Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Ontology of Three-Year-Olds in Mass

You ask me, “How was mass,”
and I don’t know what to say.

Are you asking about the homily,
whether the priest inspired, entertained?
Are you asking about the quality
of the presence of I AM?

How should I respond?
What could I ever say?

But I think that what you mean is something like
how did the kids behave?
I’m glad you’re home;
welcome back
to the day-to-day.

But still, you framed it up that way:
How was mass?
I don’t know whether to answer the question that you meant
Or the one you asked.

Shall I say that God is always God,
that mass is always good
(even if my countenance betrays my mood
which perhaps betrays a lack of faith
perhaps because the two year old
perhaps attempted to abscond
with, perhaps, the purse and hair
of the parishioner she could reach
with her toes—
can you imagine the indignity of someone else’s
in your
at mass
that she—the two-year-old—forgot to put her panties on,
and I only noticed when she found a way
to hang
from the pew, my face, the missal
by her toes—
yes, you’re counting right:
that’s three times I had to turn her over,
peel her from my face—
why, I wonder, did the Almighty see fit
to give toes to toddlers)?

These things have nothing
to do with the metaphysical question you just asked.

And so I stutter in the kitchen,
end up shooed away.
“She doesn’t understand these kinds of conversations,”
I hear him say apologetically,
and I’m grateful because here I am,
months later,
still wondering:
How was mass?
And thinking

Thank God she’s three!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The End of Beauty

We would stand on the lawn looking up
like the opening scene of an alien show
every day.
We looked strange, I knew,
but I couldn’t help wondering where
the neighbors were—
how could they ignore this?
As other-worldly as an alien
invasion or a Raphael,
as fleeting as childhood
and immortality,
a gift fit for gods
but we live close enough to peek
to taste the spilled ambrosia
to see the colors altered
by an altered sky.
Why would we go past this,
go beyond—to what?
We don’t believe in a beyond-truth or
a beyond-goodness, but past
doesn’t always mean surpassed:
maybe we’ve just missed our turn?
Maybe if we stand on the lawn,
they’ll notice us, and no one
will overshoot their destination
or at least they can make a u-turn
at the end of the street,
pull over before
they give up and deem beauty medieval,
before they decide we’re too wise for thunder gods
and roses. I used to walk past
them, there at the front of the grocery store
where penitent and forgetful men can buy
before they get to the chips and soda
and forget.
I used not to notice;
they’re not advertised, after all, to women.
We’re meant to walk past,
Distracted by children and grocery lists,
beautiful bursting blossoms
invisible to us
(except for office parties,
customs of social investment,
when we walk into a separate place
with petty cash
and make petty choices
for the requisite office acknowledgements).
We manage to see
past beauty
even when it surrounds us.
But if you stop to touch or smell,
you'll find roses
are soft like silk
and hold memory like picture books,
like the soft folds of my grandmother’s face.
How did we ever start with stone and papyrus,
when the touch of a rose petal holds
more memory and allusion
than a library filled with coded paper,
when it must have been that way
in Egypt, too?
But we’ve gone beyond beauty. Why?
Because we’ve found something better?
We in this century have realized that dancing in the rain,
leaning over to sniff the rose,
touching the shiny flow of silk
and satin in the fabric store,
the use of exclamation marks!
Sensory stimulations are childish,
And the worst thing in this post-modern world
is a child.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Problem of Burying the Dead

Tell your children when they’re born
That now someone will have to bury them,
Death more clearly foreseen, more demonstrable
than birth.
Every time a person is born, a problem is created, re:
who will bury them.
They cannot bury themselves
(so much for bootstraps)
And their progenitors are never
happy volunteers.

In fact, it is usually the progenitors
seeking solutions to their own burial problems
who compound the problem of their own birth.
Someone has to bury them,

so they breed.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Lt. Powell

When I was a kid, I was his Crunchy Girl,
And there was nothing but him and me,
Coffee on the porch.

When I was older, I began to realize I could reach through him,
Touch a World War.
I realized that his own memories would have
Touched veterans of the Civil War.

I did not come empty-handed, though—
Through me, he could touch the future.

What strikes me in the realization that we are pools,
Surfaces that go deep,
Is that his stories never focused on the
Major Events he’d witnessed,
Never on the World War
Or Vietnam
Or integration:

He told me how he struggled to make a living,
Buried the dead,
Fell in love.

Of all the stories he had to share,
Of all the things he had seen,
What he chose to pass to the future
Was the first sight of a long-legged girl
with black curls

in a yellow linen dress.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Theory of Education

Set before their eyes beautiful things.
Let them hear beautiful music.

When gray concrete-ugly engulfs them
With landlords and the unemployment rate,

When last year’s emergencies
Are still this year’s considerations,

When the compass fails to bloom,
And there’s no pavement, road, or sign,

They will find home
In the forty-first symphony,

In the Mona Lisa’s smile.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Career Counseling

They told me not to write for a living,
to do it for no one but me.

I never heard anyone say to the preacher
His sermons should only be written for him,
Find a congregation to listen
By preaching submission to birds.

I never heard anyone say to the teacher
Her lessons should only be written for her,
Find a classroom to listen
By teaching addition to herds.

For years now I’ve written
These words on a page,
And nobody reads them but me.

For years now I’ve kept the words hidden
For everyone knows they’re a joke at best
Something unreal from a past we rejected.

Now I sit in the dark,
Drink scotch from the bottle
These are the things I do for me.

I don’t conquer the demons for free.

Sunday, March 13, 2016


so long now I have tried to think of it:
the luminous soft oneness of the race,
in human how we all the same and love,
as much as you, could I love anyone?
If I could see the Oneness then in them,
the thing I could the spark I see in you.

It’s dawned on me at last, at darkest dusk
how like the Oneness be reflected may
on sunset shells of lake, contained;
not each one all restrained to note in all
a single soft-sung harmony, your song,
though part again alone may never sung
be sing the only what-if piece you hold?
and lose?

Oed' und leer and cold das meer and dark,
das piece where harmony von meer your sang:

The sea is cold and dark.

Friday, March 4, 2016


It started with a sunset—
you thought that was the best place to ask
and a trip up into the mountains
canoeing over glass.
You receded just a little,
moving out of this world by degrees.
At first it was just the spring:
the blooming made you sneeze.
You and I wove wildflowers and stars and iloveyous:
the world was all around.
We had promised forever,
and the world still echoed our words.
There were summer barbecues
and walks upon the beach;
you receded somewhat more,
and we were cautious in our steps.
The world was still there in you,
glorious autumn pouring down,
photographs in rain,
but you were less in it.
I still felt no constraint,
because the receding happened bit by bit.
Only when the winter came ,
when all the days by artificial light were lit
when babies who’d tumbled in like heaven
had grown too big for bat and ball,
time somehow passed while you were sick—
only then did I recall
the last time we were in the world.
There’d been snow upon the mountains
and babies in our car.
There are no babies now,
no snow or mountains,
and quite a lot of time has passed
since we left the shadow of the peak.
When I go out, I go alone,
and even shelter fails to keep you warm.
Each day has become a waiting game
Of holding breath, but
when I recall the sunsets
and nights beneath the moon,
I realize with sudden clarity

that I am losing you.