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,
water wakes
as light cracks
over mountains.

Snow geese chime
like a heart beating.
Their wingtips are black keys
adding counter-rhythms.

Water wears
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,
face upturned
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
except errands,
and chores,
and hope.

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
is porous.
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.

I did not need to transpose the key
to join my life with yours.

The seasons marked the time signature.
Cloudy weather was a riff
alternating with sunshine.

Lives intertwined
as the song crisscrossed:
Two hearts, one rhythm
like the ocean—
one force uniting
opposite shores.

A countermelody
nearly choked us
but rising to the surface
we caught our breath.

Even now, I find myself
between two worlds:
Neither sandbar
nor cresting wave,
I fall like salty spray
suspended in air.


Photo Credit: Daniel Woodard

My life was composed
by another,
the chord changes
like changing seasons.

I learned to harmonize
with white keys and black,
circling back
to the melody
and the opening bars.

Even so, like the ocean
taking her cue
from wind,
when waves shattered
the calm,
I penciled in crescendo
and diminuendo.

The song was composed
before I could even sing
but I wrestled with the notes
and bent them.

Though I did not write the score,
I shaped the notes
and bent them
like a blacksmith shaping iron
on the anvil.

I did not write the score,
but the blue notes are mine.

I do not know which is the river—
the dry riverbed
or the flowing water itself.
Without the riverbed,
water has no shape
and courses over the land,
dragging down with it
trees, home, and flotsam.

I do not know which is the river—
the dry riverbed
or the flowing water itself.
But I know each riverbed
is unique, its contours imprinted
with the stamp of experience.
For each riverbed carries the weight of those
who swam its currents,
or waded in the melting snows that filled its arteries,
or camped alongside its sinuous shores.

I do not know which is the river,
the dry riverbed
or the flowing water itself.
But I know clouds
draw water molecules to the sky
and channel water endlessly.
Those molecules of water—
though lifeless and identical—
animate each living thing on earth,
shapeshifting as they move
from branch to branch.
Those molecules are visible
as dew in temperate climates,
and also visible in cold air
as we draw breath.

I do not know which is the river,
the dry riverbed
or the flowing water itself.
But I know that everything flows down,
even the riverbed erodes,
overrun and flooded by the sea.

All my life I wanted to tend roses
But the wind ahead of the storm sent their petals flailing.

All my life I wanted to create light
But the wind on the heels of the sunset extinguished it.

All my life I wanted to create beauty
But ugliness raised its fist as stealthily as the undertow
And crushed everything my hand had touched.

All my life I wanted to share beauty with you
But now all I have left to give you is
All my life.

Image 8-18-19 at 6.38 PM
Though I cannot fly
airborne as an arrow
still I feel the airstream
the way wind fingers my hair.

In my fingers I feel it too—
my breath escaping through
the pores of my instrument,
my fingers hovering over fingerholes.

Though I cannot fly yet
with you I would take the risk,
our breath releasing from our lungs,
our lungs inhaling like a sail.

Breath by breath, we spend
down our days, prodigal
as maple’s winged seed pods
floating down to earth.

My breath escaping through the pores
of my instrument,
hollowed and hand-carved
light as bird’s tibia or femur.

Our breath released and restored
in fits and starts-—you at the keys,
my fingers at the ready
where flesh meets breath.

We too are winged seed pods
spinning from the maple,
falling breathless—

Three gold petals
Form a vase
For the stamens

Whose stems bob
Against a backdrop of
Blood-red crescents

All week the poet
cast lines of poetry.

When it was time
to resume a morning hike,
the notebook–
lodged under a log–
was forgotten.

The fisherman advised:
“Catch and release.”