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Sample poems

MAMA,

I no longer fear you.
In this seething tumult

that rises to my throat,
stings my eyes,

I am not afraid:
lovingly cupped

in your black hands, cradled
in your disastrous arms.

Cast me adrift: I will still
ride your knees. Drown me

and I’ll swallow you.
Starve me, dispossess me:

it is you who trickle
out the windows of my skull,

down its bloated hills.
Take this tiny vessel of being

and shatter it
against the rocks that hem you in;

it is you I slide into.
No, Mama,

I am not afraid.


LEAVETAKING

It is years since I first learned to think through
this sad-eyed image, his scream suspended
between us. I see him now in dusty lanes,
between sagging houses, in a Galilean village,
perhaps Cana, after a wedding,
or Capernaum, looking for fishermen.
For just a moment he stops, closes his eyes
and feels his feet, cracked and worn like leather;
he notices spasms in his thighs and
hears a groan no longer confused
with the complaints of others. Hand is lifted
to brow and the fingers tingle with
what feels like blood but is sweat. He turns

to look at the multitudes but the air
between them is crowded with heat. Then
a cool wind comes down from Galilee,
bringing with it the salty taste of whimsy:
he announces to the throng that he will
go to the stand of olive trees
outside town to pray. Stepping away,
he forbids even close friends to follow, for this
is a new request — kneeling among
shafts of darkened light
closing his eyes to the hum
of the wind through leaves to still himself,
this image imagines he has fled:
the green sheaves rush at him, pouring water

into an emptied cup. He breaks
snails in their olive shells between his teeth,
agitated, longing to strip everything away
and plunge, naked, into the waters. Like the snail,
he knows the long, patient crawl and drag
of the sea, the deep silence below
the thrashing surface. But Cephas will come
in his little boat of humanity, with the firmness —
not the stillness — of a rock, a chain
for his neck, saying: Be this,
or nothing—I will drag you to every corner
of the suffering earth. The image pulled
to float on the service of the raging waves.