Poetry - December, 2013



Be present with your want of a Deity
and you shall be present with the Deity.
Thomas Traherne

Sometimes I lose you. Say you are a puppy
and I’ve left the door ajar. Or I’m due someplace
and can’t remember where. In my sticky-uppy
hair and ripped work shirt, I ransack the place
to find my datebook. Gone. Or I’ve dropped
my glasses and I’m crawling on all fours
to swab the floor with outstretched hands. I mop
blindly, my heart stuttering with fear.

Don’t tell me you are not a puppy. I know.
You’re not some destination. But I want to
tell you what it’s like to hunt, although
the words are clumsy. Vapor.
                                                    What it comes to:
You are the sky, the boat, the oars, the water.
You are the soul that longs to row and you’re the rower.


Glacier Park in August: Grinnell Lake

First, use four similes to describe the lake:
Grinnell Lake is like . . . a threshold
                                     . . . a turquoise
                                     . . . wings arching open
                                     . . . a nest.

At the end of the boardwalk over red-rock streams,
beyond the suspension bridge, the waterfall, the long hike,
my feet on fire empty into the lake:
Icy aqua iridescence, perfection of mountains, these trees.

Now use four metaphors: the lake is . . . reality
                                                               . . . exquisite balance
                                                               . . . a window
                                                               . . . a cup filled with sky.

In the lobby of the grand hotel miles below
hang beautifully framed old photos. Grinnell Glacier,
a wisp above us now, was enormous a century ago,
            its lake many times smaller.

How can we protect the earth but by drawing close, by falling in love?
             The lake is the glacier melting too fast.
             The lake is the waters from Jesus’ pierced side.
             The lake is the face of the love that saves us.
How can we love the earth but by falling . . . in?


Peeling the onion

There’s not much I don’t know about you—
yellow, red, sweet—grubbed up roots and all.
Essential for a vigorous cuisine, alerting
the sense—the crackle of your paper brown outer
skin, your translucent inner sheaths like
vegetable undergarments, your pungent heat
rising from sharp steel and cutting board
to my blurred eyes, your precise circles against
the wood, before the sizzle in the buttered pan.

Reluctant to relinquish our intimacy
your sharp essence clings to my fingers, like
a reputation. Hours later, in the dark, you season
the air around my hands, I’ll stud you with
stars of cloves to bury in the belly of the bird
before roasting. Or nestle your pearls
with a stalk of mint among the green peas.
If I leave you too long in the pantry, your
patience exhausted, attenuated, soft at the center,
you send up green spears through the mesh bag
that call out chop me, make a salad, I am delicious.

How do I interpret my own
layered membranes, like growth rings?
I try to peel away the layers of my
onion heart, never getting all the way in.


Girl insomniac

No one understood my nightly need to be reassured
I’d wake up again the next day. Eyes closed, I saw
no sheep but the tufts of pampas grass looming silver
like a solitary path.
The scroll hung above me, a verse in five
and seven, its flowing hand thin
and illegible—I still knew it was about our life
not lasting very long.
How is it that adults were okay with such a prospect?
In July, bamboo blades rustled against
paper cranes and prayer strips; I wondered how
I’d made the cut, when I wasn’t a boy
my father wanted, wasn’t a koi princess
my mother said would magically turn
her tail into a pair of legs.
I looked for the fabled rabbits on the moon,
a family of them taking turns
to pound rice into pearly cakes
along their dark, elliptical orbit.