Happiness is your arm's length
And the width of your large hands
And the density of your smiles.
It is the light of your hair turned gray,
It is our moments together,
And the moments compose our years
And our laugh lines and gray hairs.

Happiness is my flowered gown
And the yellow of the sun
Under which we lay in the solemn quiet
Of our vows.

Happiness is the quietness of our glances,
The gazes we know,
The anger and penitence,
The sorrow and the moments unending.

Happiness is the devotion of our knotted hearts
Tied in inextricable bands
Stronger than gold or death.



Yours is the song I hear inside me, a prayer:
Your voice is the cry of many saints,
Your lines are the words of all poets.
The song blows through me like wind to lift my head,
And I feel in it all the warmth of your summer breath,
Your breath of grasses and wildflowers and breeze.
The song echoes like hymns sung in giant, solemn cathedrals
And like chants flung across open fields
Surrounding great monasteries on ancient mountains.
It calls down from the hillsides in me,
Casts itself in surrender over my seas,
And rises and falls in symphonies through my valleys and vales,
And I chase it along the path that it travels.
It thrills me like eternity and echoes along its length--
It is pleasant and soft; it is hope,
And it fills me.


I looked the city in the eyes.
I saw a squalor started there,
Undending through the ages, old as wind,
And ripping through the startled streets.
From where I stood upon the pinnacle,
I saw every set of eyes and
Every secret pain there living;
And I saw the angels like bright flashes,
Saw the angels gliding silently,
Saw the angels with upturned faces.
They were weeping, and so I wept.

I traveled through the streets to know them all,
And I felt in my insides a split of pain.
In each set of eyes that I knew,
I saw poverty and poetry and joy and good striving;
I saw the desperations involved in living;
I saw the languid infusions of light;
And in each was the gentlest reflection
Of the angels gliding gently over.
And each eye was weeping, and so I wept.

I met an angel, and her hair was dark and long.
She smiled at me with brimming eyes.
We did not speak, for our tongues knew separate worlds:
She spoke with the tongues of angels,
And I spoke with the tongues of men.
But our eyes shone together in a glimmering haste,
And we understood our eyes in the moments we had.
"Here," she said with her bright laughing eyes.
"No there," I said aloud, but she shook
Her head and touched my chest,
And I shook and split open.

From my belly, split, I saw all my heart,
In pieces tiny as the smallest seeds:
Saw them spill over the city
And thud solemnly to the earth,
Where they sprouted up like great trees.
I saw them spill over
The heads of the people,
Saw them land on the rooftops,
Saw them land in the great rivers
And swim downstream.

And then I saw them, caught up
In a great hushing rushing wind
And scatter across to the edges of the earth:
Saw them land in great laughs in tiny villages,
Whose starving people gathered them up like scraps of bread;
Saw them strike the oceans in great splashes
That made the cooling waves crack against the steaming shore.

And the angel spoke, and I understood her:
"Go," she said, "Collect each piece;
Find each shard; grasp each bit;
For here," she said, and touched my open chest,
"Is all life's mysterious good."

And we looked at each other,
Her bright eyes filling my eyes.
They were weeping, and so I wept.
They were laughing, and so I laughed.
She was dancing, and so I danced.


To A Potted Plant Outside My Window

A Sonnet
You bloom at mid-day, petals soft, exposed
To elemental changes in the sky:
A bird alights upon you, from you flies,
And then alights again. The noons expose
And beckon you to open in transposed
And brilliant symphony. The rain denies
You not your entrance to the grand reprise
Of day; it only grants you brief repose.

And to these all, oh flower of mid-day light,
You open in exotic scents of noon,
You open in your pleasure and delight;

But every evening close again, too soon
To see my transformation in the night:
To one who looks so very like the moon.

To My Potted Plant, in His Nakedness
I walked out onto the back porch this morning
and there you were just sitting there naked
and your flowers were strewn about you the flowers
I so admired just an afternoon before.

I was caught by surprise because I suspected
that your flowers would just keep blooming and
that they would take over the back yard until
I would not be able to see the world for you.

I glanced down at the flowers dead wilted
in the light of a new morning and wondered
in what universe would a flower
I saw the day before in lavender now be brown.

I wondered at your nakedness, your nakedness,
your utter lack of propriety you should cover up
your nakedness and take a lesson in decency because
I was just so surprised to find you sitting naked in your pottery.

I suggest to myself that the new purple flowers
mean new life or they mean the death of the old or they
mean a transition to something better but
I can't seem to see them for the dead ones littering my porch.

And Upon Your Fallen Petals
And upon your petals lies a look
Of utter shock that such a fate
Should befall you, you with your
Beauties unfolding in midday.
The shock is in their translucent
Shell, is in their clear brown
Muddy stream color, is in their
Sense of grief at being now unlovely.
You just bend against the wind
And wind yourself up toward
The midday sun that brought you
Life. Upon your new buds you
Shower your attentions,
And upon your petals, fallen,
You may once or twice raise
A pitying glance. But past
Is past, you say with a smile,
Purple and green glimmering
Up at the sun. Past is past.

On Disfigurement

The boy, eight, looks up with bright eyes shining,
Shining for his father's eyes,
Electrified by the same deep chasms of earth-toned eyes.
Mirrored and mirrored and on into eternity,
They stare, and they shine.

There is a hole where his cheek should be,
And his father's eyes, wet with intensity,
A deep fire burning in the bottomless chasm,
Run over and over the contour of flesh.
The boy grins: The lines of his lips fold up
To the left and end abruptly to the right.

He will have surgery, and then he will be beautiful.
That is what the doctors say.
He will have the surgery, and all his beauties--
The myriad subtleties of the shining eyes,
The line of his abrupt and constant smiles--
Will remain intact.

And his father tucks him in
Beneath a blanket with the letters of the alphabet.
The father points to the A (by his right cheek)
And down to the Z (down by his leftest toe)
And says, "I love you from here to here."

And says, "Are you scared?"
(The boy trembles underneath the blanket of letters
And the blanket of his father's hands spread across him.
The boy shakes his head, "No.")
And says, "It will be hard at times."
(The boy trembles, a shining tear cresting over
The great peak of his lid, caressing his contours).
And says, "We don't have to go through with it."
(The boy stops abruptly and smiles.
"Yes. We do.")

His father takes his child's face in his
Large, large hands,
And says, "I love you from here to here."
And he kisses his son on the left cheek,
Perfectly shaped and smiling just like all others,
And he kisses his son on the right cheek,
Where the contour glistens with a tear and is beautiful.


The Absurd

Could I tell you an equal merit is found
In something I find quite absurd:
A lady in giant, parade-like garb,
A child dressed up like a man--
A business suit, top-hat, and shoes?
And, simply by being absurd to me,
Is it made a universal absurdity?
Can no one find laughter in what I scorn?
Can no one feel pleasantness in the windstorm?:
One at which I scoff or mourn
And say, "Oh, what nasty weather,
What a waste of a day!"

There was a time when I was foolish,
Sitting up in a tree
Making branches into giraffe-necks.
You called me silly;
Does that make me
The universal absurdity?

June 2, 2008

I want to write a poem about you—
That sings the same way you sing,
Unabashed, sun hitting your dark eyes,
Singing with you in the same tune.
I want to scrawl upon the page of summer your name,
Or a word as strong and as suitable
For you; for you
Are those pleasant melodies
And those full words.
You are the sound of the sun
Making music with the likes of me.
You are the better parts about this mortal coil;
You are the loveliness lying in the soil;
You are the scars and healing balms;
You are all that chases away, like the sun,
The threat of coming storm.
I want to write a poem about you,
For you.


In Sickness, In Health

Who am I
To howl, to
Grieve? Who
Can stand in
Such desert sands
And howl to silent
Golden expanses?
Now who am I, here,
Alone and howling?
Who am I to howl
In the quietness of crowds,
In the quietness of many?
I am a wilderness myself,
I say, I am a wilderness
And the winds that blow
Through me are the winds
That blow through many,
Many sands, and the age
Of my body is the age of
Many howling bodies in
The sands. Now who am I,
Here? Now who am I, I
The one with howling bones,
I the one with desert sand?
I, the one whose hands are
Full, cupped and full, of
Waste. I, the one whose
Many thoughts are only
Thoughts of dimming
Night. I, alone, am
A howl and a desert.
Now who am I, I
With my whimper?
Now where is my
Bread? Now, now
Where is my fish?
Where is a stone
To crush my head?
Where is a snake
To knip my heal?
Where, o Death,
Is your quieting,
Sweet silencing,
Sweet, quiet



I was standing on the front porch
Looking, looking
Into the trees to catch a sight
Of lightning bugs before they blinked away.
And I thought how they looked like stars
When stars stream quickly through
The quickly-passing summer clouds
And blink for just a second, and then blink away
And you have to catch them with your eyes,
Unblinking, you must be fast
To see them.
So I stood there,
Wide-eyed to catch the blinking lightning bugs of summer there.
A wind blew, soft.

And then I, standing on my porch,
Looked up,
And, what a shock, I breathed out
As I caught a glimpse of ageless stars.
They did not peek from behind summer clouds;
They did not blink away when I blinked.
Each, cemented in the sky,
Streamed unfalteringly and always.
They did not blink at me,
And the lightning bugs did not distract, no not this time.
This time, this
Lovely time,
The stars stood out against their dark
The way they are meant to do.

And with what pleasure did I then
Remember that stupid metaphor I had in my head
(That lightning bugs resemble stars
And could be quite as beautiful);
I closed my eyes, still feeling those stars,
And sat down in my rocking chair
And fell peacefully asleep
In the quiet, still, good, kind face of the stars.

There are Rivers Between Us, Wishing Us Ill

The summer runs too slowly:
And in between us lie many hours spent on living
And many labored breaths unbreathed in rhythm
And many mouths forming voided sounds
And many rivers also flowing flowing
And many towns full of folks all living
And many mothers clothing naked babies
And many men full of wars and stories
And many countries full of histories
And many continents quick approaching
And many galaxies forever spinning spinning
And many heartbeats quietly quietly yearning
And many fingertips searching vainly searching
And many lashes firmly closing
And all this I would say to you oh you who remains separate you:
The summer runs too slowly.


Stones For Bread

I keep asking you for stones and expecting some bread,
And now there are snakes nipping at my toes and knees.
Something howls through me, an emptiness
(Because I cannot eat stones, cannot eat snakes,
And I have gone hungry for many hours, many days).
What was it you said that time when I knelt down
And the sand ate at my skin and threatened to swallow me?
I thought I heard you offering bread,
But perhaps it was the desert wind.
Sorry about the time I got distracted and annoyed;
I struck one of the rocks you gave,
Struck it so it oozed with water, struck it instead of me.
Now I am unbruised, unoozing, and alone and howling.
I am the one sitting in the glittering sand,
Thousands around me, snakes edging up to me,
Nipping my ankles and toes.