One Perfect Magnolia

Today I saw one
perfect magnolia in a photo,
ragged white petals
wrinkled with rusty creases,
and did not need a mirror

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A Quite Corpulent Catholic Priest

A quite corpulent Catholic priest
prayed at the parish Easter feast,
“Lord, thanks for the ham
and all the little lambs
that make our cassocks’ tenting increase.”

A quite canonical Catholic priest
Prayed at the parish Easter feast,
“Lord, please change this ham
Into tender spring lambs
By transubstantiation, capiche?”

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Bring Out Your Dead

I have found it is useless to bury
the dead, or to burn them. They still
appear daily, planking on guard rails
and on the leafless branches of trees
in the spring. I’ve seen them stretched
out stiff among magnolia blossoms,
always naked, dry skin tight over bone;
and across the narrow laps of people
seated on narrow benches feeding
pigeons and gulls, wide eyes watching
for a sparrow to fall, searching among
the bright crocuses. They are naked
because the clothes in which they were
disposed were never theirs; dull, funereal.

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Raymond, From Up Miscouche Way

Raymond, from up Miscouche way,
Suffixed all comments with “Touché. ”
Driven mad by the inane,
Pierette’s constant refrain
Was, “Fuck! Ferme le bouche, Ray.”

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April 7, Cinquain

poor invalid,
lying abed, broken
legs still in white casts of snow—get
well soon

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A Single Photon Entangles Thousands of Autumns*

Six months and eight minutes ago
You were walking in an autumn afternoon,
Looking at the white strips of birch
Bark peeling away from the trunks,

You were building a blind in the field
By the river thinking about Christmas geese,
Or you had just left the office early hoping
To see the sun slant across a certain profile.

Six months and eight minutes ago
A single massless particle left the sun,
Fell down out of the blue among red
And yellow leaves drying in late October.

We know how fast its falling was
Until we looked away. It spread, then,
Into a wave and swept you up in it
Tumbling in the swell behind the frothing

Crest of light and space and time—
Did you trace white arcs of mammoth tusks
And smilodon teeth, hear the dik-dik
Dik-dik of flint being chipped along edges,

Hammered into points? Or did you taste
In the heavy winds of the dust bowl
The ashes of Peshtigo and Chicago, and
Feel the scratch and dark warmth of wool

Blankets carried as gifts out of Fort Pitt?
History did not become inevitable
Six months and eight minutes ago. But
It remains here; now, long, inescapable.

*I took the title from a headline that read A Single Photon Entangles Thousands of Atoms.

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The Face of Allah

I could not find the face of Allah
In the debris of mountain slides,
In blue fragments of mosaics,
In the desolation of stars fallen behind
The ground-down blade of the moon.

I heard rumours he spoke in many voices
From clouds gathered at shifting
Boundaries of mountains and desert,
Blown in from the repetitious sea
Raging against the non-committal coast,

But I walked through valleys draped
In shadow, their broken sides layered
In the many-coloured strata of epochs,
And heard nothing but sand hissing
Over stones at the vagrant wind.

I could not find the face of Allah whose
Presence is premised by five ululations
Breaking up morning, noon, and night,
Calling me to turn my face to the earth.
I cannot find the face of Allah.

The sea says nothing. There is nowhere
Left to look in valleys or mountains, in
Clouds or stars, or the moon deep in dust.
I search fire and smoke now, the debris
I make; wet fragments and charred bone.

* * *

Dan Bern – Jerusalem

John Prine – Pretty Good

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