Advent Retreat, Gethsemani Abbey

At first you force your silence,
then it smothers all your verbs
and burrows to the inner edge of words.

At first you force your silence,
then it ponds the stream of thoughts
like rocking sleeps the child.

At first you force,
then even reaching for a spoon is pianissimo.

So let legato breed legato, then, but note the danger signs:
the thistle’s nod in matin breeze seems like a secret handshake;
you see the clover’s fourth from far across the courtyard;
your own name sounds odd.

You’d best start back toward the surface.

And Smoothed, the Cicatrix

Now God has stripped His cutting garden bare
to color tables for His wedding day.
His bachelor and somber rooms now flare
with you, my dear, now strong and gay.

And what it cost to say
The seep of blood is dried,
The retina, aroused by light
And smoothed, the cicatrix.

It’s good that you have gone away.

Alle, alle, Alleluia.

And Then Go Out

Among Dominicans at evening in Milan

we raise a hymn to Leonardo

then go out to drink among the buried saints

and then go out to drink goodbye to hymns.

It is the morning of a world and evening too.

And The Bird On The Wing

Though swallows promenade about the barn
in shaker reels I track them each by each
to guess their names and grandma’s names
and memorize their iridescent oddities
of feathers.  Top, they wear the sober gray
of Oxford dons but underneath they flash
like dancehall tarts.  It is a country pomp.

I’d bring you here to stare.  Your stillness
at the swallows’  ball would be my Christmas gift
to you.   You either get it or you don’t.   If not,
then I would tell you straight how much I love them:

Does God exist?  if not, the birds invent Him:

He knitted figured swans into His temple silks
where mortal eyes were never cleared to look.

He hemmed His levites’ robes around about
with woven pomegranates, for no cause.

He frets a kid might boil in mother’s milk
or oxen spend a sabbath in a ditch.

He doodles in the margins of His book
things high and low:  the sweetness of His laws;
the date when I shall die; a running count
of berries bagged and labelled with the year.

I’d lift with fingertips these feathered dead
from under January snow into my house
of many mansions,  seat them at high windows
with gay covers on their laps and bring them meals
then fly them back to join their nesting mothers
in the Kingdom of the Just.

If it were not so, I would have told you.