Holy Daybreak

or “Aaron’s Beard Redux: Psalm 133.5

The sun seeps contently across a thousand “heads,”
Spits of earth bathed gently by precious light that spreads
From the ocean inland down on cornfields, swamps, woods
And then, as on command, dawns to wake neighborhoods.

Above false light-rings snuffed by rising of the day,
Soft pink cloud-beards, puffed, shine back above the gray
About mountain collars transformed by the first rays
That hit peaks and hollers to Appalachian blaze.

Here beyond hills glowing, I watch the red-orange ooze
Spill down, slipping, slowing, toward misty valley blues,
Now casting blades of grass bowed with drops of dew
As countless beads of glass making the scene brand new.

Tomorrow they’ll reset and pull it off again,
Cycling without regret nature’s unfeigned amen.
Each day cries out wonder, sprouting what joy we’ve squirreled.
Blessing rends asunder the darkness of the world.

Life above the Tree Line

They call them “forget-me-nots,”
     As though anyone who perceives color could
   Scrub that shade of blue from retinal cones.

But here among these mountains—
     Where only three or four months pass between snows—
   You must catch bees’ eyes early and often.

Together with campion,
     King’s crown, sky pilot, clover, stonecrop, wallflower,
   They quilt tundra; fight winter’s memory.

All these lay low, clasping rock,
     With moss, grass, and scrub spruce blending a backdrop,
   To offset color, hold soil, nourish elk.

But like one keeping the watch,
     Alpine sunflower braces against west winds
   Burning bright as lightning in driving rain.

They say its blooms face the east,
      To protect their golden discs from violent storms.
      But why rise from the frost and crane hoary necks
   Toward the rising sun if not every day
Looking for a long-awaited visit
Or coyly expecting resurrection?

Image: Alpine meadow, Rocky Mountain National Park. Larimer County, Colo., July 2022.

Well-Regulated

On the day we got the news
Of yet another shooting—
This one not too far from home—
I went for a walk at dusk
To ask God and the trees, “Why?”
The half moon peered through clouds
Strung behind a line of storms,
As fireflies synchronized
With streetlights at nine-o-three,
Embers in the post-rain mist.

A bat dived to swallow one,
Turning away at the last
From a bitter, poison pill.
But all the hosts of summer
Assembled here this evening
Know the steps and move as one;
Birds sing, cicadas back beat,
And the waning day cools air
Just enough to invite small
Restoration to tired lungs.

The world in all its glory
Even here on suburban streets
Speaks of dependence, rhythm,
And attention to detail.
But still my country looks down,
Away from what doesn’t fit,
Turning the dead into pawns
That move without agency
In a dance that keeps the peace
At expense of the living.

Soundtrack

At six-fifteen in the suburbs
Day and night shifts greet each other,

Chattering robins, cardinals, wrens
Echoed by a barred owl’s questions.

For a moment they acknowledge
The shared dominion of sound

And take turns, stopping dissonance
With great breaths between each call.

Dark and light are not comingled
With such grace in ordinary time;

Hope of light vain and vague at night,
Darkness tempting thoughts in the noon sun.

But the turntable spins time and again,
Accompanied by untroubled birds.