Poetry

Poetry

Contemplation at the Bar R Ranch

Both the owner and his daughter said we’d have to see the crosses,
so of course I tried to avoid them, but wandering aimlessly

after sublimity as I do on free afternoons I followed a sign
that said “Baptismal” down a narrow way

and stepped carefully on the rocks across the icy creek.
When I looked up there they were, enormous,

big enough to crucify a pteranodon or a giraffe.
As I climbed the muddy path some part of me said,

I have to safeguard my doubts and another remembered
how the old picker said to Goodman, I find

the prettiest woman in the room and play every song for her.
Too edgy to eat, Salinger’s Franny tried to pray

the Jesus prayer all the way through homecoming.
With the sun low behind the crosses, I could barely look.

Thin grass, lichens, rocks and gravel lay low all around,
stunned by some brutal devotion not their own.

Three weeks to solstice. Faint thin birdsong.
So many trees, so many rocks, so many women

whose lives and bodies I will never touch.
The creek rippled on, Shasta glowed in the chilly haze,

a strand of spider silk glinted in and out of sight.
Breathe in: This is paradise. Breathe out: I must go.



















Disconnect

in a pink shirt the reporter speaks
his voice ripe with excitement while
behind him the Wave crashes over
and over the same bodies flung
like broken sticks which in an instant
they have become bundled into
body bags bulging on the shredded sand
though when we return we’ll hear
from one survivor in a wheelchair
whom we glimpse smiling as the scene
shifts to a woman waltzing across
her kitchen dazzles as she holds high
a ziplock bag not large enough for bodies
no but fruit she says stays fresh for days.

The angels

     (translated from the German by Terese Coe)

They all have tired mouths
and bright spirits without seams.
And a longing (as for sin)
runs sometimes through their dreams.

Each nearly resembles the others,
hushed among God’s flowers
like many, many stages
in His melody and power.

Only when spreading their wings
do they awake the wind,
as if God riffled the pages,
with broad sculptor’s hands,
of the dark book of beginning.





The willful heart

What is this agitation now that I am old,
this pining for a svelte body, sinuous
as the vine embedded in words, a line
of lovers dancing to dream’s empty tune?

Flesh, in secret, raises a clamor,
quakes her soul with yearning
for consummation, the message so
rhythmical it masquerades as truth,

those old clichés of satisfaction.
Bargaining heart, your illusions
spit in the face of old age, tear
like treachery at the lessons of years.



God's radio

In Religious Ed a nun once told us,
“You should always make the sign of the cross
before and after you pray. The first gesture
opens God’s wavelength; the second shuts it off.”

I wonder if the sister knew how many nights
I would lie in bed, panicked, wide awake
unable to remember if I had signaled
“Roger and out.” Odds or evens—heaven
or hell. I crossed myself without stopping,
hoping to land on evens or at least to interrupt
the feed before memories of Linda Ursoni’s
blouse and her fully developed fifth grade breasts
bubbled forth from the back of my pubescent mind.

Even as an adult, I find myself playing
the same game, while hoping that someday
I might cross myself one last time and be done
with it, but the deep need to hide always follows—
in the name of the Father, and of the Son . . .