Not long ago, these hands Planted flowers upon green Earth, Worked in dirt and raised up beds, Pulled weeds in hope that beauty Would diminish distance, Encompass you and all your pain… Streams and rivers and oceans Flowing blindly back into ageless time. Now my flowers are covered with An early snow and I am old and tired. Energy is weak and veins are hurting, Weary from too much seeking… So many branches broken across the path. Great distance from the head to heart, From brow to waist to feet At times no more immense than grains of wheat. Still, treasures of love seem buried deep. Shall I spend my life digging in the soil? Planting new trees I shall never see Explore the heights of blue sky and clouds? But what else is there to do but love? But keep walking, walking, walking… Moving to heal the wounds With calloused hands still bleeding— Close whatever distance still separates You from me, us from them, until…. We all are one again.
It is not fair for snow to come in late October, Heavy weight upon branches of trees Still bravely holding onto leaves…. Evergreens now forced to genuflect, Touch the ground from too great a burden. I empathize with what I see outside— Identify with every lonely tree, Heavy laden, bending down…. Many broken branches lying in the yard, Waiting for me to drag away. Outside in lingering light Everything is white As night looms in pale shadows on What was yesterday green grass. All I see is what remains— the poverty of fall, The brokenness of what once withstood Strong winds of spring, the August hurricane… Waiting helplessly in warm rooms, I pray selfishly that some falling limb Will not take down my power— At least not in this dark hour…. Hear the thud of falling snow on roof, Dense and merciless as youth that Cannot appreciate the struggles of Old trees, long years in the making, Now quickly crashing down to Earth.
Yesterday the trees were splendid, Wearing reds and yellows before their fall. Still waters reflected twice their beauty. Today, I watch a heavy snow Cover red leaves of the maple, Smoother all the shades of yellow on the elms. There is the chill of thunder in the air. Fall dies and winter arrives so quietly, Except within the heart— I do not want to say goodbye so quickly To brilliant color on the hills. I am not yet ready to welcome winter White that bends the branches, Freezes limbs that crack my trees, Weight of snow more than they can bear. Why does “goodbye” sometimes Appear unwelcome anyway? No warning, no sound of footsteps As wind comes so silently at first, Then takes my power away, Leaving me in darkness….
Some readers may not see this as a poem. I don’t care. I only know it rises as a cry— Both of sorrow and of joy, directly from the heart, Through the mind and out my hand, onto page About my lover’s quarrel with the Church. Recently, it was my honor to preside At the first same-sex wedding in a Christian Church In my little town of Ridgefield— where it is legal, But where such weddings have before been held Only in the synagogue or a private home or outside, Under blue skies and blessings of God. The Episcopal priest was only permitted by his bishop To bless the union, but not officiate at saying of the vows, A thin line he could not cross, though we crossed ourselves And said prayers over the marriage of Ann-Tricia and Celina, Two radiant brides whose love and joy Overflowed and blessed the hearts of everyone present. Ted spoke during his homily of being in Durham Cathedral, Where Saint Cuthbert is buried, safe from the raids of Vikings. A thick black marble line runs the length at the back and Most of the way down side aisles, to mark the place Where women were not welcome, for they were not worthy To enter further into such holy place as this. ‘Today, we honor the love and the courage of these two women As they step over the line…. Witness before us in the saying of their vows That love is real and eternal and holy.” Tears ran down our cheeks— Tears of joy on this historic occasion, whose time had finally come! Thank God, Almighty. We have overcome at last Yet another barrier of hatred and prejudice…. In welcoming them, we welcome Everyone! In every age, the black line is drawn to exclude— Women, Jews, blacks, gays and lesbians, the outcast of Whatever tribe is chosen next to receive our shadowed hate. And it seems the Church is always there to bless the line, To reinforce the teaching of whatever hate arises within the heart, Justifies over and over the ugly shadow, the pogroms, the wars That keep us separate and block our hearts from love. This is my lasting Lover’s Quarrel with the Church— That in every age we use the Good Book to find a rule That favors one against the other, causes shame and hurt, Anger and hate to thrive within our hearts. She does not stand and Shout “Enough!” God blessed this world and called it good and Every human face, every single one, carries That holy image in his or her eyes…. When, O God, will we finally learn? When will we open our eyes and see the Light?
I am a poet holding a pen. I am a pen writing on paper. I am a womb, ready to give birth. I am a butterfly emerging from cocoon with fluttering wings. I am an ocean with starfish on shore. I am a bank of clouds ready to rain. I am a desert, waiting, thirsty for rain. I am a salmon swimming swiftly upstream. I am a tall tree deeply rooted in soil. I am a worm, tilling soil beneath the tree. I am an empty cathedral with stained glass windows. I am a white marble altar in the cathedral. I am a gold chalice on the altar, filled to the brim. I am a stone pillar, holding up the vaulted roof. I am a hundred empty pews, waiting for people. I am a white bone holding muscle in place. I am a lung, pausing between each breath. I am a heart steadily pumping red blood. I am naked awareness poised within head. I am a dream, while I am sleeping in bed. I am a word forming in the poet’s mind. I am a song the poet hears as he writes the poem. I am the music back behind the song. I am the rhythm making melody strong. I am the tongue that helps the poet sing. I am the silence that allows for deep thought. I am the void filling the cosmos. I am the calm within the dark storm. I am the tear running down the cheek. I am the wild thought, passing and gone. I am a billion neurons flashing in the brain. I am rays of light allowing the poet to see. I am feet that move to dance. I am love that allows grace to advance. I am the Beloved visible within blind eyes. I am a closed book, waiting to be read. I am a continent slowing shifting by inch. I am the Earth orbiting round. I am the Sun shining brightly in sky. I am the reliquary for the collective soul. I am alone, sitting in the pew. I am the bishop sitting on his throne. I am the flame on every candle that blazes. I am the prayer which inhabits the space. I am the cathedral completely at peace.
Towns and cities leave their lights on every night, Hope to banish darkness, prevent wrong from creeping into Hearts and homes, but all I see are halos when I walk…. Stars more difficult to see as misty veil Falls over cheeks and heaven. Though stars are hidden, Closer yellow ones flash on at dusk, off at dawn. Are they uncombed, yellow strands of someone’s knotted hair? Has Mary shined down so long her dark hair now Blond— love burning, bleached, lengthy strands Turned to glowing filament, lustrous in night, Rubbing up against the clouds, electric, Falling into shadows on the grass, eyelids blinking open, Watching wild wings beating in the air? How sad we do not stop to think that eyes are open wider Only in the dark, pupils broad in unstoppable darkness that waits in Sadness at the city limits… windows Open or closed, we see white, tiny sparks that haunt dreams Best when lights are off, in dark woods Where we either fall or pay attention to small sounds, Whispered sighs of the world that shimmer, transparent… Naked encounters where the blind are granted deeper sight.
For AltheaSometimes the air seems rich with blue, A heavenly thing not of one, but two— Standing here so close we touch, Yet stand apart, allowing air to flow between. The Earth seems so small at times, So small I smell your skin, your breath…. Love the way you sometimes kick your heels, Turn so quickly you seem to dance, Then stop to gaze, dark eyes upon the distance. I see you looking and know how much you love, So fierce your prance, the way you Sometimes braid your mane. I love your very name. I see the way you gaze upon the stars at night, Graze all the way through twilight, Electricity flowing in your flesh…. The way you sprint toward Sun in early morning. It is no simple thing I see, the promises made, Constructed of eternity, running in blue Laughter through pastures of my heart. You make me wish I could turn to the nearest star, Sing a song of this unbearable need, This familiar, unknowable thing I hold So densely in my heart…. It is no simple thing.