Saint Patrick prayed, “Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,” finding
Jesus behind him, Jesus within him,
Beneath, above, right, left, before, with, by,
And I wonder why this bit of truth is
Buried in context of shamrocks, green beer,
Cabbage, corned beef, Guinness, and potatoes.
But torrid mid-March is also longing,
The throes of Lent, writhing in Christless dark,
Silent, waiting for a break in routine
Between ashes and tombs and quarantine.
Is it only the dead, voiceless prophets
Who now behold wonders and rest from fear?
Image: Wakerobins, Hamilton County, Tenn., March 2020.
Your maxims are proverbs of ashes.
Not the cleansing of bull’s ashes,
But the trampling of wisdom
Under unholy feet.
Sackcloth and ashes
Are your reward;
You earned it,
Ashes and dust.
Dust you are and to dust
You will return, so be kind to
Woe to him who despises ashes;
Roses need potassium chloride to bloom.
If dust’s maker made himself dust,
Then dust in glory is noble and just.
Surely resurrection and life
Presuppose death and strife.
A week of rain swells the runoff creek,
Its muffled roar suffusing the woods
As the blank-blue sky of Northern air
Sidles down the plateau to cradle
Our valley in momentary chill
Fixing in time every splashed droplet.
Winter in Tennessee is a pendulum.
Ice grasps rocks and branches, layer by
Layer accreting into crowds of
Overnight stalagmites and a lone
Ephemeral agate at the end
Of a string dangling from a footbridge
That sways with each splash, marking the time
Till warmth rushes back, which the ground knows
Well, watching an Iris bloom too soon.
Winter in Tennessee is a pendulum
Yellow light bursts from a stem, calling
January’s bluff for a moment,
But it dies—a raisin in the frost,
Hoping for a slice of spring before
The long flat note of summer goads it
To try for glory again next year.
Life in Tennessee is a pendulum.
Image: Ice pendulum, Glen Falls, Hamilton County, Tenn., January 2020
The Bible says
A man and his wife
Become one flesh and that
Must include the brain as well as
The heart and all the rest
Perhaps this is why
Our eyes always
Meet in mutual
Recognition of the
Crude cruel funny and sad and
Why we laugh and cry at
The same time maybe
That’s why we have
Ended up liking
All the same foods and same
Movies and music and have
Not in the so
Sense which usually
Is meant by that word but just
A simple statement of
The fact that after
So many years
There really isn’t
A distinctive you and
Me and even when you’re not
Here you don’t won’t rub off
This is probably
Why most of the
fights that we’ve had with
Each other in truth have
Been fights with myself steady
That slowly flows down
Pooling into faith
In jumped-to conclusions
And a brave face toward the world.
Image: Tide Pools, Beaufort County, S.C., September 2019.