Healed

Communion, from The Hours of Catherine Cleves

A child is standing in a gilded church
staring at the backs of strangers
all crowded together
in heavy winter coats,
hands by their sides,
until they make the sign of peace.

She silently mouths the words
to the hymn she knows by heart,
but is too shy to sing aloud–
We hold a treasure, not made of gold…
She is thinking about school,
about a girl in her class
with bright, orange-gold hair.

“It’s red, not orange!” the girl snaps,
and shows off her new necklace
from Hawaii. And the child wonders
why she can’t have hair like that–
like the color of volcanic fire.
Why is her own hair so brown?

The voice behind her is a tenor.
The priest is wearing purple–
the color of royalty.
The gold felt banner by the altar reads: Celebrate!
Her hair is brown like the pews,
like the soft, leather kneelers.

Earthen vessels…She mouths the words.
Her hair is the color of earth,
the color of the ceramic jug
in the corner of the basement
covered with dust and daddy long legs.
Wealth untold…the hymn says.

“I am not worthy,” speaks the congregation in unison.
And for one moment, the child feels worthy.
Because none are worthy.
And she joins in this time, on cue,
“But only say the word…
and I shall be healed.”

{Linking to dVerse for open link night. The final words of this (autobiographical) poem are a bit strange, unless you’re a Catholic. Here is a good explanation. Here is a link to the hymn, Earthen Vessels: https://youtu.be/IAZhIw49ULc }

Shelter Cat {a Rubaiyat}

A cat is curled and sleeping. His clipped ear 
shows. “That’s how we know,” a volunteer 
explained. (It’s all the information we gain)
In his new home he dreams about the year—

twitching, crying out, remembering rain.
His sunny lanai is serene. Then hurricane.
A neighbor child hoots and screeches. Fast
and blatantly brash. It’s her domain.

Repeating words again and again. Outcast.
”Play elsewhere”, they tell young enthusiast.
From carpet austere, cat listens. Places one
mushroom colored paw over his ears at last.

But now is the soft sound of day being done.
All the leaves have fallen, red as the sun.
Grass grown. Engines down. Darkness begun,
waking the cat and the night in unison.

{The rubaiyat is a lovely and challenging form. I learned quite a bit about its origins and about Fitzgerald’s work (a translation with a unique beauty of its own) which popularized it. I am looking forward to reading it in its entirety in the near future. Linking to dVerse.}

Bee at Dawn {a Sonnet}

We worked all night, under white-roofed hood,
praying for sun-ripened blooms to bear
fruit forbidden by sullen shadow’s stare.
We who woke to partly cloudy understood
(in part), knowing we were the ones who could.
Day by day, stepping toward our dogged fear,
toward a sweet, petaled puppeteer,
year after pre-dawn year (none yielding as it should).

So I step toward sunlit morning, stubborn
in my own way, cold and soberly clutching
last night’s vigil, last year’s vacuous words to warn.
And with new prayers, I begin again to cling
and crawl, placing word after word on pages torn–
a busy bee, bumbling free, flying from a honeyed thing.

{We’ve been challenged to write a sonnet at dVerse this month and to try using enjambment. I chose the Petrarchan sonnet form. I’m glad we have been given several weeks to write and edit it. I wrote the first version about a week ago. This revision is quite different than my original. I started this poem with just one word– sullen. It just sounded right to me. And then came the words of the turn or volta– So I step toward sunlit morning. The rest of the poem took shape as I wrote it. The form actually helped me. I don’t think it would ever have gone in the direction it did without the constraints of the form.}