His fascination with light begins in a lantern held by a shepherd, over a little family against inky velvet. Then light shifts; Christ becomes core. When he preaches rays fall like song on some earnest, captivated faces, some distracted by other conversations, and a dog facing the wrong way.
From his raised hand light spills like waterfall over Lazarus and lifts him, pale and twisted into that luminous aura. Even on the cross, the thin etched lines leave an ivory bowl around him, gather from dimness the only dawn.
The limp corpse with extended ribs still radiates. Its slide starts at a peasant face, guided into arms that catch the contagious light, leaking onto the stocky official, plumply supervising procedures. Visual poems carved on copperplate: I stood rinsed in that light.
Holy Spirit: do not descend as a dove. Better to return as a millipede hidden beneath decaying bark than anything that can soar. Ponder the incarnational worth of Pneumodesmus Newmani, the oldest known form of life on land, linking air breathing with the surname of the Scottish bus driver and amateur paleontologist who chiseled its fossil from harbor rocks north of Stonehaven, observing through his field lens small openings in its exoskeleton used for inspiration, meaning it moved its many legs on dry ground, not seabed. Or consider this descendent of Pneumo, younger by four hundred million years, curled for self-preservation on my palm, a hard button of red legs whorled inward, circled by dark armor plate, both of us breathing air while we wait for a sign that it is safe to resume whatever it was we were scurrying to do prior to this disruption of our forward flow to make a theological point: Of what use are metaphors of flight for things with feet?
The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing Alive enough to have the strength to die. —“Neutral Tones” (Psalm 72))
It won’t last long, this snow that sheathes the dooryard pine in April and lays its feckless cover on the slope behind. Crocuses, just tall enough, poke their small blue noses through. It’s clear that they’re alive enough to live. April’s gale is loud as bombers. What’s left of ice around the pond in town is rough as predators’ teeth. The fisher fells the luckless squirrel.
There’s much I too may try to cover. For all of that I feel a gladness in watching this omni-inclusive white blot out the neutral tones that pushed our brilliant poet to ponder death, and love’s deceit, its cruelty. We’ve been together, my love and I, near three decades, which have scudded by like these sideways flakes. My lover-wife. There can come pangs, but the freshets have started
to wander the brush and make their signs: soon we’ll find the trillium, the painted kind, in that secret place which I discovered springs ago, and which since then I’ve kept a secret from all but her—from even our children; and the valley’s white-faced Herefords, while winter endured, dropped new calves, which now, though mud clots up like blood, shine clean as a man’s most colorful dream.
What is this one’s dream? That life go on as ever. That all our lives go on. No more than dream, of course. I know, the planet heating up, the cretin politicians waving swords, as if, by counter-logic, war might transform earth into something more saintly. So many hard facts conspire against me. To know that, though, is to make me cling the harder to gifts that appear to be given
without my having to deserve them. Flowers, beasts, the glinting trees. My disposition, which has moved me here to mute dispute with my great better, in spite of all my darker doubt. Inkling that something will soon come down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth. Let us praise the Lord, and every weather. Or the smile on the mouth of my lover, which still can blind like snow.
Or the road agent waving from his bright-red plow as it smooths the mud-clotted back lanes over.