Leaf aloft and spirit of leaf:
bird notes thread the trees with the gold-tinted
breeze taking off to set the woods aflame
while the swamp lies sleeping in cypress dark,
the knobs like gnomes assembled to keep the spell
so none can wake the frogs and set them glugging.
Down to the mudflats crawling with mud crabs
and fiddlers waving their same languid claws for eons
as it was in Grendel’s day, coming up out of the fen.
Borne by the tide to range the sea plains, pelicans skim
the breaking swells; the sky bends low in a silver streaming
reach to the edge where the last leaf floats and falters.
(from Hungry Foxes)
I haven’t talked to you about
a dark space I dug up.
Clods and rocks I can pick out of soil,
blue-veined clay I can nourish;
weeds, yank up; shade, cut back.
hollow where no seed is meant to grow
astounds. I go back to basics,
trusting my hands to find the dirt
as it always was, humid and maternal,
easily worked to hatch seeds,
breach of earth voids every breathing
speck so that the spade of my hand
weighs more than death, and the leaves
I touch are stillborn. Tell me,
must I keep tending, must I
blank into myself and vanish,
or is the hole an entrance
into some new ground that is yet
familiar, tilled and fertile, vast
as my loss, tenderly sown with
See Luke Hankins’ review of this poem in the Christian journal In Touch.
“When others are sleeping, mine eyes are weeping.”
In the beginning she was called often
to relate scenes of blood and flame
from the Tenth of February,
with the goodwives crying to hear her tell
of her dead child turned under barren dirt
and left alone on a hill as she was led away—
and how she marked with scripture each remove:
the camp of snow and fever, the swamp of sinking,
the ground where Praying Tom dangled white fingers,
the begging from fire to fire for any niche against
the frozen black void she read as inscrutable love,
for her mind, forged on Calvin, would not bend
though sometimes, in the starved light before day
she would hear the child pleading for water,
pleading from just over the ridge,
and she would cry out, her wits unlashed
as stars withdrew their nets,
but her legs failed her, snared by sleep.
(What mercy, she would later say,
to quell her madcap flight and fiery fate.)
This telling of her inmost trial she came to fix in print,
could hardly believe it was she herself there in the tent
slabbering over a horse’s foot snatched from a child
or swearing in the face of pagan taunts–how is it
she secretly craves that state even now as others sleep,
a manic flame to burn the ordered words,
the syntax that gives shape to every scream..
I’ll be reading from Hungry Foxes as well as a selection of new poems and would love to see you there. The reading is at VWC in Norfolk from 11:00-11:50 a.m. in the Pierce Hospitality House in the Batten Center.
How to know His name
on a bleached day in the water fields
when I’m hungry from the long hike
and there’s nothing but the graveyard of snags
and rushes. I look for the sparrow coining notes
in the grass, for his mere eye as reward for my work
of trudging on in the haze, but he remains hidden,
like ospreys crying in some other sky, coupling
on a dead branch high above the marsh,
the lord then wheeling away,
his mate left shuddering in the cloud.