A Few Poems
First Light at Camino Amor
for David and Judy
First light offers its quiet
consolation to the wakeful.
In the dark you discover
day, already begun.
The black branches
of the piñon tree
hold night like water.
Moonlight lingers on
rock and sand, slow
to let the earth resume
its dusty colors
after the silver hours.
The last star gives
to the greater light.
What I Bring Home
What I bring home
in twelve brimming baskets
are fragments of the loaves
and fish you gave me
when the day began—enough,
it turned out, for everyone
who wanted what I thought
I didn’t have to give. I had
what I needed. The rest
I’m bringing home.
Biology: Course Review
If you forget what axons do,
or how a virus invades a cell,
that light becomes food.
That the seasons rhyme,
a different word each time
turning soil into living song.
That all things work together.
Even death. Even decay.
That this is the way
of the world we got: what is given
grows by grace and care
and knows what it needs.
That life is strong, and precarious,
full of devices and desires.
That what we hold in common
may not be owned. Control
is costly. Close attention
is the reverence due
whatever lives and moves,
mutant and quick and clever.
That our neighbors—
the plankton, the white pine,
the busy nematodes–
serve us best
in reciprocal gratitude:
what they receive, they give.
The way the heart accepts
what the vein delivers and sends it on,
(see at http://www.christiancentury.org/search/node/McEntyre%20Biology)
The world for which you have been so carefully prepared
is being taken away from you
by the grace of God.
– Bruggeman –
Birth keeps happening.
Small empty hands curl
around our hopes and hold
us captive. A child’s needs
are gifts. We learn again what
can be taught only from the cradle—
pure pleasure in the body’s
many miracles, full-bellied
laughter over falling things.
Small spaces in the heart open
wider as we linger, putting off
what seemed to matter more.
Death keeps happening, too:
Fires burn a path through
tended gardens and offices
where good stewards sat at work,
unaware that every page would feed
an hour’s ravenous flames.
A young man’s body is wracked
with disease. Another’s, crushed
between metal and slick road.
Fierce as the love that lets us
live to see such loss is the hunger
for life it leaves behind.
Before the backward glance
a new landscape stretches, newly
familiar. That was then—
now is a place of decisions
we do not need to make in fear
or haste. What we know
is sufficient for the day. We
speak the words at hand, water
the plants and watch
for small birds in the sycamore tree.
Grace keeps happening. Old friends
invite us, and new ones. We listen
for summonings, subtler now
than when every morning’s alarm
set us on a known path.
The call of the moment takes us by surprise.
Every assent resets our course:
Begin now. And now. Begin again.
after Elizabeth Bishop
for Anne and Sherman
Quiet in their aquaria, the turtles
blink and paddle while a small dog
sniffs and settles by the fire.
Outside a rising March wind
circles the house: just the night for a poem,
red wine, and a little three-way scrabble—
not the way we once played scrabble,
waiting for players, slow as incurious turtles,
pondering their letters like a poet bent to his poem—
but a game so full of change and quick, even the dog
feels the excitement and the whipping wind
urges us on, and the leaping fire.
It was built with care, this fire,
and slow-growing. A whole game of scrabble
spread its random words across the table, wind
knocking loose boards outside, and turtles
settling into their shells before the dog
curled and the fire crackled and shifted.
On such a night a good poem,
read in word-savoring unhaste by such a fire
gentles the sleep of even a frisky dog
and dignifies the simplest words on the scrabble
table, lying slightly awry like slumbering turtles
on their rocks. It finds an echo in the wind.
Listen into the night wind:
hear how it calls in response to the poem.
Outside, hibernating, two old turtles
listen from the deeps of reptilian dreams. The fire
rises toward it. By the scrabble
table it stirs the slumbering dog.
Trust the sleep of a well-fed dog
and the voice that cries in early spring wind.
Give yourself gladly to friends and scrabble,
and gladly receive whatever poem
comes as you gaze into dying fire
and listen to the night-silence of turtles.
A happy fireside poem,
carried in by a March wind,
should have a dog in it, and turtles.