stricken
than some, my father’s leadership a claim
on God’s beneficence. I’ve forgotten—

I don’t remember anger. What stays
with me is waking to voices about
my bed, one voice clear in the haze
of wonder, and Father’s joyous shout.

So long ago now! I live bound by that surprise,
and long to hear again that voice “Daughter, arise."





The vigil

How did he do it?
Open those good hands,
spread his five fingers wide
to receive the blunt nails?
Hear the crack of bone,
delicate wingwork of phalanx and carpal?
Hang the weight of his whole self
from those soft clay doves
and trust them to hold?
To hold?

They flutter light.
Brush against the good wood.
His mother’s eye catches,
watches as she used to watch
beside her dreaming child
those white birds of paradise
gently reach
for some thing lost,
some thing left behind,
a kingdom he saw about to come.

Reflections in a spoon

Hunger is a bowl of reflected light,
a concave mirror of flight,
an image reversed,
the breech birth
of an angel floating from Earth
feet first.

Easter week

Speaking of Houdini and escape,
of Spring, this Spring, there being
no General or Eternal Spring,

yesterday I saw a blue pickup
pull out from a stoplight with eight trees
swaying and gesturing, sentenced to a life

they never chose. We know the cruelty
of mathematics, the bottom line,
how it can cancel the exactitude of longing.

How bereavement can sound like
the plunking of a piano tuner through an open window,
notes trying to break free

but staked to the tonic scale like greyhounds
tethered to a doghouse
in the killing heat of summer.

As the truck accelerates, the wind
ruffles the trees’ feathers. They could be five year olds
in an Easter pageant, trying to slough off wings

and other baggage. They are that filled with
the Holy Ghost. Oh, the odd beauty of green!
Oh the rumor of another life!











Spring 1964

In June the World’s Fair with bright red strawberries
and cream over seared Belgian waffles. It grows hot.
Trapped in the crowd, a tangled skein of nerves,
lost and hungry for quiet, for tenderness, I ride
with my aunt on a long conveyor belt to see the Pietà.
So gentle the grieving, tranquil mother with her downcast
eyes, the stone folds still around her, the cold flesh
of her perfect son. She does not attempt to cry.
My aunt, primed by The Agony and the Ecstasy, leans
to recognize “Buonarroti” on the chiseled band, tasting
the contours of each round unaccustomed syllable.
She whispers the name. She will not last two years.
Silent, thrilled and careful as dancers, when we step off
on solid ground we are joined by our secret, sworn
never to tell what we have no words to say. This is how
it will be in the winter we take our leave: bitter flakes
in a sharp ribbon of wind beyond tears or anger,
the long frozen loop home from the hospital waiting
for me, as we both know. Suddenly shy and tongue-tied
as a girl, she will reach out from her bed to touch me,
recalling too the marble brow, faintly wrinkled,
the white hand, open, as if it were asking a question.