Shrouded in coast fog, the chitter
of Nuthatch and Junco
crisp as a shaman’s rattle. All morning
late plums drum my garden
steps. I am mixing my mother’s ashes
with birdseed, elbow-deep
in a galvanized pail.
I am swishing the whispering
seed with ghostly flour
ground in the flower-blue bell
of the crematorium’s roar
pollinating each grain
with her smoky voice, the ghost
of her elegant pearls.
Plunging my hands into the seed
her flesh a gritty surprise
more sand than smoke.
The seed, the chaff, the hazing vapor
stirs memory --a downy puff dusting her angled cheek
the glow of her in a child’s eyes---
the scented fog,wobbling motes
hopping, waiting, head-cocked birds and songs
flow through my fingers,
ticking into the tinned tub
These powdery seeds offered
to couriers carrying her
through the dilated iris of the sky
rustle the tips of the grass,
slough off her exhausted flesh,
with acrobatic abandon
Rising from this meld of future and past
my spooky hands.
August 17, 1999 revised 2003, 8-14-2013, 03-24-14
for Daniel Pearl
Insoluble grit stimulates nacre
shielding tender oyster flesh from pain
creating the splendor of a pearl.
Suffering is lodged in the heart of beauty.
Conducting an interview
he never suspected the story
featured his assassin. A few quick strokes
sketched a plum-colored tulip of his throat.
Wide-eyed at the final instant
did he understand
the debt of red-ink pooling in his lap?
His head drops like a petal.
The camera he assumed would guarantee
a ransom, scooped him.
He became the last editions
of himself. He became:
“the Jew”, “the Journalist”, “the American”
and finally “the Patient”
in a straight-to-video snuff film.
Had he no notion that he would be held
responsible for the deaths to which others
had signed his name? No notion that rocks for
the Jews of Nablus and Ramallah were also pitched
at him? The ‘doctors’ struggling to vanquish
foreign disease mock his wife
compound bitter ironies from gall,
inoculate their own hearts against remorse
with homeopathic doses of their own
dismembered wives and children.
They cannot claw pilots from the sky
so slice this Pearl
or whatever they can catch.
Feed it to their God, Kalashnikoff.
The robed men milk poppies--
calculate his life an overdue bill
resent the shade he casts on the goat
they’ve staked for slaughter. Their parched lips
calculate goat and reporter equal.
And the pearl is passed from hand to hand
the hand of the giver shadows for an instant
the hand of the receiver, passing
the darkness with the gift— the sharp-edged grain
disguised, transmitted through time
as an accumulating viral load.
Feb. 25, 2002rev. April 14, 2014
Earth is a Woman, Sure
Earth is a woman, sure
but most beautiful when
she weeps. Tears shining, falling
from fluttering ravens lashed
to the cheeks of the sky.
softened by mist and stinging rain
the cries of wild geese singing
Avalokiteshvara’s pity for the passing world.
And you who know me well
who question my proclivity
for women in perpetual shade
hiding their flesh from the sun,
Beside the mystery of myself
I can only add that tears
are the heart’s juice, some balm
against the diamond chill
A young boy safe in the fragrant loft
of a tin-roofed barn, wrapped
in the blanket sheltering his sleeping father
from the fury pelting the roof—
the heaving flank of mountain-- his chest--
an unusual comfort.
April 25, 2014
The Dogs of Bucharest
The dogs of Bucharest are dusted
with crumbled mansions, ash
of red flags. They doze
in ruined dreams abandoned
by their masters. They bark
whelp and die without
plan or permission. Occasionally,
like thinkers, like poets,
they are rounded up
A bitch with flapping teats
haunts the ruined foundry
where I film an entertainment
for my country.
This feral dog eyes the roll I proffer
trembles, intention whittled
to a point. The whimpering
pups beneath a wrack of ruined iron
cannot soften her stiff legged fear.
Sad and sooty sumacs,
tattered sorrel, small luminous, lavender flowers
conquer the twisted rubble
vanquish the iron track.
Seed, stem, and bramble
trump the stained concrete
trump all, except
the gnawing hunger of the dogs.
June 26, 2004
Empty even of hunger
the bones of your heels
are restless to leave the rail.
Loss is in the air
A cord has snapped.
My love once sought
her rubies in the deep pile
of our scarlet carpet.
Eyes shadowed by loss,
Owl’s keen sight piercing the dark
She anticipates the finish
where pavement and clear sailing end
and her feet will seek mercy
between the stones.
my hands too are empty
dusted only with the pollen of your body.
Can you not follow my tracks
to where I’ve dried and stored the corn?
“You give me champagne and I’m starving.”
Has all of me been refused?
Have I stolen your portion of the bee’s gold--
the bird’s songs from your throat?
Have I taken the best of you?
Oh, wait! Please just wait!
Can’t you see how feverishly
I am tying feathers.
to your arms?
June 30, 2008
rev. April 14,2014
The Dogs of Bucharest II
Romanian dogs have drum-tight skin.
Hearts slap the ribs drumming loss
through jungles of ruined concrete.
Heads down, clustered like jackals
scanning the broken streets
they are afraid of men.
American dogs shine like gold.
Are sleek with oil, have energy
confidence to burn.
They have vitamins in their feed
by law, are better fed
than our own poor.
June 26, 2004
rev. July 11, 2014