“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”
–William Butler Yeats
Each morning one winter
I rose to claw and scrape
ice thick as orange rind
from my windshield.
Then, driving east,
I watched theatrical colors
light up the hogbacks.
While gloved hand gripped
the steering wheel, my mind
fashioned lines of poetry.
But poems slipped away like ice
melting down sunlit stems.
According to an article I read once,
the gold-tinged hogbacks on the horizon
are radioactive. Earth’s uplift
brings to surface and releases
stored radiation. Hike to see
the cliffrose buds explode into blossom:
On one branch, you count five petals,
but on another you may find clusters
of nine petals, or thirteen.
I’d like to believe that life cycles on without changing
much. The frost-heavy windshield, a display of Belgian lace,
same thread, new designs. But even as we stand
the ground beneath our feet lurches
What was hidden comes to light:
As if seated in our midst, the unknown—
an uninvited guest—explosive as a landmine,
charges and ignites.
Even the broken bark
of the alligator juniper
holds together somehow
thanks to the sap
coursing in its veins.
Fragmented into a thousand pieces
the first casualty was my focus—
Once rainwater filled a water table, then
Froze: a thick layer of ice floated above the cold water,
All of a piece. When children lifted the disc
From its confinement,
It shattered into countless pieces.
Though I’ve heard the grasshopper has a thousand eyes,
And does quite well.
Between miracle and doubt,
between the words of faith healers
and the stoicism of rationalists
there’s a sweet spot—
the stars in the sky
that never stop shining
even when obscured by cloud or smog—
Behold the seeds
that spread their wings,
that travel on my boot,
that hibernate for years
until the rain and warmth of sun
Between a rock and a hard place,
cactus bears fruit,
hummingbirds take flight,
and the bee ensconces itself
on the shoulder of her lover,
Hoofprints of mule deer
crisscross narrow canyon corridors
where rain only accentuates
the cliffrose’s musk.
And though I’ve witnessed
my share of marvels,
still I crave more.
In the vastness of the universe
You are a speck of dust
From which light reflects.
You are also the eye of the needle
Through which God slips
Like thread to spin
The vast reaches of the galaxies
And stars whose dust you are.
There are waves
that beat against
a wooden vessel
like the mallets
that beat a story
And in the hold
there are bodies
And when the waves roll
and the ship rocks
there’s a clang of iron
like a hammer
There are waves
that rock against
a wooden vessel
and there’s moaning
in the hull
There’s an anchor
and a landing
as the ship’s hands
haul the bodies
in to dock
There’s a market
and an auction
and a mallet
like a hammer
when a deal
There is iron
and a hammer
There are judges
in the markets
and a bullwhip
There are feet
and there’s rhythm
in their labor
like the raging
in the wind storm
There’s a roar
that hoist a new flag
and there’s thunder
in a trumpet
There’s a vessel
with a stolen
and there still
are many more
Let it rain.
Let the rain fall in a steady stream.
Let the rain fall on the roof with the rhythm
of a handyman nailing shingles.
Let the rain saturate the hardened earth
and satisfy the root
that thirsts like a newborn infant.
Let the rain fall on our shoulders
and mold us to its contours
like rock weathered and worn by rainstorms.
Let the rain flow like fine wine
flowing at the wedding of Cana.
Let the rain pool into its liquid shapes
sinuous as a cat that pounces.
Let the rain murmur.
Let the rain sing a lullaby,
a post card from the ocean,
a mariner’s hymn.
Let the rain begin and end
in this moment suspended in time,
my shoulder blades clasped in your arms,
the bough above us, and the bud,
reflected in the puddle,
concrete now molded into shimmering mirror.
The Indian paintbrush stands guard,
like one who shall not be moved,
sentinel next to the sage— and grasses—
whose roots she taps for nutrients and water.
John at the cross stands guard too
like a stem, or branch.
“You are the branches. I am the vine,”
the lover had said.
And, now, planted like the Indian Paintbrush,
the beloved is hushed as a blossom,
the upper lip of green flower understated
and tinged with red to attract the hummingbird.
The meadow is a green upper room
alive now with the whir of wings.
Vested in down,
as light cracks
Snow geese chime
like a heart beating.
Their wingtips are black keys
her borrowed robe of down
until wings lift—
Then it’s morning fly out,
and the river, unmasked,
bares her pores.
El Greco painted her
at a kneeler,
to face the Unexpected.
In other scenes, the backdrop
is marble, granite, velvet
or wide blue sky stretching to the horizon.
But what do young girls know
I imagine her at the marketplace,
eyeing the kohl,
but satisfied to haggle
for the price of an onion.
Who’s to say the angel
didn’t meet her
in a crowded crosswalk.
The membrane between heaven and earth
It opens and envelops us unexpectedly
like a gauze curtain billowing in wind.
Onion skin, translucent
when held to the light,
is a membrane between two worlds:
moist round bulb, on the one hand,
and, then, the light-infused air.
The curved onion dome of an Orthodox church
is a thin barrier between life as usual
and life as it might be.
Gabriel delivers the message
and Mary grasps the onion.
On her face,
tears of surprise.