Wherever orange and ochre ditch-lillies Cradle a rural highway’s curve or the Summersweet goodness of black raspberries Calls out from an overgrown, vacant lot, Recall an abundant God who delights In the mysterious placement of gifts To slake the thirst of withered, weary souls.
In the chirps of bluebird hatchlings crying For their food from within a trashcan nest, In every kind and holy word spoken Amid hurried striving for peace and rest, In unsought, unbought graces coursing through The veins of the world, receive the oracle— Witness that there are no cosmic orphans.
Leaves and branches, Oscilloscopes tracing Wind from gathering storms, Taunt my habit Of hunting curses under each blessing And copping exhaustion To avoid getting the shakes From a momentary lapse Of despair. Sunlight Always gets me down, Keeping me inside lest It warm my eyelids and ask me to rest In a dangerously peaceful grace.
I’m not sure I know How to say something earnest when nothing is weighing me down, Not sure how to speak An uplifting word Without the ashes Of profanity Clinging to my tongue. There is a way of seeking joy That requires Gouging out one’s eyes, And I like looking Too much to try it, Even on sale.
It’s easier to look For beauty in the dark, Glowing brighter the farther from What is plainly seen. If I learned to listen A little more To the upbeat bass line Throbbing beneath The frantic tenor Of making ends meet, Maybe I’d have A little more Levity though I’d speak less.
That’s when I start to laugh, Catching the joke That fear is only joy Hiding behind Something we will not understand Until it passes us by. This is what the trees Tried to say when In the early morning They stood, still and bronzed In the rosy mist, But I couldn’t hold A smile long enough To muster robust thanks.
Now that they scratch One another and flail Before the advance Of autumn air, I see plainly what comeliness The failing light wants to hide Where the glimmer is weakest. How carelessly we fall Back into hope. So little a splash Of fuel on a smoldering wick Sets a lamp flickering, for you Cannot burn out What had never been lit.
Image: Clouds and trees in slanted light, my front yard in Tennessee, August 2020.
“Some are born in their place, some find it, some realize after long searching that the place they left is the one they have been searching for. But whatever their relation to it, it is made a place only by slow accrual, like a coral reef.” —Wallace Stegner
You were floating by fast when I caught you, Gave you a place to anchor and watched you Begin to call your home into being. All you needed for it you brought with you, So I left you to it, and before I knew it, We were cemented together here, Securely as the roots of the mountains.
I wonder where you came from and Where you might have gone without me. I wonder what great ships you could Have beached somewhere else, though who knows What our children’s children might see Come to pass right here, in this place Where we’ve been set, accreting life.
A little carbon and calcium Is all it takes to move heaven and earth Around ourselves and find a niche that works, Amid vast, acidifying oceans. But of all the polyps in all the reefs In all the world, just this spot was prepared For your unmapped geography of hope.
Image: Crystalline Iceplant, Santa Barbara County, Calif., June 2019.