The first flakes of November snow
are singular: one––two … one––one.
They come gently down from clouds,
white clouds hurrying over to keep
an appointment with approaching winter.
Suddenly thickly they hit the ground
a cold body of weather fully formed.
For four minutes, five minutes, what
was flurry becomes a full-blown squall
drawing me out of protective quarters
to see if I’ve misunderstood what it portends.
While reading in the Kalevala about the swan
of Tuonela, and Lemminkainen’s mother
and what she did, a shout went out from me
toward what or whom I cannot say.
Hacked into pieces by the son of Tuoni,
who threw the eight parts of Lemminkainen
into the river, here came his mother, carrying
a rake of iron forged by Ilmarainen. With it
she raked the reaches of Tuonela’s river until
she recovered all the fragments of her slain son.
Bones fitted, she chanted a magical song
for weaving of veins, for stitching of sinew
and flesh. Still no breath. She sent the prophetic
bee to gather salve from Jumala’s** pots. Rubbed
on his body, it would raise her son from dreams
of evil to life and speech. A mother defying
the story as told by someone else, she would
save her son from powers that bade him ill.
Her name Lempi, her action her identity as
Lemminkainen’s mother whose love prevailed.
* Finnish epic
Is there any reason on your birthday
to believe that you have not been reclaimed
from the worm of sickness that struck you down?
In August tomato worms abounded
but the physic of the gardener’s attention
plucked them and ended their tomato
dominion. Did the physic of death
end your suffering just so? Now, like tomato
plants of September, do you bear new fruit
as a sign of time well spent in struggle
to be free of the worm at last?
Drawing near on the horizon, a host
of those who have gone before. I see
them walking atop the waves as if
on a country road on a fall day.
In a murmur of voices I hear my name
spoken by them who have been
my mother, father, sister, my brother
and friend after friend who hold out
their hands in greeting. As Jesus
did, so now do I walk on the water
to meet them.
Purgatory Chasm in Sutton, Mass.—
a geological anomaly—meant
more than that to you and me
(no scientists we at five and seven)
who had come with parents
to picnic a lifetime ago.
Pictures emerge in my mind
of sharp outcroppings of towering rock
intimidating in their seeming leaning
at a cautionary angle that said, Take care,
and we did, climbing that rocky place
named by Puritans as Purgatory
where the soul is cleansed by fire
before coming into the presence of God
enabled to bear the beatific vision
which otherwise it could not, recalling
Moses, hidden in rock and waiting to see
the glory of God pass by, but only
allowed the hindmost parts, as no one
could look on the face of God and live.
As smoke rose up from our charcoal grill—
hot dogs, chips and tonic ready—
we sat at a picnic table and shared
the family meal before God.
Humbled by a spider whose web
I compromised, I apologize to this mite
a thirty-second of an inch in size.
Having noticed its perfectly formed web
with the spinner at center, resting up
for the lesson it was about to teach me
the possessor of greater size but lesser
sense compared with this fellow creature.
An exploratory poke undid perfection.
Repentance is hollow, as I know it’s too
late to undo the damage I’ve done.
But not too late to learn this lesson
and to leave untouched the rest of the web
whose author is once again resting––alive––
I hope––to possibly spin again.
Therein, nevertheless, heretofore, notwithstanding––
I love those words, strung out in a line.
Their firmness has authority with enough
flexibility to join words together with other words
to compound meaning and push at syntax.
I’d like to date such words, feeling they’re loaded
with whatever is needed to teach therefrom
something unknown heretofore.