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.

With Fear and Great Joy

With fear and great joy
They ran to tell.

          If your kind and faithful friend had died
          A gruesome death and then said, “Good morning!”
          From behind as you went to put flowers
          On their fresh-tilled grave, what would you do?

Where do you run
With fear and great joy?

          How is a new world announced? “Do not fear”
          Whispered with power, growing, rippling out
          To hill and hollow, city, field, and slum
          With the holy whiplash of redemption.

With fear and great joy
You catch your breath.

          Frozen with longing for something not yet,
          Glass-eyed, like a road-killed coyote in
          The unfinished howl of rigor mortis.
          Truth is the hardest story to swallow.

What do you see
Through fear and great joy?

          Each friendship is resurrection practice,
          Reaching for love and faith and hope and rest
          Knowing full-well that time and space and sin
          And death challenge every effort, but still

With fear and great joy
You hold them tight.

          Darkness first fell in the garden light made.
          Hope wept in a garden after midnight,
          And life proved new in a garden at dawn.
          Can oaks of righteousness rise from dry bones

With fear and great joy,
Running to tell?