Prayer, Christmas Eve, for Recovery of My Dog
O magnum mysterium shoulder me lightly
like a clear river carries an autumn leaf
away on a current of harmony, beyond
this concrete bridge where breath and brain
track the secrets in this dog’s flesh
panting here before me with his three legs
and thumping tail. Too soon his lungs will fail.
Or over there, just beyond the road,
the memory of my brother’s child
crushed between the wheel and the hood,
the accordian of her auto pressed to the bark, Oh
Tannebaum, before gasoline lit
that perfect conifer in one great choir,
searing ornament to a father’s Joyful Season.
Or further down that road a mother, things
that made her cut– a vain attempt to purify
for Holiday, and so she comes to pass one evening
a bag of bones and tumor lying in a bed,
and all a boy can do is drum this nativity away.
Pray? That she could run, like the dog in his dreams?
What can children do for their mother but live?
Or beneath the midnight star– raw earth silent
after the battle’s pageant– a shrapnel-clad soldier
lying in a crater, medic kneeling over him,
hands pressed against the sucking chest wound,
eyes searching for the angel of any medivac
to appear in the dark above and tally them both
to manger before the Magi’s gifts give out.
Only wander does wonder to relieve this beauty,
this annual thrust to blackness. Gracious God
reaching from beyond the nebula, cradle me,
small wren stunned by the window, through this birth,
so I may again walk with dog the village green and pause
where for eight-hundred years grandfathers paused
to contemplate solstice and in that softening evening hear
acapella voices sing In Dulci Jubilati
and recover the faith of my father, my dog, and my God.
“… Oh that we were there. Oh that we were there.”
Christianity & Literature, 2003; Imago Dei, 2012
In Pursuit of the Loon
The marsh lay grey and still.
Mist drifted like thin smoke.
Swamp grass grew grey and silent;
A few stunted tamaracks poked their black beard
Through the soundless contrast of level color.
“So Lonely …”
The loon’s slow echo reached me,
Hands that cupped my ears in sobs,
“So Lonely ….”
My grey raft swelled silent in the slate marsh,
Each oar carefully placed and drawn
So that I moved like leaf in stagnant pond.
The loon knew but stayed
Always at the edge of vision.
Like a ghost he beckoned ‘til I closed
Then submerged leaving an image vanishing like vapor.
Seconds primed ages, and he emerged without a ripple
In a more distant place. He soothed, a siren of loss.
His black-and-white-lined throat seemed
Stark against the sifting curtains of grey.
His eyes glowed red as he called,
“So Lonely ….”
It echoed to hills hidden in mist and returned;
It filtered the shore in riffles that wash and restore,
“So Lonely …
So Lonely …
So Lonely ….”
Appalachia prize for poetry, 1988; Loon Call, 1990; The 2008 Poets’ Guide to NH, 2007
Along the Monadnock Watch
Moonglow casts deep to the dark spine
and flank of this ancient whale of rock.
And here beached by the edge of a marsh
stream, like a salt, like an almost Roman
outpost, stands a well guarding hemlock
and brush while mist unveils its tapestry.
Soon a giant form thrashes clear of water;
a moose, rack erect, plods toward the well
and pauses. Steam rises from his back.
He slowly wheels, wattle winging like a bell
and sniffs toward the granite peak
that once sheltered wolf until these
near-sighted, almost Latin tillers ringed the stone
with flame and burned the green to ash.
The moose listens as those night legends sing,
then ignores the granite blocks and returns
to his slosh toward great lodges of pine.
Later, as the moon guards its lower track,
the moose is nailed on Highway 12, four limbs
shattered by the chrome of another dreamer.
An officer kneels by his side, strokes the dark fur.
The moose breathes deep; each slow release
a soft cloud masked in the flash of red and blue,
low crackle of voice, square box of rescue truck.
But there on the mountain framed under stars,
a gray wolf floats up the shoe-worn rock
and turns to stare down at the tiny strobes
gathered along the pencil line it cannot cross.
It sifts its head, then crouches low
and points it snout to heaven. The howl descends
to the ears of the valley. The moose awakens;
his clean, dark eyes meet the officer’s. Natives awaken
and listen to owl echo wolf echo loon. The bull
imagines his antlers rising from a cold lake
while lilies cascade from his rack and he bellows.
The officer points his pistol and brings the hammer down.
Monadnock: More than A Mountain, 2007; Spring in the South (China); Lungfish Review, Anthology of New England Nature Poetry