Sparrow

Out the window, there was a sparrow
optimistic to the point of desperation
as it gripped the too-slender branch
bouncing and swaying
a russet and black blur in
the 9 a.m. sun
but it was determined, not shaken.

Had I not been on the floor
I never would have seen it.
Such is often the way with miracles.

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Do Not Rest in Peace

Do not rest in peace, love.
Rest boisterously.

Rest dancing at the top of a moonlit pyramid
and rest on the surface of the sun of your choice
and rest in a comfortable spot between the stars
and rest in the eye of your new favorite galaxy as it spins ‘round you.

Rest in uproarious laughter at one hundred remembered lifetimes’ foibles
and rest in the windowsills of your grandchildren’s bedrooms
and rest in the freedom from the everyday sins of ego and spite
and unacceptably long memory.

Rest yourself in my dreams where I can find you
and rest between the notes I sing
Rest in love so expansive, so jubilant,
a mere human body could never hold it all.

Do not rest in peace.
It was never your way to sit still.

Bed

The best part of my day
is immediately after I make the bed.
For one moment, I’ve made one thing in my life
tidy and smooth and nearly perfect;
perfect enough to satisfy, in any case.
For one moment, such a miracle is within my power.

It won’t last. It never does.
A dog’s nap or a load of laundry or
my own surrender to exhaustion will rumple it,
ruin it.
I know this before I even set to making it.

All cups are already broken.
All beds mussed, and must be lain in nonetheless.

But I get up and smooth it again,
and it is better, thought not quite the same,
not as good as it was the first time.

Still I try. I approximate.
I can pretend I can impose order.
I can impose my will;
a small, temporary victory that must be appreciated
because it is the only kind there is.

The bed will be there until
I decide to haul it away.

It will not sicken.
It will not die.
It will not leave.
It has yet to disappoint,
and I don’t expect it will,
so long as I can fall into it,
eyes closed, waiting for oblivion.

I catch myself stopping as I walk in and out of the room,
about my day, to admire
its clean lines
its steadfast sensibility
chalking up the loose threads that mar the view
all wabi-sabi
to mere time and not approaching chaos,
though they are, in fact, both.

I’d give up infinite space for this
nutshell of a room
blue and quiet
a museum
where nothing is touched
nothing is disturbed
where all waits in infinite patience
infinite patience
if I would only close the door
if I could only keep it so.

Wherein My Books Remind Me Why I Asked for My Books Back

I knew it wouldn’t be over
not all over
until all things were returned
to their places,
and as I waited for you

I always waited for you

to give back the books I lent you
and concocted schemes in the shower to get them
back on their shelves,
to regain, to reclaim, every part of me that belonged
however temporarily
to you

under the spray of 8 a.m. water, the epiphany,
the summary, the symbol:
it ends as it began, as it ever was;
the books yet another offering
you accepted
but would not give back

Illusory Reprieve

It had only been a minute
that I had sat in the yard
heart straining
chest aching
coughing the smoke from my lungs
wiping soot and tears away with a hand
too dirty and trembling to
make a difference.

It had only been a minute
that I had sat in the yard
wheezing relief
sobbing gratitude
for my escape
as flames licked at windowsills and
taunted me from the doorway through which
I’d just fled.

Only a minute, realizing
you were still in there,
until I turned around and walked
back into the burning building,
though all the nightmares that wake me
have always been of fire.

And the Wheel Turns

It’s a quiet thing, fall,
as the roar and riot of summer fades;
in the hush you can hear yourself think again;
you can see things more softly
in the slanted light of a retiring year.
We put away summer clothes
and summer dreams that turned out to be
out of season, after all,
pulling out sweaters and sweet memories
to insulate us on long nights,
longing nights filled with
wistfulness, wood smoke,
and a tentative peace:
the only kind there is.

Amnesia

Two souls compare notes,
their stories punctuated with fingers along jawlines
and hands pressing into the wood floor
and into the earth below
from which they grew.
Why they have to fight so to keep their roots in the black dirt
is one of the mysteries on the table.

The skin dissolves
the curve of a nose and
the heavy fall of hair across a shoulder
become Clark Kent’s glasses,
and I wonder how I was ever fooled by
their assumed identities,
how I was ever deafened to what seemed
only the senseless chatter of birds.

We share stories like children,
like boys who share a pocket of treasure—
a penny
a bottlecap
a bird’s skull
a flattened frog—
all equally laudable discoveries,
clues to the mystery,
though the wonder warps into weariness somehow
as the treasures are found in spite of.

Is it because as our hands grow larger,
it’s easier for treasures to slip through our fingers?

We have forgotten wings;
the horizon lies before our perception;
we are not created, but creation.

Is anyone else seeing this?

Two souls compare notes.
How did I miss this all these years?

Nokomis Speaks

I am old
and
I have read and written and forgotten
and lived
so many poems
steeped myself in
the angst
the anger
the angels
of the ages
and the aged

We have all been so precious;

the only thing shocking about you
is your youth
your sweet belief that you are
revolutionary.

Believe that as long as you can.
Believe it for those whose innocence has been
knocked out of their hands.

Believe it for me.

There is nothing new under this tired sun;
one man’s novelty is another woman’s gimmick;
I know the difference between
soup can and Sistine Chapel
and some day,
god help you,
you will, too.

Show me your soul
where it has burned
where it has yearned for more than you could articulate
but found a way to nonetheless

Show me where you live,
not where you play house.

Restoration

It is as much art as science
this work of restoration;
layer upon layer,
centuries lie heavily upon
drawn faces,
soot and smoke
of the burning years and
lives become ash;
the exhalations of the pious and
the penitent
darken even God’s face,
leaving the rest unrecognizable.

It is the gentlest whisper of a hand
that brushes away the darkening
stain of time and…
revealing bright eye and pale cheek
the illusory sparkle of an eternal virgin
her innocence preserved in the face of all assault.

The work progresses
carefully
carefully;
one can see that she was always there,
that she lived in this canvas,
flat and shaded for a time,
quietly waiting for dawn to steal in by hours
bringing with it birdsong and warmth
both forgotten in the night.

Such a work of art is not to be lost.
No.
Not forever.

Vespers

It is not unusual to find heaven
barely disguised
as a friendly breeze
flirting across afternoon skin

paradise thrives in such close quarters,
momentary ecstasy
the only kind
hiding in the space
between filling and tooth

cicadas rasp their last
competing with birds
who do not give me their names
a hungry horizon leaches
the day out of my sky,
turning the page in my lap
grayer by the minute
late light that has always made me
wistful
turning pages of memory
almost
but not quite
faster than I can read them

in my book, a dog dies
and the tears come
as I knew they would;
I am only startled now by
how effortlessly it begins and ends
and wonder if I have finally begun

to live
where there are no boundaries
between joy and sorrow
where there are no boundaries
between today and tomorrow

perhaps there never were

and when the sky has grown too dark
to read, perhaps it is a blessing,
for all scripture is dogma
tied out at a stake
to chafe our necks raw with yearning
for what we were born with
and we only run and growl in our sleep