First Snow and What Shouldn?t Happen to a Dog
For Richard Modiano
It starts off innocently enough.
You angle your head upward
and see the shimmering curtain
and you think the aurora borealis
has so many ways of looking pretty
and soon you are chasing iridescence everywhere
pouncing on the patch of green here
sliding into home on the purple carpet there.
Youíre going all Martha Graham on the landscape.
Itís giddiness beyond giddiness,
and it is your birthright to
chase it with abandon when you
must make the best of abandonment.
And just as your capering enters
a state of grace youíve only seen in
womenís Olympic figure skating
the ground gives way
and you become a surprised crescent,
Everything rushes by, but in fact, it is you
who are rushing by.
The twitch of the gambol still fresh in your limbs,
you think, astonished,
ďThis is an unexpected part of the fun, isnít it?Ē
And when you hit the earth and realize
that what has just knocked the breath out of you
has also knocked the life out of you,
and you find yourself left well past what can be undone.
At first, the shock is too great to bear.
Of course it is unfair beyond unfair!
All you were doing was what comes so easily to you,
to love the splendid world with your heart wide open.
It is in your nature to love;
ergo, it is in your nature to be broken.
And a biting wind from the southwest chuckles
that, hm, you arenít up on current affairs,
and no, you didnít understand
the change in the weather.
So, with a handful of breaths left, you--
now a clear-eyed, panting creature--
glimpse snowfall for the first time in your life.
You watch the aurora borealis slip away
and make of the moment what your wisest friend
would tell you now, if he could:
that genuine grace is what God lifts away
from the places where you have been crushed for good.
Pineapple, Not of This Earth
To Jasmine Albritton
The blue of this artichoke is from Venus
Pedunculated, milky sapphire,
Bittersweet to the bite
The green of this pineapple is from Saturn
A fast-moving composite of yellow and blue
Keen to outrun the radio signals from 1947
The poetry from Jasmine's assignment is from Jupiter
So like the girl, one wide eye turned ever toward
The nowhere and everywhere of the star-pierced universe.
O Wicked, Wicked
Youíve seen the signs.
The two weird sisters.
The whisperer. The one who smiles.
The cosseted lips of snow pressed
to the greener oneís ear.
The confidences. The mystery.
The smile, that enigma of hundreds
of tiny muscles, the only flesh
beside the tongue
to pass between your teeth.
What is it about girlhood?
What is it about grace and goodness?
What is it that has been lost
beneath the dipped brim of the hat?
Wouldnít you like to know? says the green one.
Would you like me to say more? asks the white one.
Behold, we shall tell you a mystery.
We are sisters of the fairer elements.
Our atoms a giddy dance of sugars
Leviathans, oh, perhaps.
The seedlings of wildfires, most assuredly.
You say gaiety is not in our longterm destiny
for we Cassandras rarely meet with
conclusions of cascading tickertape,
understanding nods, vindications,
and baskets of whiskered things.
Instead, we get farmhouse ex machina.
We get water from the Lake of Fire.
We get old.
But that is the price of knowing
the confidences of those older and
more far-seeing than ourselves.
We cannot help what we are,
nor would we if we could.
Certain knowledge is
a pretty mercury on the tongue,
a tickle in the ear
passed from sister to sister
beneath hat brims.
We are what we are,
and we are usually right.