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One in Deep December

 

 

the night asked me

to read its poetry, all that ink

scrawled across the world—

 

reading late without the light,

I, too, become page, poem

Decorating the Tree

 

 

 

And usually, at some point

in the tree trimming, when the living room

is covered in twenty-year-old tissues

and my fingers are raw from the needles

and the rest of the family

has long since tired of the project,

around then, I start to wonder

what it’s really for, all this bustle

and embellishment and then,

like today, I’ll pick up an ornament—

say the one my grandmother made

from a metal cookie cutter trimmed

in blue ribbon and angel hair,

and inside it sleep two baby figurines,

a pink one for me, a blue for my brother—

and I am weeping,

remembering how I would stare at this ornament

as a child, how beautiful it was

dangling so high on the tree

where all the more delicate ornaments would go.

I was small then, but I knew

my grandmother made that ornament

with me in mind and I loved her for her thoughtfulness.

She is gone this year, and I marvel

at how present she is in this room

as I sing “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”

with Aaron Neville and remember singing

carols with her in the church loft,

her soprano warbling and true.

And I climb the ladder to hang

the ornament high on the tree,

where the more delicate ornaments go.

And suddenly I see it is my son and daughter

sleeping in that ornament,

there where I thought it was my brother and me.

And I think of my mother’s hands

all those years she hung that ornament

reverently, and how the spruce needles

would have pricked her, too, and I

sing with Aaron about peace to men on earth,

and some of that peace slips into me,

so silently, so silently.

One Art

 

for Sherry

 

 

in a time of thorns

finding the smallest joy—

making a room in it

big enough

we can all slip in

One New Melody

 

 

finding a hum

on the air, letting it

land on my lips

all the blue day

it sings me

 

 

 

And after the boy

hugs his sister

and tells her

she did a great job,

 

after he wipes

her tears and holds

her and wraps her

in his awkward arms,

 

after she leans

into him, their

sapling trunks

sloping toward

 

each other,

I want to tell him

how proud I am

of the ways

 

he is growing,

want to affirm

how much depends

on love, want

 

to say I see his tenderness,

but the soil beneath

them is unstable,

precious, and my voice

 

is full of heavy clouds,

so I wait until

they sway apart,

then I walk closer

 

and manage to say

through invisible rain,

It’s time.

Let’s go home.

Poet’s Respond in Rattle!

Hi friends,

 

the poem from a few days ago about the Voyager 2 leaving our heliosphere, “By the Numbers,” was accepted last night by Rattle.com for their series Poets Respond, poems about the news. Here is a link to the text and audio!

 

By the Numbers, Rattle

 

 

 

And do nothing, she says.

I think about that as

I shuffle the kids and

make doctor appointments

and edit the pages and

 

drop off the gifts and reply

to emails and shovel the drive

and read to my daughter

and peel the carrots

and hang up the coats

 

and all that time, I imagine

sitting for five minutes.

Doing nothing.

Yeah, I should add that

to my list, I think,

 

as I open the cat food

and stack the bowls.

And there, on the shelf,

between the bowls

and the salad plates,

 

I feel the nothing

waiting for me, feel

its infinite patience,

feel how it is always here

supporting all this everything.

 

How generous it is,

I think, suddenly unable

to feel anything

but a longing for nothing,

a longing that lasts at least

 

fourteen seconds

before I remember

that call I am supposed

to make, that plant desperate

for a drink.

Going In

 

 

 

I thought I could fix it.

Not with a hammer and glue,

but with listening. With loving.

With holding the wounded

in my arms.

 

I thought I could make

it all better, I mean all of it,

you know, the way a mother

kneels before her child

and kisses his thumb

and miraculously the hurt is gone.

 

I thought I could make myself

bigger than the world’s problems,

as if with devotion and will

and practice, I could touch

infinity, embody enormity,

step over the inconvenience

of pain.

 

But came muck. Came tears.

Came anger and shrill and short.

Came small and weak

and tired. Came shame.

Came embarrassment I ever thought

I could be big. Came the surprising

 

pleasure of muck, the way

I can paint it on my face in wide stripes.

Came the gift of exhaustion.

Only then when I stopped

trying to carry the world, only then

did I notice how generously,

all along, the world

has been holding me,

has been holding us all.

 

 

 

 

bird in the cage

so intently singing

its sad, caged song

never noticing

the door long ago opened

Becoming Crystalline

 

 

 

Forgive me. I do not mean

to be sharp, stark, sterile.

I’ve read of the salt mines

 

at Salzburg, how if you throw

a stick, leafless and dead,

into one of the abandoned workings,

 

then return months later and pull it out,

it will be covered in crystals,

“a galaxy of scintillating diamonds,”

 

writes Stendahl, “the original

branch no longer recognizable.”

I want to be like that stick.

 

Take my winter soul

and throw it into the mystery,

though it’s dark and cold

 

and easy to get lost.

What knows how to attract

the light will grow, will change me

 

until I barely recognize myself.

I do not mean to be short,

but I hear it in my words.

 

Stranger things have happened.

What is dead is sometimes

a chance to find new life,

 

to become a thing shining,

something the same, only fresh,

a thousand times more brilliant.

 

 

 

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