I’m happy to announce that my new chapbook, Hungry Foxes, will be published in May by Aldrich Press.
New poem in Spiritus (Johns Hopkins University)
At the Constance du Pont Darden
Preserve in Sussex County, Virginia, where mature,
fire-resistant pines are the required nesting sites
for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
THE HIGH, HUNTED TREES
This quiet grows from our not seeing
the bird we came to see
in the pine grove forged by fire,
in the hollow of her heartwood,
the quiet of a chapel empty
but for the sun that fills it
and names each tree “my lightfall,”
“my greenlit singer,” and lingers
as we pause on the pathway
to scout the high trees
for the telltale sign, a red cockade,
the little resistance badge he wears
like one of God’s revolutionaries,
ill-matched against encroachers
of silent spaces, but spared
by one who asked why we kill
the gift for gain, and bought
the woods. Leaving, we take
a last look at the pines climbing
the lordly shafts of sun.
On the heels of the flood
in a soggy field,
Noah is putting in a garden,
the only one,
for the rain swallowed all the men and corn.
He sets out the grapevines,
worrying about the next hundred years:
How can he be righteous with no one looking on
to rib and raise Cain at his ark?
Can he plant rows of peace
in a world empty but for the wife and boys?
Indeed, it depresses him to think of Zilbar
and Hesh back home sitting at the bottom of the ocean
while he rakes dirt and hears no laughing,
no voice at all.
The truth is, and he hopes God can’t read his mind,
he loathes paradise. He misses the old violence,
the lurking and lust. Better blood crying from the ground
than scenery. Better the wars of flesh
that would set him brawling with God
until he came up howling from the dust
half eaten and deliriously holy.
Let them scoff, he would say.
Who has seen Jehovah and lived?
But now Jehovah hides like the coney while Noah paces
back and forth at daybreak back and forth before his tent
under a sky rinsed with purple that no one in the world sees
but him. And the seed inside, the hidden black seed of his heart
is stirring on this day of planting, drawn by the light
of some terrible, distant fire.
(in What a Light Thing, This Stone)
Biologos.org features my poem in Mark Sprinkle’s fascinating blog about birth and beginnings–timely thoughts for a new year. You can read the full piece at www.biologos.org/blog/appointment.
Tomorrow they will tell me what I know.
After tools and taps they will talk in facts
of mystery, of the flame in so dark
a place you want to look and see God
shaping the hands and face.
They will call it by other names
but I will be hearing
blood and bones sliding in place
to music steep as stars.
while the doctor feels clay
and schedules birth on a chart unreal.
As the earthen womb sings,
making its pearl,
I allow everything:
quake of birth that will leave
the poem of dust in my mouth.
This poem first appeared in Sow’s Ear Poetry Review.
Mark Sprinkle (www.MarkSprinkle.com) is a gifted painter and the Senior Fellow of Arts and Humanities at the BioLogos Foundation, an organization that “explores, promotes, and celebrates the integration of science and Christian faith.” He and I had an intriguing conversation about our experiences with orb weaver spiders, and he asked to post on his blog an article about my lecture at the University of Virginia-Wise that would include his own (shudder!) close encounters with these spiders.
…While many scientists find the intricate web of internal mechanisms and external influences to be not only fascinating but beautiful, those who have not spent years studying biology and ecology are just as likely to see natural systems as depicted by science as no more than “red in tooth and claw,” an affront to the Biblical affirmation that God created a good earth, though now marred by sin. How do we begin to sort out these issues of conflicting images of evolution? A starting place may be comparing two perspectives on another highly ambivalent natural system and symbol—a fairly common “garden variety” spider and its web.
In April of this year, poet Suzanne Rhodes gave a presentation at the University of Virginia—Wise likening the craft of poetry to the way the family of spiders known as “orb weavers” spin their webs. One of the three largest families of spiders, the Aranedae makes what might be considered the archetypical form of web, with circular bands of sticky prey-catching silk organized around and supported by a structure of radial strands. But just as interesting (and instructive) to Rhodes as the basic form of the web was the process by which it was made and—at the end of the day—unmade.