4 Poems For Mourning

“This Wounded Geometry”


What is this wounded geometry circumscribing the earth?

This scarred ecology?

This shattered geography?

This grieving anthropology?


This biology of barrenness, encircled by easy, shimmering life,

hollowed out and pitted by these hallowed, pious monuments to ghosts never-born,

who still whisper in their perfect natality, crying to be protected

from the always oncoming storm.

These ghosts remain with us for a long time. Maybe always.


What is this crack in the surface where beauty escapes, gasping for air?

What is that breach in the wall where love stumbles out, bruising its knees?


Heavy heads and hands bearing the weight of crumbling mountains,

lacerated by the cracks, fissures, and clefts that birth the visions

that put us on our feet before they bring us to our knees.


This love, this beauty, this gratitude are too heavy to bear.

They have been flung, screaming and weeping, from the depths of the earth.

They have been formed in violent protest, against our wills,

softening our hearts on this field of death,

stilling and quieting us before the end,

inspiring us into resigned submissiveness.

The brimming heart, the welling eye, the trembling hand;

they owe their existence to a groaning world heaving beyond its borders,

gasping itself into purple sunsets;

spasming into green fields and glistening rivers;

hemorrhaging into warm blankets on cold nights and children playing in yards;

shuddering, quivering into Brahms and Ellington and Rodin.


Out of the shrieking lamentations of an always convulsing earth–

Cherry Blossoms, cool breezes, newborn babies, eternal love.

Our mourning has taken us into the collapsing bowels where we were made.

But coming home is little comfort;

perspective only sharpens the knife, anticipates its origins.

We live inside the quakes and groans of a world asunder.

And we of all people know from whence those blossoms and breezes.


What is this marred and blighted chemistry?

This bruised and battered physics?

This disfigured astronomy?

This neurology of sorrow?

We live inside a wound so long and deep–

There are stars.


“Not All; Not Yet”


God heal me–

but not all

Save me from this mourning

–but not yet


I need these broken hands and bruised shoulders

these cracked and weary feet, these haunted eyes,

attuned to the wince and the tremble,

to the cry and the shudder.

This broken body is a story.

It is the story of all stories,

and it fits me for a place within the darkened hollows where my people live.


I need these ragged edges,

these worn and tattered borders,

this pierced and bleeding heart.

Wholeness would let nothing in,

a fortress of integrity

where alone I raise a glass and watch the world burn.


My God, my god–your wounded hands and weeping eyes

reveal to me in terrible solemnity

the essence of eternity.


God heal me within these wounds

but let the scars remain.

And when there is nothing left to love

make me whole again.


“Angels and Demons”


I saw the Devil fall like lightning

or the Angel erupting from the scorching abyss.

The lines are blurred, our vision is not what it once was.

We are weary from wars, worn out from vigilance,

but too alert in our watchtowers to notice

that our love is not what it once was, either, if it had ever been

the kind of love that held us together even when we bored ourselves

to death with our own stories.

That kind of love is the love that endures all things, even and especially one another.


In wars there are only angels and demons

And they are all of one side, to our side, to their side.

Where are the humans? The heavenly host advances

while the devil’s armies wail and gnash their teeth.

But the humans are lost to time; forgotten, fuzzy streaks of stubborn grey

in a pitiless universe that roils in the terrible colors of righteous battle.

Supernovas, collapsing black holes, imploding stars–the ecstasies of a satisfied universe.


“But they are immense, and corrupt, and break

the bones of their loved ones!” cries Angel 1.

“They wallow in blind madness, grinding their teeth, dispatching

their terrible armies of universal ‘love!’ ” cries Angel 2.

“They cannot be allowed to live!” they both cry in unnoticed unison.

But they are drowned out by still other angels, singing that they would

fight for their side any day.

For their side had the right of it, the right evidence, the right stories

The right way to love, the right way to think, the right way to die.


Out and above the killing fields, on an imperious and haughty ledge jutting out

over the scene, there stands the Observer.

She chronicles the battles, tallies the losses.

All the angels will eventually turn to her, turn on her,

mocking the fierce falseness of that ledge, condemning its delusional objectivity.

“You must take sides,” they insist, not noticing the blood seeping from her wounds.

But she was an angel once, and one day she couldn’t see any other

angels, only demons, everywhere.

And she became enraged and embittered and afraid and fled into exile, alone on the

mountain, shattered and broken.

Until one day she found that impossible ledge and crept out on to it,

and all the angels in the fields engaged in righteous battle still looked like demons, but this

time, if she looked long enough and listened intently enough, and stayed perfectly still,

she could will one–just one–into human form.


And at that moment love–the kind of love that stops you in your tracks, silences your

thoughts, makes that very moment a fixed point in time forever–

pierced her and made her bleed, and she bled from every pore.


With impossible resolution she moved onto the next angel-turned-demon

and did the same, and bled the more, and now out of her eyes,

but especially from her hands, which hold the burdens and heal the wounds, and defend the heart.

She wept at the pain, but the bearing of it

breathed new life into her scars and gave them

renewed meaning again and reminded her

that in a world where faith would fail, and

prophecy would fail, and knowledge would fail,

there was only one thing that would never fail.


But the angels in the fields were tired and frustrated.

They knew all this, and in fact they had patented the works of love

and therefore wielded them with righteous fervor

against the demons as against an all-consuming singularity.

Love was theirs, they held the high ground, and now for the final advance–


Here we will lie down and weep, when we remember Zion.

Zion is nothing but human bodies, bodies everywhere,

Far flung to every possible horizon.

Zion is terrible in its stubbornness for the earth

in its refusal to ascend to heaven

without these beautiful, wondrous, worn, frail, flawed human bodies.

But Zion is fled.

Here there is only the crunch of corpses.

Angels and demons, arms and legs entangled, certain of their perfect love, to the end.


“Carry on, the night”

Or if on joyful wing Cleaving the sky

Sun, moon, and stars forgot, Upward I fly,

Still all my song shall be Nearer, my God, to thee

Nearer, my God, to thee, Nearer, to thee!”

–Sarah F. Adams


Carry on, the night

and without the stars

in this telestial blackened ruin.

But I will lie here and trace the constellations.


Carry on, the night

and without the moon

in this terrestrial lonely crater.

But I will sit here and pull the tides.


Carry on, the night

and without the sun

no longer on your celestial horizon.

But I will stand here.

In the crushing darkness, full and mighty and without stars.

I will stand.

I will be the light.

Waiting for the Light.

So carry on, the night.


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