Taste Buds

Kapok Tree 1
Wind shook the blossoms of the kapok tree, and the petals floated down.

I knew children who sucked the petals of the kapok.

I wanted to share that sweetness,
but when I tried the kapok,
the petals did not register sweetness on my tongue.
To taste the sweetness
of the petal of a kapok
requires taste buds
that know want.

Wind shook the blossoms of the kapok tree, and the petals floated down.

Though my days once blossomed with nectar
I think I know enough about lack now
to taste
the sweetness
in a kapok.


The Morning After

Everything slouches
the day after
the big snowfall.

Snow, once light
as down feathers,
compacts and crystallizes.

In the tree, snow
shimmies down branches
to nestle against a trunk
or curl in a nest.

No longer pristine,
snow awaits
its day of reckoning
with shovel and plow.

The winter storm watch
may be over
but deep down
in the gently aroused earth,
the roots, and the embryo,
know this

is only the beginning.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation, 1898

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis of AssisiThe Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896

Start by doing what is necessary.
The open door, the broom on the hearth.
The windows open to the breeze.
The curtains flutter.
Outside, plant a seed and water it.
Sweep, cook, and water.

Then do what’s possible.
Gaze at the sunset.
Trace patterns in the dirt with a broom.
Behold the light.

Then, between the possible and the impossible,
like Mary, utter the cry: “How can this be?”
For light strikes the soul like a meteor burning in the atmosphere,
and suddenly the improbable takes on flesh.

Van Gogh, The Potato Peeler, 1885

Potato Peeler
The dark palette, the potato
with two hands clasped around it,
the blade held like a palette knife:

a potato peeler, whose
oblong hands grasp,
whose downward gaze beholds.

The brush skirted the canvas
in blue and gray. Only a shadow
on the wall hints at russet.

Still the rough hands
suspended in motion
draw the eyes.

The knife, the axis
of this canvas.
As if her hands too

emerged from the dark soil,
the light reflecting off her knuckles,
like eyes rooting for light.

Simon Marmion, A Choir of Angels, ca. 1459

A Choir of Angels: From Left Hand Shutter
The angels, suspended in the sky, float on wings shaped like bats’ wings.
Creatures of the dark, perhaps, or bearers of light or song, where dark seeps in.
There should be light and stars,
and wide-opened eyes
on upturned faces. Even the angels’ eyes squint,
as if the light of flash obscures their vision.

Think of the long fingerbones, stretched skin taut
like the membrane of an umbrella,
and the wing, all sinew and bone, creating lift.
With each wing beat, a breath.

And yet the velvet pastel robes, in A Choir of Angels,
curl like mermaid fins, or like the feet of bats
which can neither stand nor bear weight.

Creatures of the dark, creatures of the deep,
dark of cave and ocean trough.
Choirs of bats sing
and let their voices ring and echo.

Think of the bats entering their grotto
to hang suspended from a rafter
to feed their young milk.
As if the angels are saying:
this world, and everything you know about it,
will be turned upside down.
How eternity hangs
suspended in a mother’s arms;
swaddled in a mother’s wing, the bat pup nurses.

Think how love can overturn the world,
like the bat mothers who give birth upside down—
So too in the face of darkness, we roost and feed.