IMG_0387The plane was called Wings of the Morning.

It used fuel to be found only in Uganda.

It was tiny, like a toy, but one said nothing of this

to the pilot, who was the son

of the bishop in Kamina. Wings of the Morning

took its name from a psalm,

guarding us with a promise from an ancient past.

 

We rode low. Over tails of dust from trucks

on the one northbound road. Above towns made of thatch.

Farmers hoeing their ground, quilts of cantaloupe and cassava,

patches small enough to be planted by hand.

Looking up at our passing. Our course

took us over a tree lined river, crisscrossing

the heart of this part of Congo, unseen

by the farmers though they knew it was there,

but from the air heavy, slow moving, twisting like a boa.

A congregation at the airstrip

prayed and sang in Ki-Swahili, and smiled at us.

 

Their prayers carried us back through calm air.

Long afterward, in my room in the Congo night

or home, at last, I could hear their sounds,

familiar and clear as psalms; as impenetrable and divine

as the river’s oily strand.

 

Ki-Luba mask, found at Lubumbashi, DRC, July 2006 (Photo: Linda Beher)

ID-100176172 StarBurst Background SamiublueThe urban inn, unexpected grittiness.

Their exchange of unbelieving

glances, dawning recognition.

Treasures offered,

carried a long way. Calculation of a cost

of the less-traveled road.

Obedience to dreams

as ephemeral as stars. Years to absorb

the import, all-night discussions

at every oasis. Back home

any drift of wood smoke

sharp as incense

would remind them of the allure:

the rough loft,

the mother’s small-town eyes,

her child’s high cry.

 

Image by Samuiblue, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Delete 009They give up their burden of ice

needle by needle. We see them lift their limbs

with the caution of the very old.

The mountain hides its face behind a veil

of light rain, turning from the dimming light

to something more.

Our needs are small but bold in this darkest hour:

if the trees let go, so can we. Give ourselves away

to the wild and perfect night.

ID-1002780Three days before the solstice,

it is snowing again.

The little white lights around the capital

float in a fog of snowflakes,

and the dome rides like a hat of icing

above the sturdy building with its turrets and, below, the park.

 

And in the dark cloister of park closely lie

beds of nasturtiums not mowed, scapes of leaves not raked.

Last night the oak trees there were full of crows. They clustered

like stubborn leaves will, blackened and wild to fall,

but unfallen, before this fitful snow squall

drove them south, or under bridges, where a few sad men

have their hearth of leaves inside an old treadless tire

and the few common courtesies they recall of home.

 

See how they reckon the sweep of the storm, pray

a rosary with bones and tin, urinate away from the fire,

holding coats closed against wind and longing,

and pull hats down over eyes that know

a stretch of Bunches Beach, or the harbor at Port Aransas,

far from here: southern scrapes and twigs caked

with terns and crows and herons, in their lawless sleeps.

 

Image, “Stormy,” by Maggie Smith/Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

This I know: In the early morning, after a night’s light snow,ID-100156760

a small animal has made a track from the bluestone paving

up to the house, but not quite to the house. I can see how

it paused, where there was a mark made when it nosed

at something smaller than itself, breathing so fiercely afraid,

then vanishing, the way the snow and the track vanish,

except in memory, as the sun varnishes them

with a glaze of thin light and air.

(Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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.

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