After the fire, where next to turn?
Not the old words, aged with bitterness
or despair. Not habitual angers and griefs.
Not just a reflection of anyone’s new ideas.
But what’s right here: wind rising
through a tower of cottonwood.
Cicadas motoring their 17 year song.
Golden moon half revealed by
the silver of the passing cloud.
Good things, bad things happen.
News dissolves our vision of the world.
Not say what’s lost doesn’t make us ache
or strip our days of reds so vibrant
we forget what we were thinking.
But whatever is lost also brings us to this window
composed of the lush darkness, the rush
of wind or rain through the leaves,
the sudden chill dissolving the hot
anger or anguish, the pain of the questions that,
left unanswered, might divide us.
The music of the old house outlives the house.
We will make new murals out of the ruins,
mosaics from all that’s broken, stone soup
at the center of our next feast.
Nothing in this world vanishes.
Even ghosts, loved enough, turn into angels.
The dark shows us what calls
not at the edge of what we sense
but from the center of where we live.
Nothing can take away the power of the real.

 
 
It is easily forgotten, year to
year, exactly where the plot is,
though the place is entirely familiar--
a willow tree by a curving roadway   
sweeping black asphalt with tender leaves;

damp grass strewn with flower boxes,
canvas chairs, darkskinned old ladies
circling in draped black crepe family stones,   
fingers cramped red at the knuckles, discolored   
nails, fresh soil for new plants, old rosaries;

such fingers kneading the damp earth gently down   
on new roots, black humus caught in grey hair   
brushed back, and the single waterfaucet,
birdlike upon its grey pipe stem,
a stream opening at its foot.

We know the stories that are told,
by starts and stops, by bent men at strange joy   
regarding the precise enactments of their own   
gesturing. And among the women there will be   
a naming of families, a counting off, an ordering.

The morning may be brilliant; the season
is one of brilliances—sunlight through
the fountained willow behind us, its splayed   
shadow spreading westward, our shadows westward,   
irregular across damp grass, the close-set stones.

It may be that since our walk there is faltering,
moving in careful steps around snow-on-the-mountain,   
bluebells and zebragrass toward that place
between the willow and the waterfaucet, the way   
is lost, that we have no practiced step there,
and walking, our own sway and balance, fails us.
 
 
When you were pregnant with Israel, Lord 
     - did your ankles swell?
     - did your fingers tingle and droop?
Did you spend your time waiting, marking time,
     and doing infinite chores?


After you announced the birth of the nation
     knowing it would be long, three generations long,
     till the birth of the people on its land - 
After you announced the birth, Lord - 
     did you sit counting the days and the years?
Did you plan on how you would raise Ephraim, your darling child?
     how you would call him from Egypt,
     draw him with cords of love?
Did you count the days
     till you could teach him to walk?
     till you could bend down and feed him each morsel?


When you carried Israel in your womb, O Lord,
did you think how you would nurture forever.
     how you would carry him till old-age?
Did you plan every moment of his upbringing, dreaming of the perfect child?
Or were you very busy, Lord,
     planning universes,
     setting up laws,
     organizing history?