Conversion on Hearing Pictures at an Exhibition
After the light mute as dust and flat,
after the colors’ crisp disappearing entirely,
after the smother of warmed and rewarmed air,
the panic for breath,
after the thickening fatigue of arms, legs,
seeping to each finger’s web
and each root of hair,
after all this and after the surgeon
carves your vessels like clay,
after he holds the heft of your heart
in his delicate fingers,
the needles’ stitch his finest embroidery,
You awaken to sunlight
making its bright tracks through slit blinds,
and somewhere the bassoons and oboes
of Mussorgsky, the glockenspiel and flute,
the complexity of lines with the movement
of light, the sunlight both steady
and moving with shadows,
And you are certain God has flared out
like the sheen of lacquer on a silk-wrapped box,
like the sweep and arc of wing,
like the glisten on a wind-stirred pond.
--From My Father’s Bones (Finishing Line Press, 2006)
* * *
Weightless as a float into the drift of water, one whose sin is forgiven.
The Far Country a memory of fists and sour apples.
Of that old, heavy plunge through snowfall, frozen, refrozen.
The tug of gravity, slow and silent.
Of no words forming on dry lips, of breath aching to a full inhale and then a letting go.
Of not yet. Not yet. And the longing for release.
The hold of grimy pleasures like a small mouth forming very small o’s,
Like spaces as vast as the tundra with no human voice or as tight as a wound spool.
The wasting disease of sin, God’s serious hand of judgment.
Then His gentle push: the swing into the spring air, back and forth.
And then the breathing, unboxed. And later the fingers spread
wide in the grass, each particular blade a tickle.
The Father runs into the road, his embrace a chunk of earth to the unmoored.
The twisted eyebeams, the Father’s gaze into his son’s tentative face.
Pupils black with light peering into the lens of revelation, crystalline.
Now comes the filling in of hunger, the bread hunks spilling crumbs.
The wine meant for throats dry with salt and dust.
Here is God, his strokes on our dead flesh
Filling capillaries, sparking nerves. We are fed with the crusts
And blood of forgiveness, with the thrill of its gentle float, its ripe music.
--Published in Image (Spring 2009)
Both poems used by permission of the author.