Lying here in bed. Feeling my years add up and then
subtract back through decades of sheets and quilts,
like the grave clothes that blanketed my two-year-old self
shivering for the heat of my mother’s arms.
Fragmented early-morning dreams, like scrims, shift
across my brain. A rosy fruit shines,
round and tight, a small, sleek face in a halo of a tree.
Leaves shield an apple blemish — a dimpled
portal for decay — the way hair hides a forehead scar.
Around its hidden core of seed and worm-rot
the apple flashes out and out, flesh-cheeked,
white-celled, and sweet. Her arms — no, my mother’s
whole warm body — folded like layers
of fleshy material, envelope the family newborn
my brother, close as her heart, while I wait
detached for two whole months – the desert of distance,
to be her love again. In their slow vegetable rows
below the orchard, dream cabbages and lettuce
layer themselves around their secret blemishes,
fold over leafing fold. Wakened, I lie motionless
in this familiar grave bed, trying to be warm,
to be good, to be loved. Waiting to rise.
Knowing it’s morning, high time to peel off
the comforter, to shower, come clean, and to clothe
in Easter garments my own naked, waiting child.
The stumble of beasts, a lurch
of the oxcart, and Uzzah’s hands leap
to harness God’s holy box. On the instant
he feels heavens fire strike–
an unmanageable current flares
to the ends of his bones,
sizzles his grip ash.
David, rising as the same perilous
burn ignites his fingers and
his flying feet, self abandoned, his
spirit blazing, is stripped naked by joy
to servant girls, himself, and God,
who plays him like a wind-harp.
From her arrogant window Michael’s jealousy
watches this wanton worship – holiness dancing
beyond propriety. Snuffing David’s joy
like a candle, she learns the swiftness
of Yahweh: irony has neutered her fecundity;
contempt has cauterized her womb.
The Angles of Light:
New and Selected Poems