Dirt Wars

Not a lot of people know this, but
when dirt has wars with other dirt,
they threaten to reduce each other to human being.
They may even call each other human being –
or (in a civilized conflict)
they root through the internet
to dig up human being on each other.
At all times, but especially spring,
they try, futilely, to rid their homes
of all traces of human being.
But eventually, they are returned to human being
just as they often say, on such occasions,
with more resignation than pure bitterness,
“We commit this dirt to the movement,
life to life, human being to human being.”

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Shrove Tuesday

In 2022, on Shrove Tuesday,
forty miles of Russian tanks drove into Kiev,
as a global climate report announced that more parts of the planet
would soon be hot, underwater, rife with mosquitos, or extinct.
The pandemic had been going for two years.

It was not a hopeful time. 

But other things can stand in for hope, and take its shape:
kindness, courage, fury at apathy, or time;
we can wear all these when hope no longer fits.

And so the people entered Lent, confident not
in the final score of man’s devising,
but with a note written deeply in their souls,
humming, expanding, burning incessantly like a star.
Even as other fires threatened everything,
the holy fire burned in them,
and their hearts flew off to safety, like doves.

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Dedication

Written on your heart are the words
“This heart is dedicated to _________”
After that comes playing the piano,
or Maude, or the sacred mantra of your children’s names.
Some names have been crossed out, and you can barely make out
the letters beneath all the added lines.
Some names are homes for those who have travelled
away from the restless beating of their own heart.

(Most of the heart is blank space,
and so there is always room
to scribble down some more words,
which is what the days are really up to,
in their own secret hearts.)

The names are written in candlelit suppers
and on the softball field. The names are heated in the microwave
and placed on a table, with expectant hope.
Fingers that know the shape by heart
trace the names each day, and like this
the Book of Life is given away, even as it is read.
And without the giving there is no Book,
only an organ wheezing pointlessly for no one.
 

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Pandemic Merlin

Somewhere, probably,
in the Cornish caves,
Merlin reflects that the worst has already happened,
and is yet to be.
The grail has been lost, and found,
and will be lost again,
the table sundered, communion given
and ripped apart.

As a journeyer both ways
upon the bifurcated seconds,
Merlin knows all too well the atrophying curse
that freedom from time’s gravity entails.
He sees in every man, his corpse,
and hears babbling laughter rising
from the rock.

He has yet to lose a single soul, not utterly,
they cling to him, like chained reliquaries, about the neck.
Wherever he goes, they are with him.
And simultaneously, in his immediate relations,
there is a puff of absence.

Merlin, though, knows our pain.
He has been to this place before.
he comes near to the ocean, which knows no now,
which sings to itself without progression,
a vast forgetting.

He says the names into the wind, Arthur Pendragon
and Guinevere, Kennedy, Monroe.
They may as well be Adam and Eve.
And yet all shall return, shining in the light
of the Southeast window,
with the jousters resplendent in the field,
ours the moment, as real as day,
ours the trip of tongues and the refrain.
Merlin hums, a star twinkling in his eye, probably, somewhere.

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five short poems

The lake ice cracks
Sea monsters unseen
So it must be warmth in the air

A poetic still life:
a few pears, a plum, in a bowl
light reaching the same through a window,
and just out of the frame,
a doleful unicorn.

I know they say
“the present moment is enough”
and I’ve done the dishes before,
honest.
But I confess to also
liking those moments
that are six flapjacks
with a side of bacon, and home fries,
and maple syrup,
and fruit salad,
and more syrup,
all of it served hot
and getting cold, tuck in

The irony is
if your burdens
were to jump off a bridge
they’d be fine

You are just ten minutes from happiness
says your lazy cat
without speaking

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When You Can’t Even

Here is something you can do.

Place your shoulder.
Or back. Or belly. Leg, arm. The firmness of your foot.
Some part of you.
Against the ground, gently.
Or the linoleum floor. Or the sofa. Or sit.
You might close your eyes.

Then, rock. Gently.
Rock back and forth, back and forth.
In your imagination is fine.
Very fine, in fact.
Rock back and forth, back and forth,
until, rocking, you reconnect with the earth
and, with great and delicate surety,
propel the earth into rotation.

The earth, then, in its turn, will spin.
You can look up to the skies for proof.
Even the clouds, in their lightness, will say:
Yes. I am with you.
Always in repose.
Always in response.

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For Those Who Have Been Wronged

They don’t always get it right,
you know.

The counsellor can’t read his own handwriting,
the judge’s breakfast weighs on his decisions,
the banking software forgets to carry the one.

Boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife:
all of these, words around a hope,
the hope itself fastened
to a clod of earth.

And if the microorganisms and traffic lights aren’t exactly
out to get you, well, neither do they rebuff
the growing sense that the universe
is punching down.

Only when you have searched
for the fault in your self
and the beam in your eye,
down to the last nook and cranny,
only as you thoroughly earn your certification
as sin’s most diligent building inspector,
will something true in you cry out
that you have been done wrong.
It will, like the silence after the symphony,
wait tirelessly to be heard.

Cry out the unalterable fact,
let it be for you a starting pistol
sending on their way
all the ordinary processes of erosion
that may as well be deemed forgiveness.

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“It’s for the children isn’t it – Christmas”

So it has been said to me, over the course of my winters,
by several older men, with sad eyes, kind manners, and, often, lives
rough around the edges. And they’re right.
Better than right: they live their creed,
there when the lights need hanging, with their power tools,
there at the store, peering at the labels.
They make their contribution to the economy of childlike wonder
without withdrawal, and without complaint,
lift their glasses and return to quietness.
Still, I would, if I could, see the fizz rockets go off again in their eyes, too.

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POST SOLSTICE

We’re on the winning side now, my champions,
destined for increase, strength, rude health, and laurels.
Sure, the car might not start, and the temperature
might keep us down for a day, or longer,
yes, the wicked one, or even the cops,
may lay in wait, but no matter. Without fail
more light is coming into this world of ours.
The game is done, bet on black, or ride on red,
it’s all good, good green, from now on, bursting
into every pocket, straining at the seams.
Sit back and accept your due recompense
for hanging around past the finish pole.
We’ve well and truly won. Were we to rot,
At this point, victory would rise from the spot.

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Hallelujah

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
sing all the residents on all floors of the accountancy firm,
sing junkies, sing outcasts, sing church choirs who can’t carry a tune,
sing lovers of misery and hopeless pedants of time.

Sing for the holy child, and students of life with calloused hands
from the fishing nets, sing hosanna for the thief on the left,
and the right one, too while you’re at it.
Ring out praises for Muhammad Ali and St. Pete,
sing for Mary, unrepentant carrier of God.

Let the earth shake with fervent witness
to the supernova that burns in the chest of woman,
that roils in the breast of man.

Sing and behold: there is a call, interwoven
into the atom’s hurly burly, heard in the friction
by the tramline wires, there is a call jutting out
with every lap of the wave again the shore,
and there is a response, one that we bear,
one that we bare, so sing it out now.

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