EXCERPTS

CROSSING BORDERS

                  ~~ one thought can produce millions of vibrations

                                                      (John Coltrane – 1926-1967)

 

it’s all about inclusions.    geology gets it

and math, and the medical world, artists too

their gold strokes framing bone china

while in the kitchen a baker’s tines edge a pale pie crust

until, oven-blessed, it resembles that bronze disc

shimmering in a late autumn sky.

and a fawn glistening with afterbirth crosses over

to join this exquisite/terror-ridden/sanctifying world

as it wobbles uphill fresh from swimming

in its warm mother, and

Coltrane’s saxophone gets it:

jazzing vibrations as it woos the divine to earth

thedivine

thedivine

thedivine

divine as human loving

human the way a Pakistani girl

takes a bullet to erase all borders

 


 

 

hope

in memory of Sadako Sasaki (1943-55)

 

imagine you never saved the medicine wrappers,

news sheets, used hospital gift paper;

say no one ever told you the legend:

fold a thousand paper cranes to earn your wish

 

suppose, like an agnostic, you’d refused

to conjure every beak/each paper wing

like beads of a rosary, to bargain for

a life beyond your twelve years

 

suppose the cranes had saved you as you folded,

suppose your classmates hadn’t finished the balance

of your thousand birds, could we now read

the Children’s Memorial kóan in granite:

this is our cry   this is our prayer   peace in the world

 

some 60 years later your Peace Flame wavers

over a blood-soaked world, still

what is hope if not a young girl

diaphanous in a white cloud over Hiroshima

holding a gold crane poised for flight

 


 

PEACE IS

a baby’s new fingers curling

around air, catching

things we think invisible

 

and a mother holding her child

against waves crashing on shore,

steeling against ones still coming

 

peace is the aspen leaves:

shimmering gold coins

at the top of Kenosha Pass

 

it is waking each morning

grateful for not going blind

in the night

 

peace is learning to look

at each face, not a tribe,

to memorize each name

 

it is resisting the urge

to cut off a car gaining

as the lane disappears

 

peace lights candles not bodies

and refuses to make

anyone kneel        and

 

peace is the eye focused

keen to stave off

the first sign of war

 


 

SISTER VINCENT’S LEXICON

In third grade Sister Vincent primed us

for the January feast days

her large white wimple swaying

as the chalk squeaked out big words

like epiphany saying as she wrote

it meant manifestation or revelation,

“Big help” I signaled Mae Thomas,

the Feast of the Circumcision came next

but she wrote nothing beside that.

By the time I’d traced the final “n” we’d moved

on to January 21st and Agnes Virgin-Martyr.

“What’s a martyr?” Margaret Holland asked.

“A saint killed for Jesus’ sake,” Sister said, but

Jackie Barnes’s hand shot up. “Why would

God wanna’ see someone killed for him? ”

“Why wouldn’ God say, ‘Put down that sword

an’ let Angus go,’ S’ter?” but Sallie Toomie

interrupted, “What’s a virgin?” then copied

with care Sister Vincent’s answer: “The holiest

kind of person.” I raised my hand but Sister

called on Dick Mulcahy, the smartest boy

who asked my question: “That other feast

you said before – sir-cum-sis-hum – what’s that?”

but Sister snatched up a pastel picture, St. Agnes

holding a lamb and said we’d no more time

for questions, that we should put our heads down

on our desks and pray ejaculations

to our very favorite saint.

 


 

LIKE THIS

Don’t try to explain the miracle, kiss me  on the lips, like this, like this.

— Rumi

 

Not the way father kissed mother

on the cheek, not in the front of the house,

no, in the back, in the bedroom, basement, in

those dark places, those under the earth

places no one can see, kiss me

across mountains when we are apart, kiss me

under sly sheets after the trace of a late shower

kiss me the sweet, sweet kiss of the glad-we-are-married

on the lips.   Once more.   Once more.   Kiss me

on the ear, not like the grackle or Canada jay

saying what’s on its mind, but like the hummingbird

laughing at gravity.   Kiss me slow, not the way

aging bones explain marrow to each other

winter mornings.   No.   Slow.   Like a late June

two-step.       I know       I know: time is

the only kiss that lasts, but

just now – tonight – make me

believe the miracle of lips

like this                        like this

 


 

METEORS

In honor of Malala Yousafzai

 

Did your eyes flash terror

when they hijacked your school bus,

one of the men snarling your name down the aisle,

scanning each innocent face before lighting on yours?

What images blazed just before the bullet

grazed your luminous brain, sweet Malala?

At the hospital did you have nightmares: Taliban

instead of those loved olive trees in the orchards

outside your father’s classroom, a thousand

points of grief webbing your mother’s face?

Or did you dream bright streaks shooting across

a black sky? Not disembodied particles of dust

but flesh and blood women, subversive sisters

from the past, their stories foreshadowing yours:

 

a 17th century girl so bent on learning, she camouflaged

her body under boys’ clothes to register for school;

 

eleven centuries back a German mystic

whose paintings and words depicted God as woman

 

and a Mexican nun who — reproached by the bishop

for her writings — replied with the classic

defense of a female’s right to study.

 

Why do we doubt the sky is filled with history?

 

At eleven, Malala, you blogged:

Why aren’t girls allowed to learn?

I want to be reading books. I want to be writing them.

 

Incandescent little rebel, you already are.

 


 

FOURTH OF JULY

 

Just exploring you say as you swerve

off the trail to Lake Charles both of us heady

with thin air.  Later I follow to find you

stretched on the round flat rock your long body

tanned, itinerant legs spread wide on granite

catching the hot noon light

you are waving your own bright flag

like an unspent fourth of july sparkler

laughing, coaxing me closer to an olive poncho

cool and smooth          we love, our sex weeping

at the grand spill of nature.  Soon you nap

the nap of the guileless, hungry jays carping

over your sweet light snore.  Mid-summer candles

of a conifer sprout, their purple-pink tips glowing

and at the tree base a small cluster of

blue flax satisfied with the day

already beginning to close.

 


 

hope ii

 

i have not given up on you

though somewhere children’s bones are

showing through once radiant skin

and a woman wails for her husband

a marionette twitching above their door

his sex stuffed in his mouth, the mouth

that once made her sing      and

 

bodies are bombing other bodies and their own

 

yet i have not given up on you:

bougainvilleas still stretch for

the sun, and if we listen we can hear

the iris waiting its turn

just under the pasque flower

 

no, i have not given up, hope:

in the kitchen jasmine tea steeps

and shortbread waits on bone china

as outside the window a new fawn

speckled with afterbirth – wobbles

uphill with no apparent destination but

under the porch the eye of a red fox

scopes for prey somewhere    nowhere

but nowhere is a long way to go

 

still the iris, hope, the iris

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