The Way

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The way lilacs
bloom after frost

the way light
shines in the darkness

the way the sun
never sets

the way the heart
withstands fire

then shakes
the ashes down

like ashes
from my uncle’s pipe

like ashes from the hearth,
swept clean

A Beginning

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The apron is slung
over the chair back
like the guitar strap
you tossed aside.

If our life were a ballad
surely there’d be
a highwayman who took off
with our treasure.

But come evening
still we’d find
fire in the hearth,
and bread, and song.

Each Little Breath

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Each year on Maundy Thursday,
we read the mandate to love.
Each year when we read the text,
I realize I am not any closer
to loving you
than I was the year before.

Outside, wind whips my hair
across my face,
but my hair is not long.
I have not poured
perfume over your feet,
or dried your feet
with my hair.

Though, in my way of thinking,
we love with each little breath:
the way the bird dips his wings in the air,
or the way the mother washes her child.
The way trees grow towards the light
even as interwoven branches conspire to block it.

It’s what we do without thinking that defines us:
The straight tree coiled into a nest,
Peter’s foot balanced
in Jesus’ hand.

But late last summer,
once the fledglings
emptied from the nest,
the wind shook the nest
to the ground,
and when I held the nest
in cupped hands,
I saw strands of my hair
wound tightly, coiled
and interwoven
into the hollow

wherein eggs had hatched.

Street Musicians

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Music is the transfer of energy
from musician to instrument.
Yet the song exacts a price.
With each exchange, energy is lost.

Even birdsong comes at a price.
Birds hurry back and forth
scooping up flying insects
to carry to their young.

Yet the song of cliff swallows
nesting against sandstone cliff,
sounds as sweet as the song of cliff swallows
nesting between stucco walls.

For, whether it’s weathered foot of hoodoo,
or side of superstition mountain,
wherever your feet are planted,
that’s where you sing.

Erosion

What would the river be without giving itself up?
Time, the daily scalpel, cuts away at its banks.
Eroded mountains, though they may lack
leaves, grass, or water, for that matter,
offer a wonderland of forms
that hold their ground
in sharp relief
to the sky.

Brushstrokes

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If we reduced our life together to a few brushstrokes,
what would be left … The bend of my arm, your shoulder,
our bodies blending like a river course. One color of paint, two bodies.
Brushstrokes, light as feather but wide as barbs branching from the quill.

I’m not preaching minimalism. I only reflect on the reality that when we exit,
we take nothing, and what remains is only the barest trace of ourselves:
Our limbs wing like breaststrokes of the snow geese flying overhead,
their flexed muscles etched in sky, dark gray against the sky’s pool of color.

My downward gaze, your shoulder slanted towards my forehead.
As the storm raged, we grasped for footing. Our limbs entangled
like those of centaur: four arms, four legs, flailing like some apocryphal
multi-winged creature. Battered gargoyles, we move closer.

Monochrome brushstrokes, hair indistinguishable from curve of neck or back,
I accept defeat. I have no stake in this game, yield all I hold most dear, even my flesh.