Poetry - February, 2011


When you died

I hoped that you might show yourself
for after all we'd often talked of what
might happen after death but so far
there is only this; the way leaves shook
in sudden wind as we prayed beside
your grave, acorns striking heads, hands,
feet, and we looked up, expecting you
—it was, it seemed, your kind of joke—
but all we saw was silent sky which is
to say that life goes on: trees drop their
leaves and snow falls soft as children
starve and glaciers crack, and so far
you have not appeared although it's true
I sometimes think that late one night
as I lay sleeping you, in secret, slipped
inside for in the dawn light when I woke,
sun rising like an open heart spilling
forth a sea of love, in that moment,
ah, bright wings, I saw the world.
through your eyes.



Zero isn't nothing.
My father,
a mathematician,
insisted on that.
When he helped me with my homework
and I said it was
his eyes would steady, voice grow stern.
He'd correct me,
try his best to make me understand.
I couldn't comprehend
his reason,
didn't really care.
What difference did it make?
Twenty years later
and she is gone.
Now I know.
I'm up to my eyes
in the shadow-black heart of it.


Kigali, Rwanda

I am thinking of
a thousand hills
and banana beer
and the fast moving
low resting
dawn breaking clouds
which must wake God
in the country where He sleeps.

and I have seen Him there
cupping black dirt in His hands
smoothing out the curves of each valley
and rounding off the crest of each hill
a thousand times over
like lumps in a pillow
or my mother's rising bread.

yes, I have seen Him there
cupping black dirt in His hands
smoothing out the curves
of each hip and shoulder
rounding off the tips
of each finger and toe
a million times over
slow and steady
like love and laughter
or the flicker of my father's youth.

and I don't suppose God slept
a moment in the spring of '94
when the rain all smelled like salt
and Kigali held its breath
like a baby in a basket.

and I have seen Him there
cupping black dirt in His hands
smoothing out the curves
of each tiny tomb
for the sparrows they cut
from the sky
too many times over,
and sharp
like winter in the blood
or the flutter of a broken wing.

and every time I see Him now
He is braiding black feathers
and painting justice on the grass
where elephants fight
on trampled ground
at the foot of His bed
for tootsie rolls and peanuts.


Tempus fugit, memento mori

For Michael Rascia

The second hand seemed to tremble on the edge
of motion when I was young, like a diver
poised with suppliant arms, paused in momentary
stillness before secretly shifting his weight

forward, opening to the instant
gravity and air. But after half a century
my seconds and minutes are long forgotten
casualties, and weeks months years disappear

like pressed flowers crushed by fingers no longer
precise and nimble. And yet behind my back
each day still stretches feline in the brightness
of my memory, bee-song somnolent

without eagerness for the moment around
the corner. And when night arrives, curtained
and padded or hard like a crucifix,
nubilous as obsidian or moonlight-silver,

I will stand trembling on its edge with suppliant
arms and just enough time for one last dive.