I have not grasped
what is not my own.
When I held
the ocean water,
the deep muscle of the ocean
called it back.

I have not grasped
what is not my own.
The air I breathe,
I exhale. My lungs
release molecules
rhythmically. I return
what I receive.

I have not grasped
what is not my own.
Like a sail, I skirt
along the shore,
across crested waves,
taking nothing.
The ride is free.
The sail billows,
receives without
taking anything.

Like the push and pull
of the moon
that rearranges the shore,
but removes nothing,
not even a grain of sand,
so, too, I have taken nothing
for the journey.

Even the air I breathe
is yours.

The Lord is my shepherd.
We begin the psalm.
Most of the men have shoes,
though some soles have holes
where socks show through.

I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.

Childhood, perhaps, offered
those gathered here green pastures,
snow melt, wildflowers.
Some here once herded sheep.
Each has a sister, brother, father
or grandmother who once raised
sheep, or still herds. An auntie who weaves.
A niece or nephew who woolly rides.

I remember another country, where boys
herd sheep and goats. Boys carved
cross-shaped flutes of wood:
three finger holes to offer a few notes
for song or to signal time of day,
or danger.

He restores my soul.
On the table, there is a gift-wrapped box.
In lieu of label, a sister has written:
“Our treasure” in permanent marker.
In turn we view the treasure: our reflection
in a mirror.

Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow
of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me.

And we are here together now,
though each has walked through
obscure valleys and alleys
to reach this table.
Some have stared death down
in the face, swung arms and fists,
seen stars and wrestled strangers
while sleeping under stars
in alleys behind bars with shards
of bottles within arm’s reach.
We all have reached this table
with toil and trial,
not without heartache.
And yet the men continue:
You prepare a table for me,
My cup overflows.

When I was ten my windows
overlooked a city alley.
I opened blinds at night
to see headlights reflect
in the neighbor’s garage roof.
Instead of sheep I counted
headlights dancing up
Venetian slats like angels
climbing Jacob’s ladder.

When my cat
was pregnant
her belly was
as soft as
mother’s dough.
You could feel
her kittens
move inside her
and each day
they grew as
if a yeast
were rising.

If I had nine lives
like a cat
and could choose
how to live each,
in my first life I would be a poet,
sampling life,
dipping my fingers in mud
and describing the experience,
flying a kite on a windy day
and then writing it all down
like a recipe.

And in my second life
I would be a hermit
living in one room
and it would be enough for me
simply to look out the window
and the horizon would stretch out before me
like a vast canvas
and I would feel it all
without even stepping from my cell.
I would know
the feel of mud between my toes
and the sticky residue of grass
where insects have heaved
tiny balls of silk
making little glue traps
for their unfortunate prey.

And in my third life
I would be a mother
and my cloister would be
not the room of a recluse
but the abbreviated hours –
the demands of small children
that can close in on one like walls
and yet that fit together like a prism
revealing things formerly unseen
although they were always present.
The wonder and the curiosity and the recognition –
as when a child
delights in the simple achievement
of a ladybug climbing a blade of grass
or delights in his first recognition
that feelings, like “love” and “happiness,”
have names we attach to them
and can be shared and passed around
like a ball.

And in my fourth life
I would be a musician
and all that I could never say with words,
I would express for you now,
through melody.

And in my fifth life,
I would be an artist,
a muralist,
and my murals,
a dim mirror
of the changing faces of the sky.

And in my sixth,
I would be a runner,
and finally free of the desire to express myself,
but rather I would delight
simply in the joy of being.

And in my seventh life,
I would be a cook,
assembling a palette of tastes,
and all the spices of my childhood
spent in disparate countries
would come together
in a simple supper.

And in my eighth,
I would be a maker of fine instruments.
And I would sit back and listen
to all those who are more talented than me,
who can express themselves better than I could ever hope,
and yet I would enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that
the instrument that I made
played a small part
in the expression of their gift.

And in my ninth life,
I would be a cat –
that cat on the windowsill
looking out
awaiting your arrival
welcoming you
pummeling your lap –
content in your arms,
ready to spring.

The empty page
is like the white bulb
I plant in my garden.
Who knows what fragrance,
what flower will blossom?

In the sunset,
colors splash.
You see the same colors
I see.
When you move,
the compass points
between us
will widen.
Soon the moon
will be the only hinge
to bind us.

I have framed
your watercolors,
the “mother and child”
you painted
each Christmas:
Each one, a snapshot,
a moment in time,
the mother captured,
hanging onto that which
she must let go,
the infant painted,
clothed in love.

When you painted
on canvas or paper
at arm’s length,
your elbows out
you mirrored the shape
of a mother’s arms
when she cradles
an infant in her arms.

Gold leaf, carved wood,
raised floral trim,
this quiet moment,
framed, captured,
to a school
in love.

What bird sings
to greet me
this morning?
My feet
on cold floor,
I look out
to see
song’s source:
a faucet leaks.