10583790_10204646282378500_8913581254380508096_n“Jacob called the place Peniel because he had seen God face to face.” Genesis 32:30


They are tolling

the names again in this dim sanctuary.

The smoke of that long list curls

well into the high corners. Someone sighs,

a long, deep breath, as if settling to sleep

late at night between warm sheets.

Outside a siren wails

in the melting air.

All the voices of the unrescued

moan their prayers through the clogged streets,

like ruach, God’s ancient breath,

warning us to be still and fearful,

as it has for years. Or Peniel,

where some angel wrestles with us in the ruins.

What else could draw me to my knees

in such silence and awe?


Here is a clear-zone

between dark and noon,

the gathering place of those who tremble,

the sanctuary of those who mourn;

who walk on. If we hold hands

we will not be afraid.

ID-1001939How lithe is the muscular bicep

of the Cape, how smoothly it thins

to an elegant elbow, the shapely forearm,

the clenched fist at Provincetown.


I am near open water; as if all I could see

were the light,

how it glances

down dunes and grasses, covers

the tang of sea air and salt.


The wind and tides

drive the shores south. One year,

the scythe of the Atlantic will resize

the curving arm, split it to a few gloved fingers.

Life ends with a sigh;

ephemera remain: The tidal flats

and air, thick with terns,

blank eyed, unhurried, wild.


Image courtesy of Federico Stevanin, freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Samuiblue/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Samuiblue/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The moon slips above the horizon,

copper-plated tray fired in sun, hammered hand over hand

into its familiar texture. Tribal bands of the Great Lakes

thanked the August full moon for its gift

of fish lifted with nets and smoked in summer camps.

At night the waters gleamed as filigreed breast plates

guarding the vitals of the land,

and the light carved paths into the dense forests, whose

fern-covered floors glistened wherever it touched. No wonder

they believed in magic, and their shaman named

the moon in praise.


But the magic wavers, just when we thought

we could save the world.

We are parched for lack of peace, a thirst

dense with regret and dearth of artistry.

Some anonymous journalist is the new shaman,

who has christened this moon

for a wished-for trait of an uneasy world. The “Super Moon” casts

shadows in every meadow from here to Monongahela,

erases the lights of Altair and Vega.

Let us hold tightly to one another,

follow the sweet Sturgeon Moon to the last known

horizon, the alpha and omega,

the next Bethlehem or Mecca.

ID-10029639“Which of the horses/ we passed yesterday whinnied/ all night in my dreams?/ I want that one.” William Stafford, Traveling Through the Dark

Out here you can glide across snowfields

at night with only the Polar Star to guide you.

You are lucky to have a direction home.

Listen: the river combs the stones

and the wind moans at the red moon.

Tell me again about him

who interrupts your deep sleep

each night, cupping your head with fire,

the adept who calls to you from a star.

Tell me how you burn.

Tell me if you will answer

the next time.

Tell me what your life is,

and who told you who you are.

Tell me who you listen to now.


Image courtesy of Exsodus, FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Territories of memory,

those walks inLinda Signature 099

the old war zones where

snipers hid in trees

above Sarajevo and fired

on wives and children

who ran if they could

or died in the panicked street

on their way

to the errands of the innocent.

All they had wanted was to buy

supplies, to borrow a book,

to wait for the tram to take them to work,

or a hot meal with some wine.

I saw scars on the shelled buildings,

and roofs broken open with fire,

and scars in the eyes of survivors.

All the abandoned farms

lethal with unmapped mines.

Somewhere in the north

I tried to see the Drina

from the high mountain pass

at Ljubovija. But the milky fog hid the river in its deep purse,

made the green foamy ribbon a thin wish, below this house

with no water at all, and no hope of water.


The Drina’s eternal flow is there somewhere,

under this place of glacial scrubbing—restless

waters, soundlessly passing, below

someone’s grandmother’s homestead,

an old uncle’s orchard, the coin of scant plums,

or a hundred year old apricot tree that pushes out fruit,

year after year, war or no war.

Sky from Porch 005Morning fogs flow

into this valley,

brushfuls of gray paint

onto a canvas

of abstract impressions,

roads unseen, vanishing trees,

a gallery of shapes,

air heavy with May,

and far to the east,

streaks of azure sky

behind a pearly veil,

like my mother’s eyes

behind her Sunday millinery.

Linda Signature 216
I know what you’re thinking

if you think of Paris at all.

You recall public buildings

and gathering places, cafés,

the carréfours and arcades,

the rushing quais and flower stalls,

the gilt esplanades, the boulevards,

and bridges full of lovers.


But I tell you,

this city’s suspicious heart

is made of private chambers,

doors of gorgeous oak or bronze.

Beyond I have seen the quiet courtyard,

province of the pitiless, the rich, cloaked

with flowering trees and roses,

paved with old stone, giving on

to high ceilings, high windows,

where one damask drapery parts

ever so slightly,

a pale hand fluttering down

and out of sight,

as the door closes



1620764_10101577242889571_5085611874602411231_n In memory of Ocie McAvoy Kurtz, 1902-1988

(Photo credit: Kristen Bechard)

They are burning the remnants of unmown grasses at my sister’s farm

while Holy Week pilgrims make their way toward the third day

and a resurrection of the mind. Years ago we passed

through the Flint Hills toward Oklahoma

where our mother had died at home

as peacefully as a prayer.

It was the burn season then too, on the tallgrass prairie,

a landscape of low fires at the salt licks, and cattle safely

grazing at a distance. The burn smoldered along the fencerows

near the road. The flames lazed in the bright spring sun,

but the wind was still as death, and we remembered everything

we could about our mother: her strong curls, her wit, the alluring smile;

the few times she lost her southern cool. Her eyes, blue,

had a way of looking into distances none of us could trace.

The prairie was her censer, and the smoke from it rose

straight up, as the smoke is rising now behind the farmhouse

whose charred ground will hasten to live again

with tiny promises of green and yellow

and strong shoots of blazing star and big and little bluestem.


ID-10021052We wave palm branches,

reenacting the bit of guerilla theater

Jesus invented, his parody of the Roman general

astride an armored horse, riding into town

from Caesaria Maritima to keep the locals in line

at Passover. Jesus on His ass makes me think He

was more like Monty Python than the Pope.

Lean, tan, enjoying His joke,

while the Romans seethed

and the crowds went wild for their native son.


We walk with care down a well sanded steep slope

to the old clapboard sugarhouse below. Mud sucks at our boots.

Above, the pale March sun flares off new stainless steel stacks on a shingled roof.

Steam crowds out, subtly perfumed.

Inside, the shiny evaporator is full of amber sap. A worker

holds a glass up to the light. Color looks right.

To one side a boy offers a tiny cup of syrup.

Its sweetness shocks: we want to lick every drop.


A Merrow daughter stands behind a rough-hewn counter,

taking orders. The taps are slow to start this year.

She’ll call when our jug is ready.

She’s giving away sugar on snow, and selling maple candies, three for a dollar.

We buy one of the little bags of maple leaf shapes.

They are gone before we’re out the door.

The syrup we’ve ordered will season our breakfasts for months to come.

We bless the charity of maple trees. Their gift of pure liquor

outshines the apple from the first garden.

Bless this sap and these

Merrows who invite us to sugaring.

Praise for the steam, the staggering sweetness

of these first rites of spring.


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