Monday, September 13

Whenever the Spirit Moves (Two Poems)

Drowning in the Baptismal

I baptize you…

I saw nothing
in the rich baptismal,
with the pastor’s rough
right hand over
my 15-year-old face—
his fingers extended
like giant bratwurst.
The water swirled
beneath my weight,
tickling and tugging
at every corridor of my body,
rising up around me.

in the name of the Father…

I felt my lungs constrict
and my head
Clunk against the porcelain bottom.

and of the Son…

There was no glory,
no dove to twitter
and spiral down
like a divine church bulletin.
No great light to sever
the ceiling, to dangle
the harp of David.

and of the Holy Ghost…

And in the blasted cinema
of noise and applause
I remembered being small,
sitting in the pew,
following the complex grains
of wood and seeing airplanes
and warships and rockets
in their strained lines and knots,
with a Pentecostal preacher
pounding the pulpit two times.
Two times for the second commandment.
Two times to stress ‘in vain.’

Two Boys

In the gravel parking lot
of Christian Fellowship Church,
Benton, KY, one wee boy stands,

shuddering to lift a crate. He props
it up with a piece of pipe he found
bobbing out of the creek.

To the pipe he knots a ragged yellow rope
and ties the rope to his wrist. I’m setting a trap
for God, he says.

Meanwhile, in a cardboard shanty in Acuña, Mexico,
a gaunt boy is napping. A strong gale
comes knocking, and he is buried

beneath plywood and mud, held captive
by the spell of a jealous God.

4th of July

Ghosts on Independence Day

The Queen Anne's Lace,
the white heat bees
and the weeping flowers—
these we are partial to.

And they spread over the heavens
like you spread over her the night before,
soft in your sweat,
in an act not of love,
but of paying tribute.

It was another decision
in a long line of decisions—

strings tied around each finger,
forming webs that fray
and slip off silently while we sleep.
They grow stronger amidst our neglect
and come to explode
before us tonight.

But it is their remains—
the hovering octopus ghosts
you call them
—that cling to us.

They drift in the sky,
concealing themselves
behind the curtain of night,
illuminated only by
new pyrotechnic tongues
honoring the forgotten.


Preparing for the Death of My Grandmother (Never Enough)

Blackbelly moan of the night
train lurching into town
stirs me out of sleep; some mile-off
coal-burning beast infecting my dreams.

I sit up and look out my open window;
the steam rolls off the asphalt,
the night air pours in,
smell of rain and fresh lightning.

I don't want to think of her gone,
what her brittle body will look like in satin,
the stench of formaldehyde replacing
the stench of death; I don't want to think of it, but I do.

I walk to the kitchen.
Flipping the switch, the florescence shudders
to life she is waiting for morning dialysis; losing
teeth, glasses, losing her mind, all in the ruffles
of her bedding and hospital gown.

I pull from a jug of a water until my stomach swells and twinges.
What is one night becomes several.
What is one death becomes many imagined.
Months shuffle past like the turning of cards

until that fresh Sunday morning in March,
when the sun breaks through my sleep
and the telephone rings.