POEM: Hommage a Mary Oliver

You do not have to get over it.

You do not have to saddle up and hit the trail

and light out leaving behind everything you once loved.

You are allowed to let the wounded bird of your heart

sing silently in the dark for as long as it wants.

Tell me about hurt, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile there is a hot cup of tea, or coffee.

Meanwhile the birds at the feeder, cardinal, bluejay,

goldfinch, are waiting to be fed.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear air,

can still catch your attention as you cross the street

as the cars wait for your passing

as you look out the window from your desk.

Whatever your wound, no matter how long it takes to heal,

the real things of life will wait for you to catch up

with them, will call to you to refill the feeder

and drink your tea before it gets cold.

Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash

(Originally written in response to her death in January 2019; reposted today in honor of her birthday.)

POEM: For JRR Tolkien

I would like to think, professor, that at your death

You found yourself in the woods: Not a dark wood 

Like Dante’s, but a deep wood, a green wood, 

Like Fangorn, like Mirkwood before the shadow.

And in this wood shone a light that passed in long beams 

Like kindly fingers between the slim and the girthy trunks, 

Parting the shadows and leading you forward 

On the path to the heart of the wood; and 

You followed this light with quickening footsteps 

And quickened heart, seeing it grow brighter 

And brighter until at last you saw, in a fair clearing, 

Those Trees of silver and gold that had grown 

In your imagination, that undying land, and beneath 

Their fragrant boughs awaited your own Luthien, 

And the true Varda, daughter of earth and Queen of Heaven, 

To show you the One who had created you to be a creator.

(On the anniversary of his death)

POEM: Solstice

If only for one day 

If only for one moment

Like the tombs and 

Monuments of Neolithic Europe

Stone places with mysterious names

Brugh na Boinne, Bryn Celli Ddu

That on the summer or winter 

Solstice allow one ray of light 

To illuminate the interior

Passing through a distance 

Of stone and darkness

That has to be walked, or crawled, 

Like an unbirthing, 

Returning to the Earth 

Mother’s womb—

If only for one day, one moment

Go into the darkness 

Of your heart and let it 

Penetrate, the light 

Of knowing and feeling

That you are loved.

POEM: Pulse

POEM: Pulse

49 pulses

49 rhythms of sorrow and joy

49 dancers

their bodies pulsing with life

their bodies pulsing with ecstasy

their bodies pulsing with joy

49 people

brown people, black people, white people

49 dancers, 49 victims

49 lovers and beloveds

49 humans capable of all the human emotions

And 53 wounded

53 who have to live 

with the deaths of 49 others

with the scars of bullet wounds

with the entry and the exit or maybe 

where the fragment is lodged in their flesh

and can never be removed or fully healed

49 and 53

memory for their names

roses for their graves

a feast for the survivors

silence and shame for their killer

Pulse Nightclub, Orlando, FL, 2016

POEM: The Flower Goddess

The power of desire is a thing that ought to be

worshiped: how it thrusts down deep into the earth,

knowing what it needs, seeking mineral-soaked waters

The way it raises a stem, grows taller, becoming

slender and alluring, extends one leaf, then two,

then many, to the satisfying sun; how, never losing

its ground, it seduces air and light and swells

at the attention, erecting a bud; how it never

forgets to push away that which is unwanted

(what thorns are for); how it opens, petal by

petal, that small bud turning into a display

that spirals inward, like a galaxy, like a dancer,

until her golden, glistening heart is revealed,

wet, lascivious, indomitable, capable of turning

death and rot and decay into perfect beauty.

POEM: To Issan Dorsey Roshi, on the occasion of his paranirvana

Tommy Issan Dorsey Roshi

One moment of perfect practice, says Dogen
one moment of perfect enlightenment
One moment of perfect prayer
a Rosary recited with pure attention
loving the Blessed Virgin
wanting to be like her
One moment of perfect obedience
sailor on the deck
performer cheering your comrades at sea
One moment of perfect performance
the wig, the makeup, the bra, the heels
singing on the stage
the boy who looks like the girl next door
One moment of perfect openness
available to the next customer
becoming their need like a bodhisattva
One moment of perfect transcendance
the high the low the trip the ecstasy
One moment of perfect sitting
listening to Suzuki Roshi
a glimpse of the truly real
One moment of perfect maitri
founding a hospice to serve the dying
men like you dying in droves
of a disease without cure,
without compassion
One moment of perfect honor
Issan Dorsey Roshi
Dharma heir
abbot of Hartford Street Zen Center
One moment of perfect humanity
One moment of perfect buddhahood

POEM: Merlin and Vivien

You did not ask me how it happened.
You assumed I was the student, because
I was younger, female, and worst of all,
pretty. Pretty means stupid, right? Pretty
couldn’t possibly mean I knew how
to present myself, how to enchant
for youth and beauty. The old man
was attracted to my knowledge,
to the aura of power that he was
wise enough to sense. Then he was
foolish enough to forget, as
my face bespelled him, my breasts
ensorcelled him, my virtue (by which
I mean my cunt) tempted him.
I was contented to be courted for my magic.
I was willing to trade spell for spell.
I was not content to be interrogated,
seduced, distilled, and dismissed–
with a pat on the head, like an infant–
when he wanted no more of me.
I, Vivien, am no man’s wife, no man’s
consort, no man’s victim. If Merlin
ever admits that he was in the wrong,
the prisoning tree will open, the spell
will be undone. If he repents. I do not
wait for his release; my work is elsewhere.

(Inspired by this early work by artist and illustrator Colleen Doran)



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POEM: Reading Lucille again

(For Lucille Clifton)

Lucille, the first time I saw you,
I knew you were a mother.
I knew you must be the mother
of someone I had been to school
with, the mother of a friend.
I wished you were my mother,
with your calm face, your
shining eyes, and your wonderful
words, few, but each one landing
like the last chords of Monk’s hands
or the last few notes of Miles’s horn,
depth charges settling
to explode in me
later, when I see
another black woman
hauling her ass through life,
just like I do,
and don’t love her right away.

lucille-clifton-2000


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POEM: Our Lady of the Broken Jar

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In the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Toronto, ON, Canada

It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it:
Somebody has to be the bad girl, somebody has to
wear the red dress, somebody has to be the shadow
cast by the light of the pure and perfect heroine
and hero. Buffy has Faith and the Virgin Mother
has Mary Magdalene.
Whore, harlot, sinner,
sorceress, maudlin, melodramatic, carrying
the repressions of two millennia along with
the fragrance of Eros in her little broken jar.
The broken vessel, the woman with seven devils,
the heir of Jezebel and foremother of Crazy Jane.
Passionate, devoted love, focused attention,
commitment, first witness to the Resurrection,
demoted to the camp follower, the eternal sinner.

On this your feast day, Mary called Magdalene,
uncover your long red hair and shake it out,
make your earrings and your bracelets ring,
lift up your arms and dance like your foremother
Miriam, sister of Moses, beating her tambourine
on the shore of the Red Sea because the forces
that enslaved her people are vanquished.
We will celebrate with you the liberation
long-delayed, the redemption of the red lady,
the fragrance of erotic love arising from
the broken jar, the broken heart, the passion
which is life as well as
death and also life eternal.


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POEM: July afternoon

What I know of Apollon is this:
the unmoving July light, pitiless, serene,
a world with no shadows, no movement,
no escape. Trapped in this eternal moment
of the god’s regard, a gaze so intense, so
focused, that one burns up as beneath
a lens, understanding now why Daphne
and others fled, not wanting to be
consumed. Too late now: I turned
my face to him, willingly, and now
I can only lie still and wait
for him to be done with me.


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POEM: St Benedict calls to Raven

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Icon by Sr. Mary Charles McGough, OSB

Come, Raven, bring me that bread
which you brought to Elijah alone in the desert
the body of Christ prefigured
sufficient for all my needs
Come, Raven, bring me the bread
of wisdom, lechem of chokmah
the milk of Sapientia
made firm like a stone
Christ made loaves out of bread
fish out of fish
wine out of blood
bread out of flesh
everything out of words
the Word of his being
I give you that word,
Raven, messenger,
black-plumed angel,
come, give me the bread
that I may live

POEM: Stonewall

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Marsha P “Pay It No Mind” Johnson

 

The first Pride was a riot, they say
The first Pride was a moment of Wrath
A moment of Had Enough
A moment of Fuck the Pigs
The first Pride was a riot
that began with a brick thrown
by a woman
by a black woman
by a Black, trans woman
named Marsha P Johnson
What does the P stand for?
Pay it no mind, she said
it might as well have stood for
Passing is for the weak or
Pride means no more police raids or
Parades are no substitute for justice

St Marsha of the Pay It No Mind
didn’t throw a brick so you could
have marriage equality
St Marsha of the Pride Is A Sin
And I’m Proud of My Lust
didn’t start a riot
so two gay men could hire a nanny
a black or brown woman
to raise their adopted child
St Marsha of No Pigs at Pride
didn’t suffer and die
so lesbians could have
a joint mortgage
St Marsha and her dear friend Sylvia
Sylvia Rivera, a brown trans woman
a brown queer woman
did not fight the power
so you could fit in
at the suburban barbecue

The letter after P is Q
and Q stands for Queer
Queer as in here
Queer as in fuck you
Queer as in no gender is illegal
and every binary is a lie
Marsha and Sylvia and Miss Major
didn’t dirty their hands
so yours could be clean
didn’t shed their blood
so you could be white and bloodless
and safe and nice
and buy rainbow merchandise
from nice friendly corporations

We are still waiting, some of us
us queers and enbies, bi and pan,
ace and aro folks, we are still waiting
for you to make St Marsha proud

POEM: The natural order of things

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

POEM: The natural order of things
is not a boot stamping on a human face
is not a white knee on a black neck
is not a division into good and bad
white and black, male and female
with white above black and
male above female and above all
rich above poor forever

It is a spiderweb woven
between the antlers of a forest god
who has the head and heart of a man
joined to the guts and groin of a deer
who walks upright on split hooves
through a forest of living beings
that he knows by their true names
while a summer rain falls quick
and hard and yet the spider never stirs
from the center
of her web