Requiescat In Profugus

Curiouser and curiouser, isn’t it
How everywhere we see nature reviving
As we humans abide in restless peace

Decaying bodies rest in trucks
Outside a Brooklyn funeral home
While the air clears of smog
In cities throughout the world

Empty planes rest on tarmac
In nearly abandoned airports
While dolphins and fish swim
In cleaner Venetian canals

Basketball nets rested slack
Throughout this new March madness
While a fox, not of the human variety
Investigates Downing Street

Shopkeepers and schoolchildren rest at home
Perhaps not content, but in something like stillness
While an elk peers in the window
Of a closed shop in Banff

We humans may rest only restlessly
And, for some, resentfully
But much else in the world
Seems to rest in new-found peace.

If only we could learn the secret
If only we did not need death
To teach us how to
Requiescat in pace


My mouth cuddles the words of her poem
My left shoulder blade sharpens when I move just so
My fourth toe on my right foot aches still
Ten years after its Zumba dislocation
I jigged when she jogged. Her heel and my toe
Unexpected unwelcome brief
My left knee still lives on the icy trail
In the cold winter afternoon
Fading too fast
Where ice, ski and knee challenged each other
My knee lost
My glasses fog up when I wear the mask
That mom sewed, folding elastic between cloth layers
So I breathe into my husband’s old 100% cotton t-shirt
Cigarette paper,
The dermatologist says,
Is the medical description for what the disease
Has done
Here, there, most everywhere to my skin
Rough and ugly under my hands
Until his touch refires the clay
Into warm smoothness
Our physical incarnates
Our divinity

Retrospeculative in Two Parts

Part One
Whoever said hindsight is 20/20 never compared their memories to another’s. When I look back, as through a glass darkly, I see some unknowable mixture of memory and fantasy. If my alchemy is generous, I may find gold within the dregs of memory’s cup. But too often it seems I suffer a reverse alchemy.

Part Again
I pan the whitewater river
That rushes over the valleys and hills of my past
To the narrow canyon of my present
Where I stand in hip boots and helmet
The better to protect me from drowning in tears.

I pan for those memory nuggets
That I can refine with true alchemy
Into rare golden understanding.

I hold them out, so small in my wrinkled palm
Those bright shiny memories
To share the treasure with my family
Only to be told that I offer them but
Fool’s gold

Good Enough

His mum said, “You are already a winner, darling.”
He said, “Such a mum thing to say.”

Not this mum

I might say, “Do your best, darling,
And know that, win or lose,
I love you always.”

But to myself I would think,
“I might love you a little bit more
If your best is good enough to win.”

My children would, of course,
Hear it – did,
Of course,
Hear it.

Pity, that.

Something Has Broken

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird

Life now has broken, like the first sin fall
Words go unspoken in this strange place

Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word

Praise still for rainfall
Prayers that You heal all
Praise gifts that be small, at this slow pace

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dew fall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass

Now in life’s new slow, curse of a virus
Restless we now grow, staying at home
Can we yet find praise for the desirous
And help spirits raise in our own home

Mine is the sunlight
Mine is the morning
Born of the One Light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day

Ours still the sunlight
Ours still the morning
Born of the One Light Eden saw play
Praise with your patience, praise with your staying
God’s recreation in this new way

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird

Life now has broken, like the first sin fall
Words go unspoken in this strange place

Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word

Praise still for rainfall
Prayers that You heal all
Praise gifts that be small, at this slow pace


I curse fluently and foully
As though auditioning
For Deadwood
Long and loud
With tears in my eyes

But what good does it do
When the insanely selfish
Continue unfazed
With their diabolical plans

So I curse my inability
To call down fire and brimstone
Boils and gnats
With my wrath

To curse effectively
One needs the right god or demon
On your side

The demons seem all to be busy
Riding the backs of those
Gathering to protest
The loss of their right
To kill others

Guns are no longer enough
The demons whisper in their ears
You must have the right
To shake their hand
Kiss their cheek
And spit in their eye

And as a god for cursing
Jesus is sorely lacking
I don’t want to turn the other cheek
I don’t want to forgive them
And I certainly don’t want to be
Whipped by their rights
Crucified on their delusions

I want YHWH
An old-fashioned personal god
Of righteousness and vengeance
A god who loves only
The faithfully masked
The isolated chosen ones

I want metaphorical
Jawbones of an ass
To tear their temple down
I want to crush and bury
Their stupidity
Their arrogance
Their selfishness

I want to curse them
With Shakespearean grandeur
Would t’were safe enough
To spit upon them
I would
Cripple them
That their limbs may halt
As lamely as their thinking
A plague upon them!
This plague upon them!
And a vengeance too!

I curse until I weep
And then I pray,
“Curse me not,
Sweet God,
With this unforgiving spirit.”

Love’s Ambition

Betsy Wyeth died yesterday
Aged 98
A decade and more after Andrew –
Does Helga live still?
Of course she must
Whether dead or alive
Betsy and Andrew ensured that
With his paintings and her word:

Betsy’s long life
Merited a long article
Only because she was
Andrew’s wife, muse, model,
Business manager, archivist,

That revealed secret
The Helga paintings
With one word
Became the art world’s
Enduring fake news:

240 paintings?
Of one woman?
A married neighbor?
Nudes painted
In secret assignations
Over 15 years?
Without the knowledge
Or consent of either spouse?
By America’s premier classicist?

Oh the scandal
Oh the juiciness
Oh the titillation
Oh the mystery
Oh the prominence
Oh the profit!

No president
No diplomat
No philanthropist
No artist, even,
Graced the covers
Of Time and Newsweek
That fateful –
Or was it fakeful –
Dog days week in 1986
That privilege was reserved
For Helga
While Betsy smiled enigmatically
And said only

With Betsy dies the secret
Of what love:
Andrew for Helga
Or Betsy for ambition?

I prefer to believe in Betsy’s canny ambition.

In a puritanical America,
shocked by pubic hair,
she made her husband’s sensuous renderings
a very public front page story.

Because she knew
Americans love nothing more
than to be titillated by scandal
and shocked by wanton


Stillness brings enlightenment
To quiet monkey minds
And perfect death needs no breath

Sweet spring never stills
Sultry summer life entwines
Yet stillness brings enlightenment

Mortality haunts autumn chills
‘Til winter quiet enshrines
And perfect death needs no breath

Living love grows tendrils
Curling grasping binds
Yet stillness brings enlightenment

When any movement kills
We spit life’s bitter rinds
And perfect death needs no breath

Thrumming humming thrills
Dancing life bumps and grinds
Yet stillness brings enlightenment

And perfect death needs no breath


She waits on the front porch
Small hands clenched on her lap
Short legs kicking over the edge
Silently reciting
Her magic charm
Pfadt, Pfahl, Pfeiffer, Pfoutz
Names from the phone book

His tall legs eat the sidewalk
Coming home from the bus stop
Already feeling the beer foam
Tickling his tongue

He smiles when he sees her

Hands unclench
Mind recital stops

She runs, trying to look like
Their favorite ballplayer
Rounding third
Heading for home

He catches her up
In a one armed hug
She talks as they walk

Her day, her plans, her baby sister
But not her magic names

In the kitchen
He puts down his lunch pail
Her mom turns around
Leans against the fridge
Spews the daily frustrations
The stubbornness, the sass

She sits at the table
Half listening
Pfadt, Pfahl, Pfeiffer, Pfoutz
Next to her high-chaired sister
Munching a carrot

He leans against the counter
Half listening
Wanting that beer
Until he turns
And backhands her across the face.

Daily Worship

We walk our garden
Most days

Monday the buds on the wisteria
Race the buds on the peonies
To bloom
And, look!, the first pea tendrils
Are almost grabbing the lowest wire

Tuesday three tall irises
Throw their newly purple beauty to the sky
Above thick rows of still sleepy daylilies
No flowers awakened yet by summer’s kiss

On Wednesday we walk
Under the Carolina jasmine
Covered arbor
Under the sweet yellow perfume
Of its small bugle flowers

And I turn back to the deck
To see if the wisteria has bloomed yet
Because sitting on the deck
Under blooming wisteria
Is perfume like no other

But still just those buds of promise

Thursday, a frog jumps into our small pond
The dwarf hemlock transplanted just weeks ago
Already has new light green at the tips
The weeping cherry weeps so gracefully
Over the pond
Its wounded side healing
Its deep cut wispy leaves
Still graceful green

By Friday the Lenten roses are faded
And so close to the ground
They seem ready for burial
Held in the pieta of their evergreen leaves
Not to rise again until next year

But the cold crops
Collards, cauliflower, broccoli
Spread their sturdy umbrella leaves
Ever larger
Imperially impervious to the cold nights
That explain the burlap
And upside down plastic pots
Next to the tender tomatoes
We dared to plant early

Saturday I gather herbs for supper
Spikey rosemary to rub between my hands
Before laying it on top the potatoes
Flat Italian parsley, low spreading thyme
Golden marjoram to flavor the omelet
Made with eggs from Shirley’s chickens

Sunday I pause inside to admire
The small pink azalea
Blooming in front of our low window
And almost hidden outside
By the orange tipped nandina

Mom is at mass upstairs
Upstairs on YouTube
As Woody and I join hands
To slowly pace the new miracles
In our garden
Thankful always
That even in our strangely slowed world
God still says Amen
So be it
To gardens
And we see that it is indeed still good.