Monday, November 19, 2018

Tell Me So

You're so much talked about.
People think
they know you, that they
have a grasp on you, an angle,
an in.

They use you as a mascot,
a notary,
a patron.

Something you said you cared about
was your name being used.

Other people think you're one of those,
the golden ones who claim you, who seem
to have a claim on you,
who wield your name like a stack of bills
or affidavits,
and look down on, or past,
these others. They think that you might hate them, if you cared
to see them at all.

But this, too,
is a vanity
mirror, which when flipped
upside-down, gives the perspective
which you have:
that those who stamp your name
on their warrants and causes, who drop it
unsubtly in conversations,
who lay loud claim to you--
have, perhaps, acclaim;
but not yours.

And that those who expect
to be passed over or struck down
by a look from you,
are those whose eyes you are seeking,
whose names you wish to claim.
And your claim
is the only one that holds, so
you tell me.

We can't hold
in our heads a true grasp
of you, though we talk much
about you. The way
to know a person
is to know
a person.

Can I talk to you?
I'd really like to know who
You are,

I want to drop these
counterfeit bills
and promissory notes
I've forged or
been handed,
and I want to learn your name.

What it looks like when you sign it
with your own hand
on a king's wall
or the carved-out slab
from a mountain's side.
A hand I can't forge, a script
I can scarcely comprehend.

So tell me.
I want to know, and
I don't know what
I want to know.

So tell me.
Do you love me?
Tell me so.

Friday, July 20, 2018

In the House of the Lord

You come at me with fists
closed rapping, pounding,
blow upon blow upon
 my heart asking
why will it not open?

You come at me with eyes
and lips spitting purpose,
duty, performance
action, principle,

How you must know
I am none of this.
How you can know
and yet permit me
I wonder.

There are days I catch a breath
of freedom, of the air outside,
that breathes there is
a balm in Gilead.
I take that breath with me
when I step back into this chamber.

It lasts a sweet short while,
while the closeness of this tomb
presses it slowly out
from my lungs, too tired
to hold breath.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Battle Hymn of the Intrepid Faithful Believers

Listen up, you serious Christians,
you on whom we all rely--
when we need a strong example,
weak-willed fools need not apply.

Damn you fools, in your depression--
 get your faces off the floor.
God despises lazy brutes
who cower from the battle's fore.

Damn you sorry rabble, in whom
lack and failure coincide--
Listen up, you slobs, the Bible works
if you'd so much as tried.

As for all you gold star Christians
winning souls, redeeming time;
we are giving you a mission:
Get the rest of them in line.

God rewards your utter patience.
When His kingdom's glory dawns,
you'll be wearing golden medals;
they'll be lucky to get bronze.

Honest work. Just reward.
That's the way to please the LORD.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I rage and rest.

I think of you
breaking the twigs of my nest.
The carpet threads, the new-
fallen hairs you tore
with clipped control, and flew.

 I famished more
than on the first fair crack
of crying dawn, when I was young and poor.
You whistled down the seaming on my back,

crackled my wet mouth with food
that overspilled like grain from a fat sack.
It was warm on that bough, and good.

Alone and still, I heard the tenderest sound.
I feathered in your moss, your splintered wood,
and grew. You ripped me out: 
 clawed, cast me down--
I feed on stones, flail heavy with the ground.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


It's something like a desert, something
withering of throat and limbs. The blood's slow
caking from the edges, saving the heart.
It goes a little way, still warm. A thin thrum
of wings, darkening.

and there's that place
by the shrub, where you left him
like a hump of earth, the shadows of two leaves
stretching over his dry lids. It's the bones of something.

Stooping into something like a well,
a brown shallow with a rim
of sallow mud, speckled with dead
wings, and filling your skin.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


Father, your snow falls
like leper's sores,
like scales from blinded eyes.

Father, it falls like
your bread from heaven.
Your every word
falls like that,
and washes--

Oh, Father, the crust
falls from my dead heart.
The earth breaks
and the tomb creaks open.

--as white as that,
when the smear
and the maggots have been on me
not for three days,
but from the womb!

Thursday, January 24, 2013


I saw a flicker at the window today. A flash
of orange, hornet in his beak. He looked
at me, and bit his catch in two. We paused
a moment at the glass, considering
what creature moved upon the other side
lifting the wings or arms the Lord has made
for flight--
                  or in my case, but to adjust
the curtain for a better view of him
at which movement he fled with his two wings.


Because the men had work they meant
to do, they pulled two strips of metal
from a wall
in back of an old church
(surely no use to anyone there)
and carted them back
and laid them flat
on their anvil. One of these
had come without much prying. It lay
still, eager to be hammered
 to forceps
or a wheel. The other piece
had taken a great portion of an hour
to wrench free; mayhap it had thought
the wall its destiny. This one had bent
a little in the struggle. Thus it lay
at angles with the anvil, on its side
and seemed to tremble as the hammer rose
and quiver as it fell.

The blows were swift
and unrelenting blows. The men
knew what they were about, and soon
the first had taken their desired shape.
They set it to its task, and turned again
to straightening the other for the same.
They put it in the fire for a bit.

The room was dark. The crooked metal lit
a small place on the anvil, where it writhed
as though it felt
the heat, and feared
to feel the blow.
                     How hard it was to shape. The anvil rang
and rang and rang and still the metal bent
and twisted every way
but which they meant. The sparks
flew up like hundredfolds of dying stars.

Perhaps they beat too much upon one side,
because at last it folded
on itself. And when they sought to beat it out
again, it cracked along the flaw,
and snapped. The crack was long.
The metal was too weak.
            Ah, well, the men said. It was our mistake.
The flaws were in its core. A solid rod
is what we ought to use. We'll start again
with good materials. With this they tossed
the broken halves into the dust

They waited there a good part of a year,
brittle with weather and the rust that grew
with every rain, until a Hand that knew
its work took hold:
plucked them from the ground
carried them home
laid them by its fire
felt them over closely for each flaw
lowered them into the hottest flame
placed them on the anvil end to end
hammered evenly on every side
fused the ends together into one

and when the room was still, the metal too
was quiet, resting, ready 
to be shaped.

Monday, September 10, 2012

God Says "Wait"

In the late harsh dark
set rigid as the point
of a compass
made of ice,
one breath is pain.
It is cold like fear. It is
fear, swaddled and laid beside
my flesh, like a stillborn child
that I might get warm again.

I wake a demon. Not waked
complete, but with hands
wrinkled empty like paper
thoraxes, hanging claws.
Sleeping screamless and open-mouthed,
burning like the void,
my eyes are hell.

I say please take it,
the bone in my throat.
I say please.

God says “wait.”

In the bright harsh day
it is near as death. It comes
to my ear and breathes.

I say please take me,
I won't sleep. I say

Saturday, November 06, 2010

That House

was built by my father, stone upon stone.

Later wood was laid on, and new stories

and rooms for all the children. A back gate

and an alcove. We were happy there.

In that house, deep in the walls,

termites were given

in marriage and were fruitful

and ate of the fruit of those trees

which built that house.

We noticed, bit by bit. Shavings

fell from the corners

where the walls met. The floors gave

gently when we stepped.

But we didn't mind. It's old,

we said. Old houses bend,

and lose things.

Then my father

dropped his match and

the flicker caught the dust

crumbling from the door

and crawled lightly

up the wall while we held

our breath and hoped

it wouldn't grow.

The den went first,

where we gathered. The coffee table sighed

and turned over, charring

in strips. We all left for our rooms.

It's not a hungry fire. It burns slowly,

one wall at a time. Smoke sticks

in our lungs, and the dust

falls grey like ash. Outside,

my father's well laps cold

under the earth. Soon,

soon it will all give way

but the stones.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Chewing a lot of cud these days...

...makes some rotten butter. Now there's a mixed metaphor.

These Distracted Prayers

Oh, my eyes
are on the carpet today. It's dirty,
full of worn threads and speckles of
spilled things and flattened by
my ragged feet, my ragged feet. Oh,

Oh, my feet
I'm ripping up today. They're filthy, worn
tough from walking over this floor and
walking over this floor and walking,
walking over this floor. Oh,

out you go, feet. Enough of you, little
ugly things, misshapen toes and dirt
in the nail-corners. Oh,

babies with hands like caterpillars curling up
when you touch them. Cats
curling up when you don't touch them, sleeping
for hours alone. Hands
in their listless mooning, searching
for lost keys.

I don't want tomorrow, I don't want tomorrow
to come now. I'm tired,

I'm tired. I don't want
tomorrow to come.

My nose slopes down from my eyes, always
in the way of anything, its tip. My mouth
I only see when I stick out my lip.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Recovering Lost Ground...

I haven't been writing much, and I've been thinking even less lately. One thing contributes to another, I'm sure. Wherefore it's time to take up the torch again, shake off this lazy feeling, and try to regain the ground I've lost while I've been lying down on the job. It won't be brilliant, but it will be something. These last few days I've been attempting to write something every morning. These somethings have turned out to be a series of personal psalms, most not worth sharing. But the most recent of these reminded me a little, while I was writing it, of the emotionally honest, impulsive, almost unconscious way I used to write before I knew what writing was. Which is to say, it wasn't great--but if I have to start over from the beginning, it's not bad. For a beginning.

So we're going back to the old song and dance, the old rhyme and rhythm.

Psalm the 21st of July. A Psalm at Morning.

In this softer dark we rise and look
with sleepened eyes and elbow crook.
Sheep-slow, but unabashing heads we rove
our morning-skins as curious as love.

We're dust to dust. Our particles of grey
array us end to end, and we arrest
a wrinkled forehead on an open chest,
and pressed dry lips into a smiled kiss.

O fingers to the bone we are transformed!
and love has drunk us deeper than good wine
kept cold in cellars. I am yours and mine
you are. An ocean. Fingers in the brine.

Alone, the sun becomes a rosy spot
behind the kitchen curtain, like a thought
that ripens unattended, it will grow.

Alone, this cup is empty,but the rim
is streaked and streaked with holy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

At Table


My God, how long

has it been?

Drinking strong


thinking wrong.

Let me cut you a

deal. You take

this hand, I'll pay


But listen: next time,

warn me. I'll fold.

Do you know, how long

it has been?

I've been taking small

doses, getting rich

fat elbows.

Probably they're


with this table's edge.

This wine's a good

vintage, have you seen

the grapes?

Bigger than life, been growing

in this hothouse


My God. How long

has it been?

If you're going to dig up

this seed,

you might need

a thicker spade.


Concubines. Ever thought

of those?

What is this, why do

you give me this—smell it, it's

fragrant.....Taste it,

it's good.

What did you expect--


Charity loaves. You rub it in

our faces, and what can we do

but eat?


All right, I'll pay. But don't think

you own me;

nothing's free.

Oh, no. You're not unearthing

old wounds tonight,

I said I'll pay.

It doesn't matter how long.

I'll pay.

You know how

this will end,

don't you.

I'll go to bed with you,

next morning I'll

be back here.

What does it


to break a heart?

Think about it:


Friday, October 10, 2008

Emily in sleek Shakespeare, intertwined with tufts of Blake

O Emily
of fire

veriest haven

of contentment

To be
O Emily
that does not question

whether 'tis nobler in the mind
but sleeps--perchance, she dreams

and, unsupposing--ends them
aye, there's the rub
the consummation Emily, too, has wished

When we have shuffled off
she licks her paws. There's the respect--
that makes her portent Emily of life

when she herself might our quietus make
with a mere shifting

Now is the winter of our discontent made summer by
this Emily--a spark, a sprite
in the closets of the night

But Emily is shaped for sportive tricks
O Emily--a wanton ambling nymph,
O Emily, fur-tailed, of fair proportion

what,immortal Emily
thou framed in gleeful witchery

who spied
her shadow
in the sun

and made of it imaginary puissance
that did affright the air

admit me Chorus to this Emily

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

We are blood and

Jesus, firstborn, loved

................and hated

You were first--tempted, untainted
Sorrow-filled--with grief acquainted

You were first...Innate
Weighty call
..............................too distant

Darkness threads our weave
my brother
Broken-tied to grief
my father
Soak it with your sleeve
my lover


Here we flee
..our revolutions
Of redemption....--all for nothing

(Cursed, I never tried own it.)
Cursed and
Atone it--Firstborn, make your love pierce...We
crave your bloody,