I THINK WE HAVE TIME FOR ONE MORE QUESTION
One day the children will be tall. They will
pull on boots and take up shovels.
They will unearth the silenced voices
and do the work by hand.
Today the earth was weirdly green and we thought—ah,
this is what the rain does.
I lie awake listening for dawn.
Cars and birds. Birds and cars.
In a blink spring melts. We have learned to live
soaked in fear.
Re-examine all you have been told—dismiss
that which insults your soul.
How we love those words.
Over coffee, we initial copies
of an old confession.
HOUSE OF CLAY
As for me, I will choose this mud-walled home, speckled
with stubble of stick and straw, daubed with pine pitch.
This house of clay, this planet Earth
cured by the heat of a dying star, chiseled by rivers, by rivers of air
and six million years of human hunger, love and war.
House of forest, prairie, canyon, sky. Of tawny savannahs
roamed by the last wild herds, of zebra surging over
Serengeti plains. House of terraced field, coral reef,
desert sand, raging river and dry well. Of polar waters’
waning ice, granite peaks ringed by clouds.
O house of sweet wet clay, riddled with roots,
malleable in human hands. Our small shared house
of flowering earth. Our one clay cup
for six—wait—seven billion mouths.
HOW TO BREATHE
I want to strip my life clean, reduce my stuff
to bare essentials, a tree in winter
at winter’s end, a cliff above a white sea.
Make that a white cliff, swallows wheeling,
and let the high priest of morning sing up the sun.
Make it Millay’s West Country sun with her lark
in air so high and his song clean through me
and Millay’s West Country cry—
What have I done with what was dearest to me?
It is not here.
Everyone gets a key to the garden:
and a stone bench big enough for one
worn smooth by longing.
Called to the window by petals leaping, morning breeze. No words
soft enough to say how this delicate infusion, a teaspoon of violet
dissolved in an empty sky, alters the intake of breath:
patch of sky
and the wind moves through.
HOW TO KNOW YOUR HEART
I saw my heart today
lapping up the stuff of life,
endless flow, insatiable thirst.
Don’t talk, the tech said, so I lay still and let the world move
through me: footsteps in the hall
doors that open
doors that close.
Such a crude machine, this muscled pump,
it doesn’t love, it works
over and over.
The bed is hard. The gown is thin. The room is cold.
I entered this world a mere child—a terrible lapse in judgment.
So don’t expect me to be logical now, steeped as I am in memory—
scent of earth, mid-summer air, one finch
on a small branch, grooming. Behind
a locked gate,
a blue pool beckons.
How quickly light steals across the courtyard
If you find a whistle, pick it up. If you find a fossil,
a pebble, a broken lock, pocket those, too.
When you walk, feel the weight of them
against your thigh, how they jounce and sing.
Witness is what comes out of a closed mouth
when speech is forbidden, a rogue rose that climbs
the bruised air. When life bottoms out,
gives no quarter, what then?
Careful notes, soft shoes, a pair of ears—
this is what it takes to get ahead these days.
Witness is the warning in plain speech you ignore
at your peril, the deal proposed by the troll:
Yours is the palace, the grounds and the serfs—
a life of easy gold
as long as you stay out of one locked room
at the top of the tower.
Witness is the key bouncing in your pocket
as you take the steps two at a time.
HIGH ON RAIN
I sit transfixed; the afternoon slips
inside the eye
of the sparrow who flits
from nest to roof
to nest again,
his shrill cry a mantra,
a green wall drawn around us
walling out nothing at all.
Afternoon after rain—
wind chimes a temple bell stuck
on one low-throated note.
Spent blossoms fringe the ends
of green apples, not one bigger
than an English pea.
This late May nursery of egg and seed and song
thinly veiled by a screen
of fine-toothed leaves—99,099 faces of god—
and all this time abhinevesa,
fear of the hawk,
fear of death, sweetens
every indrawn breath.
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