from Odes and Elegies: Eco-poetry from the Texas Gulf Coast, 2020
Lantana and salvia, delphinium, thistle, and heather
move in the still heat of late August.
A garden grows outside our window, waits
for the transient monarchs, the ruby-throated hummingbird.
In Billy Hassell’s Monarch Butterflies over the Rio Grande,
hundreds of wings the color of sunset move across the sky,
a kaleidoscope of light that pours over sheer-walled canyons, volcanic rock.
The cavernous stretch of river becomes a permeable
border which is no border, but the flight that beauty makes,
turning gray rock, gray water to orange light.
Hummingbirds travel thousands of miles
escaping the violence, the poverty of weather.
Men and women, and their children, travel miles seeking asylum.
They wait in lines or cages, in El Paso, Clint, McAllen.
They lose their luggage, their language, the children they carry.
No milk, no blankets, no soap, no songs.
We hold our children close, watch flight out the window,
at a distance, in a garden.
Wingless, they who flee must swim the river.
Wingless, they who flee must cross the desert.
Oh god of many names, see their flight.
Lift and hold them in the cleft of the rock.
A Spell for Becoming Lace
Hurricane Harvey, Houston, 2017
It begins as a ringing just out of reach, neither text nor tweet, but a chime
in the wind, then a throbbing, the water’s pulse.
Imagine your body is a house sitting firmly on pier and beam settled into clay.
You are stucco and stone, brick and mortar, wrapped in azaleas, amaryllis,
hawthorn and fern. Oaks and the lone maple rising into night sky.
Be more specific.
It is 7:36pm, Saturday, August 26. The rains begin. All night you listen
to living water pelting the shingles. You shiver.
Sunday, August 27, it rains, pours down on the roof, the windows, doors.
You stand in a sea of wet grass, wait for water
to creep closer, rise. Monday, August 28, it rains. The street is a fast-moving
river that flows to stone steps, then wrought iron railing, porch,
seeps into floors, walls, rises and rises. The water enters you,
is trapped in your shiplap walls. You have a choice:
You can dissolve, become the warp and mildew of wood, swollen sheetrock.
Or you can resist:
Imagine the ivory bobbin of bone lace. Let the water move through you
like mesh. Let the cordonnet be your scaffolding, each linen stitch
wrapped and buttonholed, locked, secured in place,
a porous stronghold delicate as home
and as rooted to bone as the hands that built you.
Each thread, a tethered line of love that bends and stays, bends and stays.
(The River Styx, Issue 104/105, 2022)
City of Music Imagined
On the steps of the cathedral in your mind, a music emerges.
The Tartini tones of a pipe organ speaking with the trees.
You recognize the tune, a hymn of sorts for cigar box guitar
or the steel of resonator strings turned lap-piano wailing
like a bell released, rising, expanding in flight.
This is no ordinary music. It is not invisible, but takes on
form as it moves within the mouth of the bell, lures you
into its palpable chords, not quite a chiming.
For a moment, you’re returned to childhood, the swinging
ropes of a bell tower beneath the Gothic steeple of stone
you see as compass to the heavenly. You give up fear,
failure, take the ropes in your child’s hands. You swing hard
until the clapper strikes metal, once, twice,
full circle. You rise higher, swing again with each tolling
until you are released from your bones, your thoughts, and
you become the music’s body multiplied, an echo
untethered, beyond streets and rooftops, elms and lindens,
beyond geese in flight and the remnants of human voice.
(selected from The City Within, a collection in progress)
Photo Credit: Tony Davidson