God Affords One Explanation
Understand you will never be happy.
You will hang beneath time like weights
in a clock. Occasionally a girl will lift her skirts,
you’ll feel you have somewhere to go.
Yes you’ll have joy’s aperture—
the world become spatial in its light—
but mostly a wall of bird song in the dying ivy,
the candling of a child’s v
even the heavy roses:
Beauty, in its indifference, will strip you.
Even now you are trying to cover yourselves.
“God Affords One Explanation” is published with permission of Autumn House Press. The poem first appeared in Joyful Noise: An Anthology of American Spiritual Poetry, Edited by Robert Strong, Autumn House Press, 2007, Rhinebeck, NY
St. Mary of the Suburbs
Idols not idols took their place
along the walls—robed woman, half-naked
bleeding man, worshiped with little offerings
of fire. Were we in the Rome
of the Spanish emperor, or had we passed
to some fire temple of the Zoroastrians?
My friend schooled me in the rites,
but I no longer recall if we stood or sat
as those about us gave that look of wonder.
Smoke rose from the censer,
acolytes gliding past in the slow motion of forgotten
destinations. In twos and threes, suits and dresses
staggered forward for their blood and flesh.
The church stretched upward in rubies
that weren’t rubies, amethysts
not amethysts, gold that was not gold.
Lioness in Winter
My father had been her only lover,
though through the war she’d fancied Sergeant Fred,
who at her fortieth class-reunion waddled in,
bald as an egg. On those counts, my father (thin, Yale)
had been a catch. In Mother’s great age,
a New Jersey limo driver squired her
through the snow to the Walt Whitman Motor Lodge.
“I’m dating,” she said. “I’m widowed”
might have gotten her la hote.
The room is lit only
when the door opens
to let someone out,
just for a moment
before it’s pitch again.
In that instant
we see ourselves
briefly, limbs before us
we’ve only felt
in the dark, as though
making its way into words.
The Author Addresses a Tree
We should make a pact,
you and I,
no more frivolity
on my part,
no more lies,
not even in the service
of a greater truth to come.
We should know by now:
later equals never.
And from you:
not to succumb
too soon, or ever, to the stream
of harmful compounds
threatening your nature.
Be in spring
the beacon we remember,
not so much for light,
there’s plenty of that
(even darkness glows)
So if one day by chance
my words are stamped
upon your skin
neither of us
will be surprised or lost,
far as we may have come
from this moment
when we made a deal
and sealed it like kings
with a drop of sap.