Poetry

Poetry

Dream in Sighisoara, Romania

in the train station at last asleep
(all gone down to grays—sky

—uniforms—the platform itself
and farmers back from the war

who won’t know their fields)—1943
—a gypsy father reaches sure to touch

his daughter’s face (where is she—
that turn in the trees)—bine bine—

bine copil—his fingers recalling
some landscape lost now to the dark—







Trespassing the labyrinth

They will not see me, living out of sight down the hill,
the white-robed army of monks at prayer,
the makers of incense and beds and meals
with the smell of God about them.

They might feel me step into their pilgrimage, balancing
between the jagged and the smooth stones,
paying homage to the rock borders that turn
me closer in, farther out, maddeningly
away from the center.

This is no way to live a life.
How many times have they made these very turns
in their cloister, no labyrinth to guide them
but only the vague inner nudge?

It is the place where tortuous and torturous merge.
I take half an hour; they use half their lives.
And for what? A pile of rocks in the center,
a single life well lived?

The question, maybe, gives us pause.
It does not stop that inexorable pull,
like undertow sent to immolate a swimmer
beneath the waves,

or the ineffable peace that spreads with every step.













"Earth,"

I heard the Irishman on the radio say,
only it didn’t sound the way we’d say it:
commonplace, like dirt under the nails.
He held it on his tongue, “Air-th,”
as if it were the best place, like heaven:
spacious, intricate, infinitely rich,
with swells of color and cloud,
forest stipple and patches of swale,
the “r” rolling along like the hills.
As if it were the best word
in the language, better even than love.

Poinsettia

The scarlet petals were floppy as old hats
by March, and falling into piles on the rug,
so I cut its plastic pot to free its roots
and laid it by the compost in the mud.
Busy that spring, I never noticed how
it waited out the months, night after night
in wind, in grueling rain and a late snow,
inclining from the compost into light,
its new leaves firming, shining, thick,
like a novitiate of a strange order,
as days warm, growing fierce and quick,
blessing the lost plants I’ve lodged there.
It rang like church bells, red, on the hour.
Now let me learn to love what cannot flower.

The work of wood

The shavings curled from my plane the afternoon
she stood a shadow in the door and spoke
the single syllable. I thought, So soon,
but deep in me a harmony awoke,
a rhythm lost in the hammer song I made
furnishing the world chair by chair, bed by bed.
Her single word was Go. My debt was paid.
Joseph’s memory would be satisfied:
My craft would find its end in speech—the Word
voiced as once when spoken it divided light
from dark and all Creation bloomed. I heard
my father in her voice. Both sadness and delight
indwelt the shop, as if the two were one
as they may be when the work of wood is done.