Even when you can barely hope,
Even when your heart is hardened as a fist,
Even when you cannot breathe,
The flowers of the field,
The birds of the air
are breathing for you.
Even the seeds
deposited in the dark
earth of your heart
are splitting open . . .
and the birds perched in the eaves
have already deposited
a song, hidden in the egg’s
It starts little by little—-a bit of windblown
dust, the rain, gentle at first, and then rainstorms.
Next comes the ice and the thaw
cracking apart the rock, oh the dust settles,
the wind blows, and alcoves form,
little hollowed chambers,
pulsing with light. Out of the rock,
shelter, like a hollowed ribcage, emerges.
Oh, you could sing in here, a lovely song,
a sad song, just choose your register.
And soon the alcove echoes
with the song of the cave swallow,
and then the song of the canyon wren,
whose appearance is as rustic as the robe
of a Franciscan friar, but whose song is as beautiful
as the sweetest song of Solomon.
And the canyon wren’s song never ceases, not even in winter.
Oh, what does the canyon wren sing? Beautiful liquid notes,
a rounded rock or pebble thrown into a pool of water
after the rainstorm, rockfall, downslope, snowmelt
rushing over red rocks in the canyon, think of chimes,
or lost loves. But what does the rock wall
of the canyon sing--
break over rock worn down
by wind and rain.
What is prayer if not
the tree in winter
before the budding,
the frozen river
before the crack of the thaw,
the egg in the incubator,
the child—nose pressed against
the still red coal awaiting
the poker’s stir,
the icicle longing
to melt and flow into the river,
the monk in his cell.
What is prayer if not
before the rosy finger of dawn,
the still cold air on the banks of the Rio Grande
before the winging snow geese lift off,
that heaviness of breath
before the monsoon,
the hunger in the belly,
the dissonant chord—unresolved,
oh, the ache of it all,
the water not yet wine.
There were some that I loved,
but they didn’t love me.
Then you said: “Look! Stand here!”
and we looked at the light.
You noticed it first.
Sunlight glowed red reflecting off the red rock mesas.
I thought how every evening the sun shines off the rocks
yet goes unnoticed. Who thanked the flower in July,
when she offered her breast to the bee?
I thought, Nothing is wasted, ever.
Even the deepest crevices
of the red rock mesas reflect light
when the sun sweeps over their surface
like a broom. Oh, every crumb
is swept up-not a crumb of love
is wasted, ever. In summer, the roots
of plants tangle to crack
rock and absorb the light of sun.
So in winter, rocks mirror light.
See how the disheveled red rock
bares herself like a chrysalis
revealing her colors!
In summer, when we climbed
the white cliffs, swallows had moved in
and built nests on the rockface,
and we watched cliff swallows
dive and tumble through air.
As we ascended the mesas,
our footsteps barely left a trace.
Now our dreams, battered as a nest
in winter storm, hang by a thread.
Oh the bee is petulant, but the petal,
though now a memory, has sent
her love letter to the world:
In the hive, the honey:
beneath the rock,
Angels fracture the dome of sky like rock shattering ice.
Shepherds eye the chorus, bewildered, by heaven’s strange lullaby.
Thick are the branches that block our way.
Restless feet, and hunger, the measure of our days.
But hope startles like the song of a canyon wren.
Roots carve a crib for the desert stream.
A stable gives berth to tired travelers.
A child’s midnight cry is the unraveling.
Shepherds’ rough hands cradle holy mystery:
The boy child of Mary, and the rough carpentry
Of burl and sap, manger and nativity.
Midnight rustle of wings, doves perching in the rafters—
Where shepherd and child meet, love and longing gather.
Even the dove, resting in the rafters, murmurs gently, ever after.
The rock does not cling to the river,
Rain surges to fill the emptiness:
the hollowed out space
of our tracks—
the bowl of the earth
where we slept,
the bed of our pitched tent.
Where would we be
if we didn’t keep losing ourselves—
to each other,
to the days we left behind?
Everything that escapes our grasp—
the fish in the river,
the breath we exhale—
returns, I’m told.
Even the sea returns to shore
like the swing of the pendulum,
as she licks her wounds.
Will we recognize the fog
as last year’s puddle
as transpired sweat
as a little ghost of ourselves?
Remember how the clouds
gave themselves up.
Then do likewise
Deep inside the earth’s core,
magma buckles and mountains peak.
Give me a lever long enough, wrote Archimedes,
and I could move heaven and earth.
See how the universe expands into the darkness,
carrying with it light beyond the Milky Way?
As we drive west across the Continental Divide,
neither smoke of wildfires nor soot of car exhaust
can block the muted rose of the sun’s rays,
last hurrah before nightfall. Oh the shadows
are always with us as they seek to block the light,
yet ribbons of pink and peach persist,
lingering on the horizon.
Like abalone or mother of pearl,
we are both castaways—
the sun’s ray on cold rock of earth—
the marine shell stranded on distant shore,
deep indigo of the ocean
now shipwrecked on the sandy beach,
muted colors of pink and peach unfurled
in the contours of the abalone shell:
a distant mirror of the sun.
Along the rain-soaked trail
next to the wild strawberries,
I balance my backpack
to reach for tasty red fruit,
each crimson berry
small as a thimble.
The act of foraging,
a balancing act:
Next to me:
fresh bear tracks.
I don’t know how to distinguish flowers
by their sweetness
save by following the bee.
In a field overflowing
with flowers, the Indian paintbrush
grows in shades of scarlet, purple,
pink, and cream, and I follow
the bee to the sweet spot:
the cream-tipped stalks,
and where the bee sucks,
there suck I.