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The Day We Met

23 Nov

you sat like summer in your red pants suit
on the edge of that flabby plaid couch
and, like all of us, did not make sense
of our study in Leviticus.
Sunday breeze roused the sash

and you stepped outside to catch your breath.
I followed, drawn to where
perfume and lipstick lit fires in my flesh. 

We talked and afterward it seemed as if
your long fingers had reached into me
and left prints, like an imp had sneaked
chocolates, then crawled into my heart,
leaving sticky bits and happy remnants.

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River Carver

13 Sep

A photograph from about a year before you died
shows you seated on a large stump hands folded,
shoulders slumped. My brother and I had walked
down from Grandma’s with my birthday camera
never meaning to capture how cancer had deprived you
of Helen years back, how grief had seized you

and your workshop had retired into shadow;
the gravers laid on benches among shavings
sharp reminders of your need to carve reliefs.
They had fit the artist’s hands—hands made
to wield them—and formed many works:
the shields of the apostles on oaken doors, the altar table,
the walnut reredos so beloved by the congregation.

Helen had ever been your blade and stone,
her keen spirit comfort to your war wounds,
but the unceasing waters of bereavement
whittled your bones and finally broke them
at the kitchen table where Grandma found you
gouged by your own hand and that dull revolver…

Once, while in the South Pacific, you had mailed
a thank you to my mom for photographs received
of her, a then months-old baby. Declaring love,
you promised her stories, mud pies, and the circus.
Your works deserve prominence, but you
were carving for an audience of folks along the river
in a town that would suffer many floods.
For Carrol Coolidge (1908-1980)

Given

30 Jun

Our Sundays in the park are not forgotten:
the flowering apples, the plumb and level bees.
At the pavilion, bridesmaids and groomsmen
smoking, waiting for pictures to be taken.

I had a wish to syncopate their laughter
with our cadence and our rhythm.
You concealed, double wrapped in skin.
I your living envelope, your place of origin.

Not desiring marriage, and despite my arm’s petitions
I gave you for adoption.
      Oh, the grip of charcoal eyes, of newborn grace!
      Oh, the place where lightning struck my boughs!
      Oh, the rhythm of rainfall the day you appeared
my rising river, my hidden-to-me girl.

Fall arrives and oaks brace themselves,
the park gathers its leaves—I am familiar with
the hardening of bark, the early freeze,
but could not have guessed what now rolls over me.

An infant cry—a flash and strike—but wait,
a distant rumbled comfort has its say.
I ask the baby’s name, tiny hands are upraised;
The mother and I stretch over the stroller like a canopy.

-for Jill G.

November Highway

29 Jun

Over radio waves, on a glare November day, a wide sky
transmits Bob Dylan’s boot leg release number eight. 
The buzz of amplifiers rises in the places where he breathes.

He says, Once I had a pretty girl, but she did me wrong. 
Now I’m marching to the city and the road ain’t long. 

I’m driving alone, so I join the sacred melody and the sky
stoops down—to better hear the singer, I tell myself—
as if the buzzing and the breathing are its favorite song.

The Lustering Of Love

29 Jun

Her lips, the wine of garden evenings.
His hands, the bread of their communion.
The conversations of their skin lingering
Unhindered by rejection.  In their fields
Pomegranates, dates, and figs flourished.
Ripe fruit bent branches low for them.

By guile, then, eyes were opened, fields taken;
And they sewed fig leaves, bodies curtained,
Alien.  Yet, they would begin again
To anticipate lilac drifting on the breeze,
To look for all the ways a rose can please.
As one, they would await shame’s retreat.

So arise my beautiful one.  Winter is past,
The rain is gone.  Go early to the fields
With me to see if vines have ripened,
If flowers have opened.  The gardens
Are protected, the figs do well, the harvest
Will be full, the vineyards are in blossom.

Timber by Caleb Eells

1 Jun

It was the first day of Spring break, a Saturday.  My brother, my sister, and I were outside doing spring cleaning.  We went inside, tired, and grumpy. We were hungry and wanted lunch.  But when we went inside, we found something quite unexpected. My mom was sitting on the kitchen floor, and was crying hard.  The vacuum we had heard minutes before, wailing like a siren, now sat silently next to her looking mournful. That’s when my dad came in the room with the phone in his hand, and told us Grandpa (on my Dad’s side) had been in an accident, and had died.  I learned later that Grandpa had been out logging (cutting down trees) at another person’s house.  He had been cutting a tree that had entangled itself with another tree, so when the tree he was cutting fell, the top of the other tree came with it, and had hit him in his right temple, just below his helmet.  The person he had been working with said that the blow knocked him down, and then he curled up and didn’t move.  My Dad believes he had died right then. Gone.  In the blink of an eye.

My Grandma, Aunt, Uncle, and Cousins live in Vermont.  My Grandpa used to live there too.  Now he lives in heaven.  And, yes, I’m positive that my Grandpa is in heaven right now.  So anyway, the same day we got the phone call, we hurried to get to the airport and we flew to Vermont, taking one stop to switch planes in Washington D.C.  We arrived in VT around 12:30 and met my Uncle Cam and my cousin, Paul, there.  We drove back to their house without much conversation, and got there at about 1:00.  In the morning, we met their cute German Shepherd puppy, Maya.  Their cat, Daisy, didn’t like the new puppy, and stayed clear of it.  On April 15th, a Tuesday, it snowed about four inches.  My sister and I were happy about the new snow, while our cousins moaned about the fresh snow and how they wanted it to be spring.  My brother couldn’t have cared less about it.  Looking back, I too wish it hadn’t snowed considering the circumstances.  I think Grandma just needed it to be Spring.

The day after the snow, we had the calling hours (a time when people come and give their condolences to the relatives of the deceased person and to see the deceased person in the casket).  When we saw his body in the casket, my Aunt cried a lot.  The lump in my throat , which was as big as a watermelon, didn’t go down till I left the room.  The calling hours lasted about seven hours, but I left with my sister and younger cousin after about three hours.  A kind lady volunteered to take us home.  I noticed that people get a lot nicer when one of your family members die.  I guess it is just courtesy.  Or maybe it’s sympathy. Or maybe even empathy.

The memorial service was the next day, and the weather was sunny.  My Uncle, my Dad, my Mom, and my Aunt all went up and talked.  My Uncle did a wonderful speech, and my Dad read some poems.  One he had written, and one Grandpa had written.  My Aunt and my Mom read some poem-like-writings.  We sang some of Grandpa’s favorite songs, and two different pastors got up and talked.  The memorial service was really marvelous.

We finally left on April 20th,  Easter Sunday.  The flights went well, and we arrived home in time for dinner.  My Dad went up there again last week for the burial because the ground had been too muddy in April.  I’m glad my dad was able to go up again.  He was able to help with the work at Grandma’s house, and he was also there to comfort her. We will be going up to VT again in the Summer.  I will not be seeing my Grandpa ever again in VT, or even on Earth.  But I will see him later, in heaven.

by Caleb, age 12

Beautiful girl

26 Jan

you draw my eyes and I anticipate.
Like on a starlit night, my gaze
rises to your skies and remains.

When I stay too late in town,
full of cares, I remember you.
Street light and cityscape are fair,

but your light is higher, and yours
a darker country.  So take me
where flame will be folded into fire. 

Let us lie close.  Let us make
a space for stars at the window;
they are drawn by our embrace.

If Home

11 Dec

If home is where you go—if, here, you strike accords
between the sometimes angry parties at the table
and are able to heed the bell’s harmonic
when another round begins—you stand on solid ground.

If your pulp fictions hit the trash bin by the gate
before you stump over the back step
and through the door, if home is where
you log the daily lore, your feet are on the floor.

If home is where you laugh, cry, get surprised, listen,
touch, desire someone’s eyes, believe they believe
that you are wise, then you are wise. 
If this is your light and your sanctuary;

if home is where you go to rejoin the fight
after a long day—if your foundations shake
and your pillars quiver at the thought of this,
your beacon, quenched—you are a sage and a seer;

you are a lovely footed messenger in flight.

Love In A Whirlwind

11 Dec

I am memory’s author.
A story’s birth decorates my desk.
By pluck and plot and twist,
you ponder my works.
I write them.

These pages are dim alleys,
snow bright streets,
working hands, homeless feet,
ocean canyons, and a finger
pressed against your skin.

I write a whirlwind,
a burning coal in a child’s hand.
I write your name, your lips,
your chin.  Memory kindles,
a story is born again.

Early Miscarriages

22 Feb

Death,
you are the enemy. You took two friends,
and if you can hold them you have seized the wind.
We weep for ones taken, and are as shaken
by bleak absence as by your uninvited presence.

At dinner, we sit around the table with living kin.
We pray. Then, with our eyes open to each others faces,
we linger over life in a womb; with two fingers
we make small guesses—No bigger than this? Yes!

Death, we do not want for grief,
but there is a Wing you may not reach beneath.
There your hand cannot grasp fragile forms
and your grip has ceased to close on even these
tiny
living human beings.

Rising

22 Feb

She rubs mist from her drab face,
yawns as the granite moon descends,

ripples and shivers while embers,
buried by night, are stoked and blown. 

    From ash a yellow lobe will rise,
will hold itself, poised, in her reflection.
 
She joins leaf and limb, heralds again
the return of daylight and birdsong,

flaunts her glints and ruffles, beckons
one who, too long, has been gone. 

Departure

23 Jul

She toddles away from the cat, then sits
as if to place herself: a receptacle

for the parting kiss.  I bend lips
to her hair and whisper, I love you,

bye bye.  I believe she sends me
to gather fresh air, to harvest blue sky;

I believe I reign in her like a king,
turn in her like a door on its hinge;

I believe she rises and remembers a tower,
bowed, with breath and prickly beard.

Dad’s Journal, Saturday January 1st

7 Jan

Arose, made coffee, oatmeal, and a list.
Hugged and kissed spouse, and prayed.
Discussed a canoe, a massage—a birthday.
Chased, regained, attempted to retain
next door neighbor’s pet, crazy.
Climbed up and down attic staircase,
then folded stairs away.

Exercised paintbrush on desktop
and taught third grader a bit
about how to paint.  Made a lap:
dressed toddler in pink boots
and green shirt.  Went out to help
with fifth grade science experiment
before it rained—got damp anyway.

Brushed and rolled here and there.
Watched fifth grader play computer game.
Watched Popeye and the gang.
Cleaned up for dinner.  Sat down
with family and ate.  Beheld faces,
took up the graces, read books…
then wrote, and hit the hay.

Let A Rose

25 Nov

buttons and rose

Let a rose be all things beautiful and true; let the rain be you.
Let a button be forbearance; let your blouse
be faded blue. 
Let a shoelace be repentance;
let me stop and tie my shoe.
Let a rose be all things beautiful and true.

Let a rose be all things beautiful and true; let a sigh be you.
Let a button be forgiveness; let your fingers
push it through. 
Let a shoelace be a promise;
let me double knot my shoe.
Let a rose be all things beautiful and true.

Three words are stuck

14 Nov

when I stand by you in the lot at the end of the night.
Oh, to be the man who need not say it right,

but the creases of my speech are neat.
     Three words could put wrinkles in the sheets,

could put some spice in the cream of wheat—
then the flavor would release;

then you’d taste my feast and want more—
but I fumble my keys; I reach for the car door

and lift.  My heart revs, as if about to race,
but three words are stuck in this parking space.

Self Portait In Pencil by Caleb Eells

Self portrait in pencil by Caleb Eells

Elephant

27 Oct

The elephant, the thick-heavy wrinkle,
Shows no movement.  
He stands in the room like a defendant.
Like old boots in a box, he may not walk again.  

I’d like to read, or watch TV, but there he is.  
The crushed sofa, the mangled love seat—
There’s no place to be.  
So, busily, we make the elephant a pet.

Busily, busily we ignore and he remains.  
Once, I reach around him.
Twice, you try to find me and (I know)
There’s almost-absolutely-no-one there.  

The ghost of my shadow tells you
To not worry the beast,
To not even think of mice or make a move
That might disrupt the elephanty peace.  

And though we want to forgive,
We cannot forget HIM.  
So, we go on tiptoe while he stands there:
A sad-sturdy brow and four enormous feet.

Jesus Of The Scars by Edward Shillito

14 Jan

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, the only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow;
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars we claim Thy grace.

If when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know today what wounds are; have no fear;
Show us Thy Scars; we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong, but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds, only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.