Poems

 Evensong

"There he is" he learns to say
when we glimpse the great sun burning down   
toward the hill, and "There she is"
when we spot the pale enormous moon 
floating low above the pines;
and over and over, swiveling his head,
he says it as I drive them both,
daughter and son, around the roads
until they sleep, so I can have
dinner and an hour alone with their mother. 

Ahead in the shadows, two deer.
A little further, metal abandoned 
in somebody's yard, auto parts
and ancient appliances, that later
the moon will make into something,
that same skilled stranger keeping us
company beyond the branches.

He wants to know why they share the sky,
and all I can tell him is it's a secret
we have to guess at as we go;
and "There he is" he says once more
as the hill prepares to swallow fire,
and "There she is" as she climbs the air,
and murmurs and murmurs until he sleeps
(and she already is sleeping).  

[ printable version ] 

In a Bar in Chicago

I’m eating in The Winds, waiting 
for my son to come home 
from work, and let me in. 
It’s a mighty steak they’ve given me, 
the special, huge as a country. 
I chew and chew.

Up there on the screen, our leader
announcing the start of a war,
and yes, we have our “game face” on,
and yes, we’re going to “take them out,”
and yes, we’re talking “surgical strike,”
and yes, we learn soon, the Oscars 
will go on next week, but “muted” 
(the speculation is “less jewelry”).

Dark in Chicago, dawn in Baghdad.
I’m waiting to see my boy. (I support my boy.)
The way home, says a young soldier 
(somebody’s son), lies through Baghdad, 
“we’ve a job to do,” he says, 
“it’s time to rally behind the policy,” 
a citizen (somebody’s Dad), stopped 
on a sunlit street, says.

Abraham, Father of Faith, could it have been 
    what you thought was God’s voice, commanding you, 
then only with Isaac bound, the Divine hand 
    dragging down your wrist 
to halt the war on your boy? 
    And Sarah, what of Sarah? Did the two, 
did the three of you, speak again, ever, 
    of that or anything else again, ever?

Dark in Chicago.
This steak goes on and on. 
“Father. Father.”
“Here I am.”
He should be home soon.

The Voices

          for Dale Warland and the singers,
           their farewell concert, May 2004
 
I don’t know if we have ever deserved 
     the voices, but they are ours,
I don’t know if we ever have known 
     what it means to be able to speak 
in those tongues, and only 
     in my worst, most useless moments 
have I tried to imagine 
     our lives without them.
Where might we go in the world
     where they would not reach us?

I would never go into the dark
     without the voices,
I have come to rely on how they mend us
     among the ruins 
of what we have hoped for.
     If there were only one branch in the world,
the voices would find it.

Doubt was never the root of us,
     doubt winds itself, again and again,
around our doing, 
     but it was never the source,
joy is the source, 
     foliage of joy in which 
the singers are hidden, but heard;
     always the gate, always the garden,
always the light, the shadows,
     always the leaves.

From where I stand now,
     I cannot see every singer,
but looking out across the years,
     listening in ways learned 
only from them,
     I can hear all the song.

The Unfolding: a Ruah Prayer  

           (for women’s voices)
       for music by Donald Krubsack

When were You ever not 
     our Mother? 
When were Your wings ever not 
     in us?

          O Thou       Ruah
                   O Thou    Ruah     Ruah


As once You moved over the face
     of the waters, 
even so we feel Your flowing, 
     Your flowing through us.

Ruah Ruah


Our sister You are, 
     our Always, 
our Neverendingness. 
     As wheat gleaming, so we 
should dream.

O Thou Ruah
                 O Thou Ruah


In the night You are with us,
     nearer than near. 
How should we fear? 
     You will not let the heart 
be lost, be lost, be lost 
     in the shadows.

O Thou Ruah

          O Thou Ruah      Ruah

With every folding, unfolding, 
     folding, unfolding, 
all waves of the world, 
     all worlds of Your making 
within us, revealed.

O Thou                                                          O Thou
                    O Thou                                      Veni
                      Veni

O Thou                                                         O Thou
                              O Thou
                                        Holy
           Healing
Ruah                                
           Ruah                                         Ruah
                                         Veni                                        Veni 
O Thou                                                          O Thou
                              O Thou


                               in memory of my sisters


For the Young Men to Sing

we are all sons of fathers and mothers
we are all sons 

singing

we are all rivers
the roar of waters

what is the world to us?
who can we be for the world?

there is a star at morning and one at evening
they are no more the names we give them
than we are

everything singing beyond itself
beyond the names we love (O love) to give them

everything swelling beyond its powers
everything lifted up in the singing

we are sparks that scatter through the world
from original fire we come

we are the flow of sky and its unfolding
we are hundreds of hoofbeats on hard ground

sometimes no home for us on the earth
no place to lay our heads

if you could know for one moment 
how it is to stand in our bodies
within the world

you ask too much of us
you ask too little

everything brimming in us
everything dark in its barrel

we are
         be   
we are
             become   
we are
                bless   
we are
                     dream
we are all sons
singing
                            (for music by Craig Hella Johnson)

wanted to be an artist

wanted to be a fireman
wanted to be a nurse
wanted to be a doctor

hold that flame steady within your hands
if a wind comes, turn
to where, there's no fear for the flame,
the flame's survival

live as you can with these long shadows
if you fall into the surrounding reservoirs,
swim as imperceptibly as you can
over the dark water

wanted to be leaves
wanted to be the waves, wings, warm feathers
wanted to be what stays shimmering on the canvas

after the brushes have moved on

for the children and parents of Newtown
12/22/12