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ARRIVING

“In the year of our Lord 565…there came into Britain
a famous priest and abbot, a monk by habit and life,
whose name was Columba, to preach the word of God….”

--Bede, Ecclesiastical History of England,
   Book III, Chapter IV

 

Arriving is the hardest part, the work

spread out barren as this shingle, this rough skirt

surrounding nothing but a bit of green turf,

a gull-swept sky, and the angel-empty air.

 

In this clamoring silence of breakers, birds,

and surf, I kneel and wet the hem of my robe.

Now is the time for invocations, for prayers

to fill this empty place with words made flesh.

 

Yet to be are the mortared stones, the joists

of English oak, the quarried marble green

as the hills of Donegal.  But soon, God willing,

foundations will be laid, the faithful will come,

and hymns will rise, solid as vaults and spires,

limpid as the clerestory of heaven.

 

—Originally published in Angle

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GREEN HEAVEN

  

The heart in its bone-house dreams of love

and time, of quiet days and star-shot nights.

It wants a green hill so far away

and high among the rocks that death is lost

on trackless scree and wanders in the waste

forever.  And here, where children never die,

where loss and pain are banished, I’d build

a new house of simple stone and timber.

We’d pull our chairs before the fire, its blush

proof against all chills.  I’d clear my throat

and hold your hand.  We’d read the only book

we owned, the one whose story never ends.

 

—Originally published in Angle

SLOW APOCOLYPSE

  

And so, that’s it.  The kitchen light is dead,

the dog is fed and watered, and all the locks

are turned against the coming night.  There’s time

to climb the stairs and open drapes, time

and light enough to read a final book—

but which?—and time to hold you close, this hush

more fit than words we’ve said before, more sweet

than any last gasp passion.  We turn

to watch the tumbling sun and know that soon

the sky, a spangled blue-black rug, will roll

itself up, revealing graying boards beneath.

And the moon, wrapped in gauze and packed away,

will hoard its feeble light as you and I

lie side-by-side and listen to the world,

its mainspring winding down.  The earth turns slowly,

as crickets cease, one by one, to sing.

We breathe into the empty house, our peace

complete, our joy a brief and fragile thing.

 

—Originally published in American Literary Review