Emily Dickinson, that poet of wise brevity, said, “Truth is so rare that it is delightful to tell it.” I suppose that is the aim of every writer and poet. Here are a few poems from my latest book, Gods of Water and Air:
Prayers for Everywhere
Prayers for the volcanoes
that need garlands when they erupt
and prayers for the freeways
you never drive them the same twice,
prayers for the buds
that look like babies’ faces
as they open next week and for the blossoms
opening their soft legs to bees.
Prayers for everything the soul
must reluctantly or passionately kiss:
a pebble in the shoe,
the silt gritty on your ocean-washed lips.
Because what is a prayer
but a laugh that can’t be formed
in letters, but only heard
in that place that, praised, lights up.
So prayers for everywhere
that needs them,
Prayers for the worms washed out
of the grass onto driveways,
prayers to step over as they swim
because you can’t pick them up
without damage. So much
of the heart can only be helped
without direct touching.
Prayers for everyone
in the throngs who need well-wishes
to suck on in their sleep
like giant glowing lollipops.
Prayers going to every restless sleeper
on this earth who needs a cool hand on the brow.
Prayers for their own sake,
prayers as beautiful as dolphins
leaping and twisting, prayers
freed from gravity’s pull
to fly glistening into the air.
first appeared in Crab Creek Review
Accept the Invitation
We spend so much time together
in our separate rooms of history,
isolated by imagination
and hair-triggered sensitivities
swooning us into objects
of primary pain.
We should throw our belongings
into the street and make love
on the sandy, swept floor,
feeling its particles with greedy skin
of face, thigh, hand.
I want to disinherit my heart’s ghosts
and hold you in an empty field
of vision. Pure as an offered breast
your true image will form
across months and years.
The million volatile impressions
you are today strung together
on the ribbon of your name
are not enough for me.
I want no careless window-shopping
around your vicinity, but to plumb
the void, make a hair-raising journey
behind personality. To stand together
in the light that streams
from a hidden source in this world
whenever being meets.
Rain can be like Chopin, all piano strings
and syncopated pauses, geometry
of blings under wheels and rubber heels.
Sudden baptism from branches.
Drooled harmonies. On your neck, wet
strings slithering like kisses. Rings
around drops that plop into pools: ting,
ting, ting, ting. Scriabin zithering
loss up your edges, a musical soul-cling,
that cold feathering.
first appeared in Pirene’s Fountain
After Reading Dante’s Paradiso
We live in a heaven we take great pains to avoid.
Shielding our cheeks from a winter sky’s
chilled fur, we hunch against the brush of air
that has rushed everywhere. We listen
into our phones so as not to be pierced
by arias in the pines. Clench worry’s hands
to keep a woodpecker’s drumming
out of our bones. Stay separate.
Refuse to sail a cloud into evening’s gold.
I circle your neighborhood. You switch on
your motor to cancel my hellos
and drive by, tunnel-gazing.
You will not allow yourself
to see a flock of red butterflies
that seem to have settled on the quince
but turn out to be its blossoms.
You work at not seeing the cherry trees’
candlelight parade. Busy yourself
steadying a tea tray on your head.
It’s hard not to look into each other’s eyes,
down wells of the water we daily draw up,
but bliss is trying to leach into our cells
from the sheer forces of nature and humanity.
Happiness can sprout in a moment, absurd
amid the gray towers strafed by the hate of centuries.
Don’t make a habit of paving over any space
where a tiny flower could pop or hold
your breath, so you can’t nose around
as easily as an old dog finds a neighborly scent
and comes upon another circle of delight.
Monet At Pourville
He hasn’t quite abandoned the shore
for the celestial. He leaves the viewer
a toehold on the sand. He has yet to go sailing
with the gods of water and air.
Confronted by the vast, he answers
with seven sailboats on the horizon,
spaced as evenly as place settings. Tiny
between sky and sea, they float there,
witty as elder aunts. He isn’t choosing
between here and hereafter–just letting the hues
grow full of fire. The boats both approach
and recede, as he plays with their figure-ground.
He hasn’t yet gone into the world of mist,
but an evanescence is growing. I’m mad
about the sea, he writes. He brushes alight
its hidden prisms. In his umbrella
pastels and wool-tuft clouds, eternity leans
closer. Still, that dark patch of sand
at the lower corner makes us hear the crunch
under Madame Monet’s black shoes
as she comes, calling, and calling him to lunch.