Storm at the Wheelwright Museum

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Up the narrow, foothill road
we hear thunder and see tall clouds
churning the hot desert sky,
as lightning in gleaming metal spears
thrust from slate-grey nimbus
into the bleeding body of earth.

But our road is still dry,
the rain falling
in tall curtains
between sharp shafts
of bright sunlight.

So we drive higher
to the museum at the top,
to see the soul
of a murdered nation.

We park on the gravel
when, at last, the sky breaks,
and running for the door, laughing
in the unexpected warmth of pounding rain,
we fly into the hogan,
safe from the storm,
and still breathless,
we walk through dim galleries,
gazing at Navajo carpets,
their patterns whispering tales of
life and love and loss.

Urgent hale beats the roof,
drums, like wild hearts, urging war,
and thunder responds
with volley of angry cannon,
when sudden darkness
swallows us
power shifting
to the avenging storm,

and, bat-blind, we drift,
touching walls
reaching for any door,
because all art is utterly useless now,
all beauty unknowable
in this uterine cave

where all we can hope
is to find our way out
and be born again
into the sodden world.

(13 May 2011)

Graduation Dance

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The gym was dim.

Red and white balloons
glittered in the dusk
while flashing lights writhed
on the dark floor
like enchanted water-snakes
gliding through scented fog.

This was a celebration dance!

Eighth grade done at last,
they stepped, hesitant, into the roiling
teen-age sea,their synchronous, bobbing heads
attuned to the be-bop rhythms of the city (not their city),
and the lusty calls of the hood (not their hood).

Smooth gym walls echoed the dj’s mechanical angst
endless, relentless beats, the racing heart of the machine,
artificial sighs, nano-seconds long and gigabytes wide.

The boys, spinning on heads and leaping from hands and
flailing legs, showed an athleticism
never seen in PE,
while the girls huddled in their own dark corner
and planned their move;

their fashion walk,
legs strutting ahead
of swaying hips,
heels clicking the hard, dark floor,
as they stalked right up to the foul line

where boys were spinning and leaping
through throbbing lights
to the tribal, primal beat.

So the girls turned,
hips flung in defiance,
and sashayed back to the wall,
staring hard at the gaping boys
over their swaying shoulders.

(29 May 2009)

Pentecost

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PENTECOST-213861

When you left us
I saw how the clouds parted,
rent curtains,
as you cleared earth’s
drossy smear,
and passed into a heaven
bright beyond
my wildest imagining.

Bereft, fearful, we
shut tight the door
against wolves’ howling
and waited for you
to keep your promise.

At first it was a whisper,
the sea-ward wind
prying loose our
weak walls,

but soon the song rose, until
its power overwhelmed us
with chords of faith,
and, afire at last,
we spoke!

Memory

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“Memory”

sometimes in mass
as sacred songs
wash over me like rain,

I break free
and drift
into memory,

and again you rise,
your tears flow
as tears fill my eyes,
your dying breath
whispering
good bye;

after so many years,
the knife still cuts
and again, and
again

I cry.

(20 May 2015)

Mercy and Love

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In order to know and love God as He is, we must have God dwelling in us in a new way, not only in His creative power but in His mercy.  Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation.

Nothing I could do
would ever be enough
to make the dead-wood
live.  Though the wind
and rain sever bright leaves,
tender blossoms from
the cherry tree, and the
birds themselves fly
from my anger,

I know
I could never
make it right,

though with tears I flood,
nourish with a
broken heart’s blood

I am powerless.

Yet still these bruised stems,
thicken and split
to bud, spill green life,
fill the earth
with mercy
and love.

(8 April 2012)

Memorial

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Summer

 
He worked nights, leaving as we climbed
the tall narrow staircase to our shared room,
up into the summer heat, the steel fan
in the hallway window
pulling cool, leafy breezes
from our waving trees.

We heard the kitchen screen-door
slap shut, the Pontiac roaring to life,
and watched as slowly he backed down
the dark driveway, and was gone.

And gladly we glided through misty dreams,
flying over tree-tops, baseball games
and cool swimming pools,

when finally the robin’s enthusiasm
and the fresh morning sun
flashing through green leaves
woke us as we heard the car stop
and Dad call cheerfully, “I’m home!”

The air already scented with bacon and coffee,
we flew down the groaning stairs,
two steps at a bound,
and eagerly started another golden
summer’s day.

 

Winter

 
One winter day I did something wrong, and
he got angry and drew his worn leather belt
From the loops of his grey, stained work trousers
To teach me a lesson.
Terrified, I ran upstairs to the big closet
and trembled behind coats and sweaters,
as heavily he came up the steps,
righteous anger ringing in his voice,
tears flowing down my cheeks;

when my big brother, teenage and strong,
called defiance to him and drew him down
into the back yard to fight him
and save me, angered by his

memory of so many other beatings,

determined to stop it now!

But facing his own father

he could not fight back, and

weeping, I watched my dad
pummel my brother’s defenseless face,
far worse than any beating
I would have gotten.

From kitchen window,
I screamed to them both
to stop!

That was when my father saw,
in the kitchen window’s glare
his own father’s angry eyes,
and felt his father’s fists

landing hard on his own face,
and he stopped and

embraced my brother.
 

 

Spring  
Seven years after my father died
my first child, my son, was born in spring,
and in the gleaming, sterile room
I first held him in my arms
as, with his impossibly wide, blue eyes
he calmy gazed right into my raw soul,
and I felt in a sudden rush of warmth,
a timeless love
and at last discovered
the reason for my life.

It was then
I understood my father.

In my son’s face I saw my own
and felt my father’s eyes gazing
in warm wonder on me
and I glowed with
unconditional love for my son.

(30 Jan 2011)

Evening Star Rising

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Evening star rising

into day’s fading sky,

alone, serene,

and wondrously bright,

surpassing dark hills

to cerulean night.

(7 May 2012)