a graveyard of black and white eyes
haunting Cloonanaha haunting Calvery
haunting the body-strewn sea
from Clare to Queens
missing smiles and teeth
mute over mugs of tea
over foaming porter
thatched houses shadowed
horse carcass fertilizing the field
rain falling on stone
still they stare
Keep the faith
Thaddeus Moriarty, martyred October 15, 1653
Wind and gorse bear witness:
from the secret lichened slab his flock
scatter to hide, but he not fast enough
or perhaps too fast in his beliefs—
how do those posted on the hilltop
not see the approaching priest hunters,
how does he suffer the fourteen-mile
march to Ross Castle, the two-month
torture, and does his faith stretch
to the end of the hanging rope?
And Father Moriarty, do you know
in that assured assumption to heaven
what your Dominicans have done elsewhere on earth?
The hills rise in a shawl of thin
mist, trailing silk ocean. Spools
of bog cotton and pools of lotus
set the vision adrift. A sail
plies its trade of wind-sifting.
Near the village, motorboats spray the bay
where drugged salmon fatten in fish farms
leaking disease to their wild kin.
In the village, clotheslines give way
to dryers, whirling, whirling.
Above the village, planes grind air
Unnoticed, loosestrife lights up
with white butterflies.
Purple is the heathered night,
the blossoming sky.
Aside a cliff over Bantry Bay
winds a paved but narrow road
straight up to the sky, and there
the world ends in a small cloud.
Waves gnaw the stones below,
streams swallow rocks above,
foggy sheep drop from sight
or perhaps stand in the way
to warn travelers that should they
continue their journey, they too will
disappear off the edge of nowhere.
For the sake of seeing Pompeii we stay
in nearby Naples, site of escaped garbage
and crazed motorini. Which, you ask,
is the lost city?
Ecco Santa Maria Sopra Minerva of holy Rome!
The art-packed basilica perches on a pagan temple ruled
by a goddess who was wiser perhaps, but less forgiving.
In the piazza, Bernini’s petit elephant holds an Egyptian
obelisk stolen from the sixth century. Inside the church
lies Fra Angelico, serene in his tomb. Nearby stands
Michelangelo’s Christ, his muscled stone groin draped
with bronze by a later generation. In flight from censors,
Filippino Lippi’s fat little frescoed angel waves his scrotum
freely, trying to loosen his blue wrap from the teeth
of a relentless lapdog. And all the while a dove hovers
over Antonio Aquilio’s Mary, surprised by still another
announcement of humanity’s salvation.
Just for us Tuscany unfolds miles of sunflowered
fields, sheep flocks, spired cypress, umbrella pines.
Olives and grapes planted in slanting rows
await the barrel. Square towers top round hills,
red roof tiles curve over snow-marbled floors.
An Etruscan writes on his wife’s tombstone,
“May the earth lie lightly upon you.” Will
the deceased never cease to caress us?
On one hand is the Lamb of God, on another
God’s Dogs, black and white Dominicans
who savaged wolves and foxes of heresy
and thought without shadows of doubt.
The slaughter of the innocents goes on
while the Madonna beams on her Child
and enfolds the orphans of Florence
at the Spedale degli Innocenti. Under
museum glass lie tokens torn in half,
one part tucked in abandoned infants’
clothes, the other carried by those
yearning for reunion with their broken
Creature with hair of Spanish moss and feet stretching
farther than roots should go, you’ve waited in memory’s
secret marshes till three below zero drove me back here.
My north-born husband sees only a tree, but I’m drawn
into a long ago six-year-old’s sense of heat-defeating
trade winds, turkey buzzard shadows wheeling on saw
grass, ticks and sand fleas, sunlight pointed by palmetto
fronds. A wild gardenia enfolds me with lemon-sweet
scent and my mother calls, not too far, not too far, while
my father hacks trails with his machete. Soon a campfire
cooks our bony fish, seasoned with mosquitoes. The tent
is braced with stones, the air mattresses blown, the toilet
holes dug. At midnight my family wakes me to steal
down the beach and watch as sea turtles heave on gritty
flippers toward a mass burial of eggs, oblivious enough
(as we move slowly closer, closer, closer) to be touched
on their oak-hard backs, one as big as our kitchen table.
The turtles are soundless, but a spiral shell sings waves
of sea in my ears until it’s left behind for the pounding
surf to grind into silt . . .
Now my husband parks the car beside you, islanded
amid parched acres of mall, and appreciates the shade.
I Mapping the Frontier
Deep in the heap of Texas spreads New Braunfels,
home not of tacos and tamales but Oma’s Haus and
autumn’s Wurstfest: The Ten-day Salute to Sausage.
Guadalupe River runs quiet as tourists shriek in
Schlitterbahn Waterpark. Mythical streets of Laredo
flaunt names like Freiheit, Rhine, Fredericksburg,
Dittlinger, Klingermann, Schoenthal, Blastenhoff, Zipp.
Citizens reading their Herald Zeitung shop at Marketplatz:
Heilbig Music, Jahn Cabinets, Lindheimer Fachwerk
Construction, Breustedt and Wagenfuehr Homes.
Bienvenido a America.
60 % of eldercare residents get
no visitors in the lone star state.
On the way out of Texas runs Muddy Boggy
River, then Clear Boggy River, and last of all,
North Boggy River. Somewhere, South Boggy
II Road Trip
Tennessee signs warned us of
the winding downward plunge:
Runaway Truck Ramp, Right
hurtling off the mountain sideways, rocks
flying, bushes crushed, trees waiting, possums
staring, headlights flaring, horn blaring, bodies
thrusting through the glass, together we crash
from the past into the last years.
Stopping is harder than starting.
At Greater Kankakee
the road peels away
like sycamore bark,
leaving gray planed
patterns that make only
private sense. We exit
the town, past its expanding
edges, where twigs and pieces
of trees will age and break
one day on the merciless
plains, will stoically molder
in face of disaster and bliss,
forcing us to know what
surpasses lesser Kankakee.
In the middle of
stands a brown sign:
90 ° longitude
1/4 way west
around the world.
From where? I ask,
but no one answers.
My daughter was a very good student,
he said, fixing her pants. She was a quiet
girl, and she liked to paint. We’re putting
her in these clothes because she loved them.
My little daughter, he said quietly,
you used to dress yourself.
Now I have to do it for you.
Los Angeles, California—
Every day I just see that boy
laying in the street dead, he said,
sobbing. I just want to get him back.
That’s why I can’t stop. I’m on a mission.
I can’t stop.
Our grief is incomparable.
We got married late, and had a child late.
She is our only child.
I have nothing, he said,
I will do anything to survive.
Our garden is free, she said smiling.
The earth is good. That’s how I survive.
I was beaten for two hours
with sticks, and kicked all over.
Central Square, New York—
It’s everybody’s responsibility to try
and do what they can. And for most
of us, it’s not a lot, it’s the little
things. The march is one of them.
As he speaks, clay ovens in a shape four thousand
years old bake bread, and smoldering tamarisk roasts
shabbut netted from marshy waters that are fathered
by the Tigris and Euphrates. “This is how we were
and how we are, from the reeds to the river’s mud,”
says sheik Obeid Jabbar Hlayil.
Two hundred souls live here, eighteen children
belonging to Shabeeb Hassan whose father Karim
Hassan has two teeth and nine thin fingers, one severed
by Iranian shrapnel. Somewhere in Basra and Baghdad
loom giants he has never met. “If they saw me
in America, they’d throw me in the garbage and burn me.”
[Interviews by Anthony Shadid, New York Times 1-29-2010]
In the cellar shadows hides a tribe of gigantic black crickets
which never seem depressed by the severity of their situation.
Neither damp nor cold nor mold nor thick dusty webs nor life
imprisonment in gray concrete subdues the sudden athletic
leaps that freak me out as I load and unload laundry. What do
they eat? What eats them? Which one first gave up the outside
world to avoid a wintry death and doomed its heirs to this
gloomy underground colony? How long will they last? How
long will we? The machines swirl, beep, whirl, shake, and stop.
The crickets crouch, soundless. They have lost, along with
a natural habitat, their voices. I collect the clothes to carry
upstairs, clicking off the light and closing the door behind me
on a basement infested with questions.
The question is will
we share this sweater because
I won’t give it up.
It’s warm and loves me
in a gray, low-fat way. We
digest each other.
One whale is lonely.
One pea is not enough.
A grasshopper hatches.
A spacecraft cylinder detaches.
The Internet broadcasts its media.
“They’re here already. You’re next!”
One to sleep and two for pain,
three for sorrows none can name,
four for hate and five for fear
of hidden danger slipping near,
six for starving, seven, rage
at unfair illnesses that age
and ravage, leaving loved ones caged
in duty, eight for loneliness,
and nine for guilt that’s unconfessed,
but ten for death.
If only they had told me in primary school
about the axis of reflection, I could have followed
a trail of numbers instead of words and found
symmetrical peace, some lotus pond and not these
unsettled seas of words misspoken, misread,
misunderstood; could have learned how
structural patterns mirror, glide, rotate, repeat,
each shape the same on either side of lines—vertical,
horizontal, diagonal. Geometric translation moves
every point a constant distance; verbal translation
moves every point uncertain distance. But if words
can drive crusades and deliver ultimatums, equations
can be as deadly: f=ma projects the force of cannon;
e=mc2 drops atomic bombs. Might the sum
of mathematics be zero?
If it's now,
What you've won