Aloft, they perch along the nest rim—
no longer nestlings,
nor yet fledglings.
For several weeks, their parents 
have fed them, beak to beak,
swooping on blue-black wings
to siphon insects from the air, winged 
insects so small I cannot see 

Hope, penned Emily Dickinson, is the thing 
with feathers that perches in the soul. 
But even so, hope is also the last egg 
cradled in the nest, displaced only yesterday—
though its nest mates are nearly fledged now—
and cracked open on the tiled step:

The ants made short work
of its golden yolk.

In a cult, we all hold the same beliefs
or risk expulsion.
In a community, we work
together to find a solution,
despite diverging opinions,
and always hope to reconcile
with each other
when we start
to drift apart

Whatever’s happening in the world,
I know my yard is a community
where neither the stray cat
nor the lizard 
can disentangle themselves
from their mutual obligations
and appetites, and yet,
the choreography of the dance—
between movements—
allows them to lie shoulder to shoulder
in the round belly of the earth
at last.

It’s spring and the river ice
and whose to say—
if you could hear it—
that it’s not unlike the sound
of nest building
as the twig snaps.

I once thought love is the mightiest
word but now I think perhaps the mightiest word
is hope. Oh, we love so freely, and with abandon. 
We are so prodigal with our love. But hope 
is the stubborn fortitude of the bud 
holding on through frost and ice. 
It’s the steadfastness of tree roots 
carrying nutrients to the trunk and branches
of the tree, though its bark and branches 
are already alight with lightning strike
or forest fire. 

Oh, I want to be a vessel for the sap.
I want to be a seed 
in the sharecropper’s hand.
I want to be the jellied eggs 
of the spadefoot toad
there tucked in the shaded patch 
of the puddle, and waiting—
in this drought-stricken land—waiting for

Or, if nothing else remains, I want to be
that faint flame—cupped 
in your hands—coaxed
to life with your breath.

Little victories:
It’s the first steps
that matter most—
the bud on the twig,
not the flower,
the nearly imperceptible
shadow on the grass
before the heel lifts 
off the springy soil.

See on the wall next
to the entryway door,
the small beakful
of mud and twig
that clings to the wall
like soil to a rootball—
that twig and tiny portion
of mud, not yet a nest
but still more than clay and twig, 
and no longer without life.

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
rich yolk.

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--
only heart-
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 window—waiting…
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 
the horizon 
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,
the seed.

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.