Monday, December 28, 2009

One Hand

There are things I can do with only one hand,
Though the exercise is meaningless.
I can cross myself in the Catholic tradition,
Cut most food with just a fork.

I can hammer but not hold a nail,
Fix a drink and get it drunk.
Brush my teeth and look in the mirror
And regret the one-handed image that is there.

But then there are the other things, sometimes dark:
I cannot tie my shoe or close my belt.
I cannot steer the car and touch your cheek.
I cannot pull the trigger of a rifle.

I cannot give birth or swim.
I cannot listen or scream at demons
(Since they require hands that wave.)
I cannot dance in any way that matters.

I cannot pray or plead or weep,
According to the rules of Renaissance art.
But I can keep the sun from my eyes
And the moon on most nights.

Sunday, December 20, 2009



Just ahead, around the coming curve,
There will be an intersection.
A guava tree where two red-dust roads will cross.
The woman with such poor memory waits there,

Shy as an adulterer, not knowing exactly
What to do with her eyes or breath or hands.
I’ll get there in a moment and I’ll stop.
Life works that way in the tropics.

Fruit falls off the trees whether we hear it or not.
Black birds slam into my window just to say:
Something is ahead. (Or something is behind.)
I have always known the woman waiting by the road.

And feeling the sharp memory, I focus.
How was it before, I ask.
And so we walk north,
hearing only the yellow-topped parrots.

After a while, our talk begins in earnest,
And centuries of words appear,
Words that must be said before
the next curve in the road. Before you leave.

By the mountain we slow our walk.
Freed from time but not from space,
We dread what’s around the curve.
Maracuya vines climbing the side of a hill.

We know the painful logic of these meetings,
Complicated by the tropical warp of time,
Full of tragic ending well before they end,
A promise that will have to wait for yet another life.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

changing course

When Obama was elected, I decided not to write about politics for a while. Now that he's won the peace prize for continuing the Bush policy of killing innocents, I've decide to publish poems here. (Think of Yeats' poem "On Politics"--one of my favorites.)

So here's one from a book I'm writing called Panama.

Things we know by their consequences

We believe so simply in the unseen:
Gravity, electricity, light and grace.
We register their effects quite precisely
And learn early not to question any motives.

The mango drops from a dark tree.
Tides move against a rocky shore.
My chest aches under the sky of birds.
Or do the birds themselves bring that pain?

I saw a clip of a movie once:
A golfer struck by lightning,
Exploded on an afternoon pasture,
Dropping to the ground for some heavenly reason.

The camera itself, godlike, recording that strange fall,
Is beyond my understanding. Electrons traveling
In some unknown medium, making precise marks
On an impossible mirror that records what is seen or not.

Jesus, I tire of so much mystery.
Holy spirits and sleepless nights.
This Equatorial moon and ghosts
Arranging the movements of waters and lives
And those graceless bolts of Panama lightning.