November air dreads
another early dusk. The oak’s naked arms
reach out in vain.
A flurry of leaves, withered
in want of escape, now lay dead in drifts
against the fence chain.
The chill air is suddenly still —
the birds and their trills and songs
feel quiet, restrained.
The mammatus broods dark and low
and threatens another cold
The ground lays bare of summer’s color,
the fallen blooms wonder how they’ll ever
reach the stem again.
All around I see the signs of nature’s gloom
but, again I look and decode
the signs themselves contain —
the seeds of unrelenting hope.
Halfway ’round the lake, but to no avail,
we found, a little late, that we were lost;
we’d somehow wandered off the trail.
‘Should we retrace our steps, count the cost,
go back until we find the path again?’
The sun moved low in late December skies.
We scrutinized the map and tried to be men;
not sure our next steps, I folded it crosswise.
All the trees stood ram-rod straight, they stared
and mocked our wanderings, blurred our lines.
Our six-queue slowed, we breathed our prayers;
we stopped to huddle in the shade of a great pine.
Then someone said, ‘The trail’s just over that rise!’
We followed bravely, but only as allies.
I saw a pond
and it was calm
and the sun shone
down upon it.
The twin suns
across their skies,
the one, bright,
the other faint.
They finally kissed,
in a blaze of red,
and slowly dimmed
back down into
Beware: Mysterious Stickiness
She spins the finest silk and patiently stays
far up in ceiling corners or in between
the spaces that never see the light of day.
She waits, still and quiet, behind her screen.
A fly, innocent, buzzes by her lair,
he lands and loiters a little long to play.
His feet adhere (it appears), to nothing but air,
but trips the alarm – she’s snagged a juicy prey.
She clatters over, casting a side-long eye
to calculate the silk she needs to attack,
then paralyze, then mummify, the fly
and pickle him for a midnight snack.
A pity — no one ever told the guy,
how sticky it can get, just before you die.
The starting line fades to a fleeting flash –
that day I sprinted off the block a maniac
and thought the lanes were lined for a dash.
But then the runners spread around the track,
with me – stuck in the back and overrun,
not seeing far ahead or too far behind.
The race drug on in dark hallucinations,
a stiffness racked my hips; I felt resigned
and fought the awful craving to collapse.
The bell announced the end in a distant air.
Was I too proud to limp the final laps?
I feared my training too careless and rare.
The Siren songs seduce me: ‘come, recline’ –
Lord breathe on me to get me ’cross the line!
My moment on the stage is nearly done.
Other actors rise and wait in the wings;
I work to keep my voice from faltering.
I hope to exit long before my lines are gone,
for there I’d play the fool if I prolong
my role with nothing more to say or sing.
I cannot bear the lowered eyes of pitying
as players thunder lines I might have done.
At most, one act is all we have to give,
one part, and only one soliloquy.
And what a tragedy to force a comic air
with motley costume colors, far too big –
to play the parts that others better speak.
How vain to seat myself in the director’s chair.
From the shadows of a jagged ridge
He appears to snakes and salamanders,
to wrestle another day His unseen foe.
The tangled weeds blow around His feet,
the condor’s angled eye circles overhead,
the widow spins her web invisibly.
A jaw bone lays half buried in the sand.
His hunger gnaws away until it’s gone.
A serpent speaks in whispered pities:
No one tries to understand your depths.
You must feel an unrelenting loneliness.
Did God forget your humaned face?
If you’re the Son of God, then why such thin regard?
They should have crowned you King by now.
Then Words of Torah thunder down the canyon walls.
The serpent’s tongue is severed with a bitten heel.
I thought I knew what love must be
and so I put it in an envelope
and affixed its label carefully,
assigned its taxonomy along
with faith and hope and dignity.
But love wouldn’t stay cooped up for long;
it had a way of eating away
at its chains, so subtly, secretly
until it kindly returned the favor and
shackled me, yet I really didn’t mind.
Love. There. But now that I’ve said it
any other flowery words are
plainly way too small and unworthy
of it at all. We barely touch this love
and then it hides – it’s unpossessable.
Like Jesus, a guest in Emmaus
breaking bread, their eyes together
saw him risen – shocked they couldn’t
hold him, but once he’d gone his words
lit their hearts and made them smolder.
For generations now the world
has cut and carved their wood and stone
trying to congeal a god of love for all
but all they got were caricatures –
loony ’toons that made us joke and moan.
But little did we know that love
was working all the time
behind the stage, then briefly came
on the scene and stretched himself
for love – finally nailed, on a beam.
Oh, if life itself could be a walk of love
and every stride, that much closer to its shrine,
if I could lay myself upon its altar
and refuse to wiggle off its flame,
then my life would be a fitting, but unfinished frame
for the One who is this Love.
Emmaus Road Revisited
The sun had set, the dusky rose
of summer lay exhausted now.
The lonely road had narrowed down,
the longer shadows fled away,
and I was left to walk alone.
I felt the tentacles of cold.
Then just before the darkest hour,
a bearded man took up my stride.
He asked me if I knew this road —
“I’ve never come this far before.”
“Then stay with me, I know it well.”
A few more joined us at our side —
a measured, steady incline slowed
us and far, far ahead of us,
a snowy summit summoned us,
and girls with tambourines twirled;
they sang a tune I’d never heard.
Minutes, hours and days unfurled,
and though the climb was far beyond
our strength, we felt no loss or strain.
My bearded friend still led us on,
while jays and sparrows sang their tunes.
We laughed and cried and he explained
the answers to my deepest wounds.
I felt the burning of his words.
He stopped to look me in the eye,
convinced me that he’d always heard,
had never left through all my sins.
Now content to walk with him,
I knew we’d some day soon arrive,
relieved my trek would finally end,
at last to be invited in.
Time is told
itself until it throbs
and comes to be
who you’re going to be.
You grow, adapt,
you groove to a beat,
that ticks and tocks,
a calorie-powered clock,
it doesn’t stop
until it stops —
But then, like knots
in a tree you lean
and learn to grow
around and into things
that don’t move,
which, in turn,
become part of you.
But whether pearl
or porn, you form
with twists and turns,
your senescent face
ascends with grace
or descends into
a permanent scowl,
a mockery of men,
and then, you cut the cord,
you breathe your last,
your bridges burned
. . . to be born
the one you’ll be
forever and ever.
Some time ago I scaled to the summit snow,
but only lingered long enough to trace
my eye across the peaks and endless airs below,
that is, until I started down a different face.
On the way I saw my daughters and sons;
they all were scattered on the mountain side,
bent with packs, their faces lit by the sun.
They strained to breathe the mountain rarified
air, and as I met them, one by one, the two
of us would sit and talk a while; then at last
we’d drop our shoulders as the shadows grew.
They were headed up, but I was pulled to the past.
They moved on, and though I often glanced behind,
still, my feet had to go where the valley inclined.
There beside the tomb, what made you weep?
You knew you could have kept him from the grave,
your groans erupted from the deep
at the stone forever sealed against the cave.
Martha couldn’t grasp who you were.
You had to show how far your power goes —
“I AM the resurrection, the life,” you told her.
Lazarus had to die before he rose.
You stirred and poured disgust on the cold of death,
your voice rang out and hushed the cries of woe:
“Lazarus come forth!” The words hung on your breath.
You brushed your tears away — “Unwind him, let him go.”
The wailers stood stone-faced, mystified.
He steadied, embraced him and standing there, they cried.
He stands weak and bloodied,
leaving a trail of red;
the wreath of thorns embeds
itself into his brow.
Barefoot on the pavement,
the scourges bleed in streaks
through His woven robe —
they write a fractal sign.
He turns a red-lined face
to Pilate strolling to seat
himself high in the Praetorium.
His garrison stands in ranks,
polished, sharp, straight,
their faces like a stone.
Jesus still alone,
unmocked and blood-ennobled,
fixes Pilate’s stare.
His voice’s timbre clear,
it echoes down the hall —
“ . . . you’d have no power at all
unless it’s given from above.”
The spiders stop their crawl.
Pilate shifts his eyes
to cracks that line the wall.
Jesus casts his gaze
beneath the weight of Pilate’s