Sky a glossy blue, Fra Angelico clouds

puffing up, as though the divine lady might

step through a bright gap toward us,

take a turn in the garden

with the child on her hip holding the world,

and her blue hem trailing in the clover.

An oriole on the maple inserts that slice of song,

opening and immaculate

like the light underneath the leaves.


None of us does anything to deserve

this lush world’s loveliness,

nor even a single sumac insistent through

cracks of city cement,

or the tree-of-heaven’s parasol

shading the razed grey lot.

Not this glad choir,

not this garden’s perfumed green nave.


The eight a.m. train sends out its concertina-squeeze,

sound of the passing-by world

hustling forward to its tomorrow, but

leaving its sound behind like the last great lonely beast

of the Cretaceous, calling across the marshes. 

I sit in the perfect interval between times and places,

watching a chipmunk holding a hazelnut in its two

tiny paws, a posture like prayer

and who’s to say it’s not,

when the whole day offers itself up this way,

 the Shekinah strolling among the lilies

brushing the leaves with her hand?


The Garden of Olives


Pilgrims cross oceans to come and weep here

under the sukkah of silvery latticed leaves

where modernity has struggled to cultivate

roses in the dust. A parley of doves

rises voluble in the church’s eaves —

the one that makes peace its business. But too late

for such marvels. The signals are unclear.

These twisted old olives are a substitute

for older, similar trees. We are content

these days with likeness. One or two great boulders —

so that no angel might think to roll away —

have been set in one foundation in cement

fixed safely under the church’s sloping shoulders,

the ancient sorrow, petrified and mute.

But as the trauma doctors like to say:

that catastrophe is finished and past.

No need to keep reliving grief or omission.

That’s never what our beloved dead would ask.

Go forward and love in lightness, live today,

if chastened, then unburdened. Sleep again.


The Marble Stair


Have you ceased to be surprised 

at the places hunger takes you?

Down the slope, and up the marble stair,

the cupped and yellowed steps

to that gate in from the Kedron valley 

from the Olive-Mount, where the privileged

dead molder restlessly, waiting for the first cries,

to throw back their cracked slabs and rise.


Now, as always before, there is,

and will be, waiting, in a garden

idling among the small connubial glories

of the hummingbird and rose

between the tree trunks where even the terrified

doze on the days before catastrophes.


The valley road snakes back on itself, around

the Orthodox dome gleaming like a milk-wet breast.

Tourists process alongside vans laden down

with day-laborers and goods, then turn off to the East

and upward path, mapping their shortest route

to the next monument or vantage for selfies:

Here, Jesus and I perspired and prayed.

Over there, under the dome, and by that plaque, he died.

The guide told us so.

What you find, you find, is always less 

than you were seeking, but more than you know.


Old cities build on top of themselves like eagle-nests,

thrusting up and shifting the markers, raising new spires,

displacing their dark and fond histories.

Maps fill with imaginings and lost desires.

You, yearning for authenticities,

you are the door you are looking for.

Sit for a moment — there, with me,

like any heat-wearied Roman banished

to the provinces. This stone has not vanished

into time. Christ to Caiphas, Jezebel to Judas, everyone

toiling from Olivet into Jerusalem, rests

a foot on this tired, anonymous stone.




If you are someone God talks to

over the Maxwell House and cornflakes daily,

you won’t need words from me.


If your King James falls obediently open

and your finger alights on gospel

pruned just for you without aid of eyes,


you will think me querulous,

or alarmingly unconvincing and unconvinced,

a lighthouse perpetually semaphoring:


don’t come too near. Here there may be rocks and ruin.

Magnetic North is on the move.

Mercy may be a cauterizing blade.


What I am hallooing to your boat is,

what if the hand calms not the storm

but the fear? Hang on.


What makes us think we want to arrive

under the tree having seen all the unwrapped presents

in the closet?


I hope I die packed for a journey

without having figured anything out

not even the figurative prefigured. Up for grabs.


Rapt. Why should you listen to me?

I don’t know what home is

beyond that certain color in the hills

our car once went past but never stopped.


Astavakra was born crooked for laughing in the womb
Blue is a Being