An oversized pin cushion riddled with needles
he appears in the field on the ninth of March.
Looking no worse for the wear of winter
he inches along, waddling, stopping
sniffing the first green shoots of clover
pushing up. A spiny miracle raised up
himself, he points his snout
through Lent to Easter and eats.
When a big lethargic winter fly
crawled out from under the edge of a book
I felt disgust at the sight and thought of its
death by fire or ice. Is one more merciful
than the other? I felt no mercy in my decision
to throw it out the door into the snow.
The quicker death by fire seemed too final––
a step I wasn’t ready to take.
After a moment of conscience
I opened the door and saw where it lay
unmoving. I picked it up in a napkin shroud
and laid it by the woodstove, where its legs twitched,
it righted itself, and walked around the I.C.U.
under the stove. Would it find and eat
the smaller fly walking the window pane?
My face was in my hands
not in prayer, but in my hands
my face peeled of skin
by volcanic burst of water boiling up
from a pressure canner that lacked one handle.
The hum of the water didn’t sound right
for the simple hot-water bath the recipe
called for. Too hot? Too late. The lid blew off
when the seal was opened and a geyser of burning
broke over my face, across my chest
and down my arm, my mouth an astonished O!
All in a moment, my face was in my hands
and saving face took on a different meaning.
“The Bible is the beginning, the source. But every beginning is also in us, thus you carry in yourself your own Bible, your own Book of Koheleth [Ecclesiastes], and your own Apocalypse.”
Anna Kamienska in Astonishments
What a fortunate frame of reference
with its beginning, middle and end
from creation through growth
and years of work until the last day
a day of revelation of what it all meant––
the purpose in living and now in dying
unless some unforeseen event
has cut the ribbon of life short
as with Thomas Merton shorting out
in an electrical moment. Snap!
But no, let’s go for the fan unplugged
for the lights turned safely on
when we see clearly that we were
called, and to what and why and
how to fill the remaining pages of your
life’s book with text and illustration
of what you have seen and what you
have tasted. Tell it all. Share the wealth
waiting to be written and drawn.
Something beautiful from the woods
into the field at dusk
stepping lightly in the snow
until she startles and lopes
away from an open moment
to protective cover, hidden
but not before having been seen;
and having been seen, having
been known in the seeing.
I was a being of flesh and not of wood,
but that changed in a moment
when I Daphne fled from Apollo’s grasp.
I called to my father, the river god,
Help me, Father! Help me! No sooner
had the plea crossed my lips than
what had been foot became root
of laurel tree, fingers webbed into branches
leafing out to a startled Apollo.
When I Daphne, as fairest maiden, was lost
to him, the laurel became his own tree
whose leaves crowned athletes in games
dedicated to the amorous god whose sighs
and lamentations were hushed by the wind
that blew through the leaves of the laurel tree.
Before beginning the day’s classes
we knelt on our chairs facing backwards
and recited a litany of prayer to the saint of the day.
Then Sister read from Butler’s Lives
the life and death of that day’s saint––
burned at the stake: Joan of Arc;
drawn and quartered: Edmund Campion;
overcome by arrows: Saint Sebastian,
swooning and slumped on a pole.
Captivated by methods of deaths dealt
we recoiled and marveled, recalibrating
the value of being a martyr, of being a saint.