It’s always something else
we wish would save us—

the right words, for instance,
especially spoken on the right lips.

Or perhaps the temporary shine
inside the generous glass of wine.

And if not that, then friendship.
Or an altar. The sun or a song or a kiss.

But somehow in our hearts
there is always an empty chair,

some sense that someone or something
else is supposed to be here,

even if the room is light. Even when
the rightest words are found.

Even if the wine tastes of melon and grass.
Oh that emptiness. That emptiness

is a chance to ask ourselves, really ask,
who is the one who thinks she needs

to be saved? Sometimes I watch her
slip right through the cracks.

She takes her cross with her,
her books, her prayer mat,

her musts, her beads, her shame,
and what remains is everything.

You need not fear the night, my child.
Evening comes to everything.
It finds the raspberries by the road,
it finds the rabbit in her hole.
It finds the river and all its swells.
The evening comes to everything.

As silently as the rainbow bends
the evening comes to everything.
And the roadrunner stops his running
and the honey bees stop their buzzing
and the rattlesnakes stop their sunning
as the evening comes to everything.

As dark and graceful as raven’s wings,
the evening comes to everything.
Even the raindrops as they are falling,
and the Rosa woodsii as it’s blooming
and the wily raccoon who goes exploring,
yes, the evening comes to everything.

I used to fear the darkness, too,
and prayed all night for morning.
But feel how evening holds the world—
the animals, the boys, the girls,
the moms, the dads, the plants, the birds,
it holds us together, our differences blur—
oh, evening come to everything.

*An R poem for Lian Canty’s Alphabet Menagerie

I know you’re kinda mad I’m late. I’m sorry,
but you see there was this tiger trapped
up high inside a tree who offered me
a cherry tart if only I would help
him down. What could I do? It just did not
seem right to leave him stranded there. And so
I asked a large tarantula to weave
a silken net to catch the tiger when
he leapt. Well, she was tired from having laid
nine hundred eggs the day before, but when
she heard about the tart, she said she’d try.
A tern and toucan flying by said they
would help me hold the net to catch the tiger
when she leapt. What luck! I didn’t know
they lived around here. Anyway, a toad
in a tiara started teasing them.
He said our plan would never work, that birds
would not be strong enough to catch a tiger.
That’s when the triceratops came rambling
by and said he’d help us, too. But he
began to sneeze, his allergies were acting
up, perhaps it was the tulips? Or
the toadstool? I don’t know. The bummer was
he sneezed so much he had to go. The toucan
and the tern, offended by the toad,
flew off. They said, “A tart is not enough
for this abuse!” So there I sat beneath
the tiger, not sure what to do. That’s when
a turtle sat beside me and suggested
we could use his thimble as a diving
pool. The tiger had his doubts until
he saw a trout tail swish inside the thimble.
And he dove! And landed with a splash!
And came up with the trout between his teeth!
The bad news is he left the tart up in
the tree. And then the grumpy toad began
to throw tomatoes at the turtle. And
at me! And so I ran the whole way home.
I don’t know where the tiger’s gone—he mentioned
wanting to audition for a band.
He said he plays the triangle. It’s weird,
I know. So weird I worried that you’d not
believe me. I thought maybe I should lie
and tell you that I’m late because I didn’t
want to leave my friend’s house in the middle
of our game. But lying is so rude.
I knew that you’d appreciate the truth.

*This is a T poem for Lian Canty’s Alphabet Menagerie, http://www.alphabetmenagerie.com

The Empty Basket

Just because the moss is exactly
the right color green and the spruce
are spaced just widely enough to let

the sunshine in, just because
the red strawberry leaves and purple
gentian are growing nearby, just because

it rained last night and just because you
have found them here before is no
guarantee that the mushrooms you want

to find are here this time. And they aren’t.
A voice rises in you, “But they should be here,”
and you find yourself arguing with the world.

Disappointment, I suppose, is the mother
of indignation. You could already taste them,
sautéed in butter, hearty and nutty and rich.

The absence feels unfair. You look again,
this time in the field. You look again at the edge
of the woods. You look again in the low grass

on the ridge. And find nothing except
your longing to find something that is not here.
You are still holding the basket, empty

except for two small brown bolete buttons—
they are the perfect size for eating,
only hardly enough to bother with.

Expectation has a bitter taste, one that seems
to only enhance a hunger. There’s a beauty
in noticing this—not that it makes the longing

go away, but somehow you see that this is just
another invitation to want exactly
what is happening—

the empty basket, the growing hunger,
the ground so wet, so full
of potential right beneath your feet.

On Immersion

Sometimes it happens this way,
that the sunflowers all petal out
before the night of the first frost,
and you, though of course you have
endless things to do, find yourself
ambushed by golden lucence
and stand there astonished, baptized
by beauty. It happens. Sometimes
it happens this way. Sometimes
you get the whole list crossed through,
all those black lines streaking the page,
like flowerless stems. It happens.
That, too, is a beautiful site,
but not at all the same.

I used to have it, the longing
to be cleaned out, to become
like the school room before
the students arrive on the first day
of school—the desks polished,
the dry erase board perfectly white,
no un-erasable traces of old problems
and schedules and conjugations.
I longed to be even cleaner than that—
to be emptied. To be like the room
without furniture. Or perhaps even
to be like the vacant lot after
the building had been torn down.
Call it a second chance. Or a third.
A clean slate. We have so many ways
to speak of starting over. And of course
I believed I’d do it all better this time.
And then one day I stopped believing
in the sanctity of the eraser. What
great teachers, all these perfect failures.
One day I could feel it, how
the life I wanted to live was nowhere
near as beautiful, as full, as rich
the life that wants to live me.

Seldom does anyone praise the parsley.
But there is dignity in the way
it returned to the garden this year
without needing to be planted.
Dignity in the way it pushed its dark
curls through the late snows of spring.
Already summer is goldening,
and only once have I used
the parsley, snipped it into
a bowl of barley with lemon
and garlic and oil. How perfect
it tasted then, and how grateful I was
for parsley to be so precisely parsley,
so vibrant and green to the tongue.
Since then I have passed it by.
There is so much in the world
to appreciate, each thing appearing
as itself. How easy it is to prefer.
But oh, the parsley. It does not need
my approval to flourish. It finds its worth
in the fact that it is here, thriving
in full sun, its yellow umbels
bowing over the earth.


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