the hawk turns his red tail
toward my car.
the hawk turns his red tail
toward my car.
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.
A great wind
bent the yellowed corn.
It’s still bent.
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.
I wrote a little verse today,
my friend says “what’s it play?”
Just wind it up, I say,
and watch it dance away.
I’ve talked of poetry beneath the summer stars.
I had a Form to take my pen.
I heard the Holy Ghost correct my spelling,
heard Him recommend Dante.
I have known the operation of the Blood of Christ
in conversation, at the kitchen table.
And I saw the sword protruding from the preacher’s mouth.
I’ve painted July suns in cerulean streams:
the colors all were water;
the brush, Kolinsky sable;
the paper, pressed by hand.
I smiled some simple smiles with noble women,
and a noble man, and children.
I have managed, on occasion, to live only by the mercy of a brother.
I’ve failed abjectly, and began again. And failed again. Began again.
I can clarify your thoughts.
I can confess my faults, and will append that list if you desire.
Walking on this hill of graves and trees
I find the stone of Talitha beside the church
now only used to mark the spring’s return
of jonquils from the underworld. I stop to see
her stone beside her mom’s, on no-one’s map.
What bells that baby girl could surely laugh.
A hundred-forty Easters since that war
spilled horses, cannon-deaf, upon our flowered town
and as she softly sang they simply rode her down.
Her blue eyes caked with dirt though never dewed
by love. Her ribbons tangled in the hooves
till opalescent pink died southern gray.
What coquetries that girl will never play.
What precious blood she coughed as momma plied
her pleas into the jesus clouds, to stay.
No comforts could she ever take again
for Talitha is not. On these green heights
she wept grave-side into our modern nights.
She tried her hymns of Jesus’ love, she tried
dear dying lamb thy precious blood, she tried
till all the ransomed church of God, she tried
around His pierced feet. She tried fair flow’rs
of paradise extend their fragrance sweet.
And what can make us whole again. She tried
but hymns were trampled under hymns brand-new
of gospels writ in burnished rows of steel
by fateful lightenings, watch fires, flaring lamps
and swords so terrible they even kill
the symbols. “Girl, I’d trade America for you.”
Our souls are laid among the evening damps and dews.
“I’ll never birth unneeded things no more
to throw among the bosons bumping in the void
like horses red and randomed in a war.
Her blood united me with all the occamed world
in one credo, which in her end I swore:
Don’t ever birth unneeded things no more.”
I tried the hymns, but in the end I’ll go with blood.
The function of our cities is to not say “blood”.
But in our queen, our whore, in her is found the blood.
Beneath my feet I can’t not press the blood
unfleshed, unflowered yet, unreckoned blood
in logics yet unmeshed until they graph the blood
yet saved or damned by how they weight the blood
yet dignified by how they sing the blood.
O what can make us whole again.
The next of Jesus’ songs will split our homes,
erase that mona lisa from the moon’s white face
and startle straight the desultory flights of bats.
No more, this chapel, no, no more,
and no, no shovels chinking at the grave
nor April rains into the night. No night.
The next of Jesus’ songs will bugle dead
and they, in row on row, both blue and gray
will muster to the little girls, away
to courts of reckoning for all the bloods
of time. A river in a golden street.
Be sharp, my soul; be jubilant, my feet.
“Little girl, get up. Now let her eat.”