Sanctuary (adapted from Psalm 24)

Raise high the roof beam carpenters

Open wide the city gates

Let those once turned away now enter
Welcome the ones who are seeking shelter

Who has the right to sanctuary?
Who is pure enough to stand in a holy place?
Who is gifted enough to climb a sacred mountain?

Nobody owns the earth
The earth takes care of us
We must also be caretakers
We all rose out of a distant sea
That ancient ocean can drown us again

The worker rejected by the builder
Is now the city’s architect
Children found alive in the camps
Are now the peacemakers
You who turn your eyes to worthless things
You can not see what is beautiful
But those who do not swear to a lie
They will witness the truth

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not merely words

not merely words for discord
what makes the other rich
the good old days again
verseless penniless
in debt til we die
kicked out of paradise
immersed in hard labour
not glib and not sentimental
daring not to encrypt ourselves
such underwhelming bits of flesh
with only a candle wick to light the way

we’ve instigated nothing new
no creation to unveil
no wedding glass to break

we bend our shaven heads
toward the night
forsaking humour
half-in, half-out
without words of angst or anger

an I who speaks, an I who stands
despite all the dark thoughts

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POTUS in Squirreltown

We make him famous, with our busy mouths,
this man who is more servant than bruised leader,
petrified, tangled in his own lines,
leaving the reporters cooling their heels.
As for me, my lips won’t be sealed in service
to his fear, or some ancient civic deference.
Yet my mouth goes dry hearing his triumphalist clichés;
invited to laugh like a child at his stale put-downs.
He has replaced himself with an empire of followers:
the morose, the sunny, the shy, the stalled.
I become, without agreement, his private doctor;
treating this naked man, stuffed full of doubt,
reduced to the remnants of a public self,
timid and free, fragile and powerful.
We have become the henchmen to his emotions,
swinging daily from impotent anger to gleeful gloating.

Then, he was in fame’s sweet mosh pit;
soon he will languish, not knowing where to turn.
Notoriety gives him the kiss of life and we cringe.
Then, the country was glued to his side and he gushed;
now, I close my eyes, cold to the warm glow of the TV.
When I open them again, it’s the same old show:
celebrity coat-tails, Jesus moments, power-brokers.
We know he makes provision for torture.
His trembling effusion is the mannerism of a squirrel
who renders the air with his pitiful cry.
What will he learn, caught in his own circle of fire,
when only the winter wind can keep him from falling.

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Inauguration Day Lament

It’s what you’d do, tempt fate to console her
Except you’re busted, her hope’s crushed
Caught without the elixir of money
Both marching on into the dark

We persist in eating and sleeping
While rulers write off our identities
Invest in our bad luck, our family failures
Trading inside on what’s beyond the dark horizon

Nightmares of mafia capos and national security
Making the bed in which we all sleep naked
No angels hold us in their hypnotic grip

We work for gods of celebrity and greed
Who make public service into the great unknown
While they empty out our wallets into what they own

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New Year’s Poem

the summer pond is mystical, in winter not merely stone
when light slants in a certain way, at a particular time
on a particular day, then something happens:
an uncertainty wilder than one imagined

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a beautiful derangement

the ambiguous pattern of Escher’s tessellated sky
shifting, translating, turning about an axis

he researches his poems by reading the daily news
his perceptual art proudly insincere in its categories of
simulated poetic thinking
one more mark in an accumulation of marks
every line splitting a singularity into a plurality
the beautiful made resistant

the frame changes the photograph
water flowing through the city now a lament
what was once tender now impossible to look upon

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Late Night Processional

their lights have been left on
so we can see how empty are their offices
plants soon to be watered
by people they will never meet

in this towering cathedral of glass and steel
the weave of metal roof beams
mimes the reach of real branches
under which to shelter

amid the remnants of the day
the floor polisher slowly arcs his rotating brush
while the unbreakable terrazzo
echoes with high heels

in front of the white-shirted security guards
the window-washer strides by
his harness unhooked for now
from the high wire

across the marble floor
as if walking on water
lost tourists and late diners
head toward unknown reunions

amid this empire of teak desks and counters
bare walls stripped of significance
we are granted, for a brief moment,
our minor mandate

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