FOR THE NEXT SECOND

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
Photo by Viera Francesca Lovin Rebel

In a flash of metallic blue
It reveals its wings
And shows the sky

Just as the All-Creator
Reveals the sky
Beneath those wings

He says: From nothing
As you call it
I made you and the blue bird

And from what I have made
I can withdraw my Spirit
To make a nothingness

All at once, without the least delay
I can withdraw existence
As the wings are closed

At any time
The mountains and the forests
The sea and the depths

Also the cities and the people
Light and shadow
I have made and can remove

But for a while longer
For the next second
The summer flowers


 

IF YOU PREFER

Norman Rockwell (1894–1978), “The Homecoming”
Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA
Courtesy Pinterest

I remember they were young
Because I’m old and I survive—
They died of heart or died of lung
But now, for now, I am alive

And I remember back from war
My uncle in his soldier tans
Burned on South Pacific shores—
Alive and with civilian plans

My aunt preparing to receive
Her husband who had lived to tell
What other women had to grieve—
New Guinea or some other hell

They pass as if they never were
Or live in us if you prefer,
Or even live somewhere, they go
To what the living do not know


 

ENCOUNTER

Grand Staircase, Metropolitan Museum of Art Courtesy Explore Instagram

We parked within the great museum
Whose every hall contained one theme
Classic Greek and Roman art
New world, old of every part

Egyptian frescoes of the Pharaoh
Impressionists until Picasso
I had come there with my son
But we divided two from one

Wandered far apart through feasts
Of history—he is deceased—
I searched the halls till time was done
For him my son, beloved one

Until I found him, he appeared
Not lost forever as I feared
Smaller, dressed in suit and tie
Neat and frail, my son who died

So happy to be reunited
Free to be as one delighted
At last exchanging love, embraced,
So pale and sensitive his face


 

ON THE BEACH

 

In almost sixty years how far we’ve come
But on the beach I gave my half to you –
We who never met, who knows where from?
But who I was that night you never knew

The other night I saw you in my sleep
Now mature and sociable and bright,
A memory of how you are to keep
But who was I who made you on that night?

A harbor and a ship, a precious haven
Tremendous and yet soft the evening sky,
We have wind and starlight held in common
And no one needs to question, ask it why

Then last night I met you in a dream—
Are you, my son, as friendly as you seem?


 

THE ZENIT ROOM

Soviet Zenit Camera
Courtesy Bid or Buy

The carpets are autumn colored, noiseless
Up to the third floor, no one is watching
There is the house man who fixes things
In front of the panel of a strange machine

His back is turned as he concentrates
He can’t see what you are looking at
It is the machine that they call the Zenit
With which he can listen and record

The communications of the opponent
As they themselves observe this building
This is a diplomatic space
No one is here from the other side

So that when agents are sent to their work
They can try to sidestep any surveillance—
Viktor is the house man’s name
His other job—to appear to be tame

Away from the doorway, down once more
To another level, the second floor


 

STRANGER OF THE NIGHT

Barred Owl (Strix varia)
U.S. Department of the Interior
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Barred owl, what are you doing here
At bay in a tall pine tree
Where the small birds curse and jeer?

This is mid-morning, not evening shade—
Glide quickly to the hillside den
Where shadows of the moon are made

Turn your rounded head and stare
Swivel at the trail
Your great dark eyes protected from the blue sky’s glare

Once we could converse, we were not different
So much as given offices to bear
You to silence, we to praise the firmament

Alien to alien, each species has unlearned
What Eve and Adam knew before
The precious gifts of God were spurned

We did not name so much as speak
One to the other
And afterward the prattle of the mouse’s squeak

Stranger of the night, your presence here blasphemes,
Go back to your robber’s den
Where daylight ventures only in its dreams


 

THERE HAS BEEN DROUGHT FOR MANY YEARS

Domênikos Theotokópoulos (El Greco), (1541–1614), “Saint John the Baptist”
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Courtesy Web Gallery of Art

The Baptist was our first forerunner
Because we live in bitter deserts
Not destitute but stripped of honor

Puzzles to the Pharisees
Because we wear the skin of Christ:
Humility and mystery

Swarms of locusts follow us
Of which we roast the abdomen
They have the bitterness of avarice

And of the honey of the bees
We find it in the comb
That hangs in withered desert trees

There has been drought for many years
And when the Earth is desolate
The whirling dust of God appears

The lost observe no other sign
But columns of ascending heat
Nothing of the water changed to wine

And yet there will be wedding feasts
When from the sea the rainclouds draw
For then the rain of God will be released

Meanwhile take to wilderness
Messengers unknown of grace
And with the skin of sacrifice be dressed