33,000

As 33,000 feet, you want the smoothness
that experience tells you, the sky
will once again deny.
Strapped in, you contemplate cursing
the gods of travel, but no,
they are simply meeting your expectations.
Getting this close to heaven was once,
she says, a mystical and spiritual experience,
but then we transcended all of that
with the first step on the lunar surface,
overall a small step from one man
and a crushing of dreams for all
but the great religious cynics of mankind.
With clouds below obscuring all you know
the sun is mocking, surrounding
your dark mood, painting it darker
and you begin to hope that the thunderstorm
that will greet your arrival can somehow
wash away the hesitation of an eternity
trapped in a seat on the lowest margins of heaven.

MOURNING

You never know how the news will arrive
you are just certain of its arrival.
You know it on some level, even as the event
is happening, but that doesn’t blunt
the piercing tip of the blade
that finds the soft spot in you and cuts deeply.
You hoped for a miracle for her, for her son,
her husband, for those who knew her
gentle smile, warm compassion, cutting wit,
when the situation demanded.
She was a friend who would appear
when needed most and slip away
when the need began to dissipate.
The news came today, the hole is fresh
and you can only attempt to fill it with memories,
knowing even as it seems again full
as do so many others as you age,
when you step into it you will plunge
back into the well of loss
and again struggled to find the sun
hiding in a too often darkening sky.

PUEBLO CHRISTMAS

The night is that bitter cold
that slices easily through
nylon and Polartec, makes
child’s play of fleece and denim.
The small rooms glow
in the dim radiance of propane lights
and heaters as the silver
is carefully packed away
in plastic tool boxes.
The pinyon wood is neatly stacked
in forty pyres, some little taller
than the white children
clinging to their parents’ legs,
some reaching twenty-five feet,
frozen sentinels against
the star gorged sky.
The fires are slowly lighted
from the top, the green wood
slowly creeps to flame
as its sap drips fire
until the pile is consumed.
Half frozen we step away
from the sudden oven heat.
The smoke climbs
obliterating the stars
as the procession snakes
from the small, adobe church,
the men at its head firing rifles
into the scowling smoke cloud.
A sheet is draped over the four poles
a chupah over the statue of the Virgin Mother
remarried to her people.
She weaves through the crowd,
gringos, Indians, looking
always upward, beyond the smoke
the clouds against which it nestles,
beyond all, for another
faint glimpse of her Son.

LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER, NOT

My mother used to say, about
most anything, “Stop, you’ve had your fill.”
It was something she did by rote,
dictated I was certain then, by
some timer buried deep within her
that brought forth the phrase
like the beep of an oven timer
to indicate whenever she was baking
was certain to be just slightly underdone.
I didn’t listen to her, of course,
just paid the lip service of which
children are the acknowledge masters.
I still hear her voice echoing the phase
as i walk through the park each morning
stopping to gaze at whatever new
has come into bloom, the patterns
of the clouds over the hills to the south,
the conversation of the birds
who only think i don’t understand, but i
never get my fill of the beauty before me.

GROVE

Living in a bamboo grove, she said,
is very much like living in an old house.

Look up at noon, into the canopy
and imagine you see rays of light
piercing the ill-thatched roof.

Listen to the growing winds or autumn
and hear the ghosts of the old house
making their way up creaking stairs.

And when you truly find the silence
imagine the Buddha sitting nearby
the morning breeze his breath
slowly drawing you into the day.

MORNING SICKNESS

Early this morning
the sky was pregnant
with the rain that would inundate
our afternoon, the sun
a struggling visitor then,
deciding the battle was lost
and sliding away behind the clouds.
It is afternoon now
and our thoughts
of the morning have
been washed away, the plants
no longer thirsty,
risk drowning.
We live in a world
of never enough
and too much,
and we are allowed
to complain about this day,
which is the best reason not to.

GAZING

As a child I would often stare up into the night sky. The stars, the planets, at least the two I knew I could see. My parents didn’t think my behavior odd, they assumed I wanted to be a scientist and explore the universe. I let them believe this. It was far easier than explaining that the alternative was to sit in the living room with them and listen to them bicker about something so minor that happened that day, with no escape from their earthly prison.