Friday, October 21, 2016

This Is Your Space

This is your space,
your querencia, your retreat,
a safe spot formed by three walls
(two walls and the doorway)
in the entry to your apartment,
wallspace plastered with pictures --
a chaotic choirloft of saints,
laminated photos of six recent popes,
tens of images of Our Lady,
cards with pious verses --
from each thumbtack hangs
a rosary, a chaplet.

This is where you go each morning
an hour or two before dawn
to address some hallowed words
(from the Psalmist, the Gospels, George Herbert)
to the Light that shines
in what Dylan Thomas called
"the close and holy darkness."

This is where you go each night
asking the Heart of Heaven
to keep watch over those
who wake or work or weep:
kith and kin, friends and strangers,
precious souls both far and near.

This is your domestic oratory,
prayer corner,
peninsula of peace.


the poet in me gets goofy and rehearses
a sequence of three dozen villanelles
in honour of each of your ten precious toes
but i suspect madame you'd think me rude
because of this reckless infatuate garland
of six thousand eight hundred forty verses
still when i think of you my glad heart swells
& when i see you my smitten soul goes
incandescent with holy gratitude
i rejoice that you exist my beautiful friend

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Tell Me

I want to know your shoe size, your middle name.
I want to know the name of your first pet.
What were the movies you loved back in high school?
And do you dance the samba?

I want to know your favorite flavor of ice cream,
The records you listened to when you were twelve.
What were the books you read at least ten times?
And are you allergic to pollen?

I wonder if you have a lucky number,
If you think the letter G is red or blue.
What teachers opened whole new worlds to you?
And can you stand baked beans?

Are dry martinis your thing, or cabernet?
Or Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger Tea?
Who's your favorite British prime minister?
And why do I like you so much?

Tell me all the things that don't seem to matter,
Give me the happy trivia of your life!
I will hold these facts about you in my heart.
I will think of you and smile.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

To Aeronwy Thomas

I remember that day a year before you died
when Dan announced to the St Paul's coffee-group
that you, Aeronwy Thomas,
daughter of my all-time-favourite poet,
would be reading that night at the Grolier.
I didn't go. I had some weak excuse:
didn't want to leave my apartment,
didn't want to travel in the dark.

Perhaps I was afraid --
afraid of how I'd react to seeing in person
the daughter of my venerated Dylan.
I might have burst into tears,
or into nervous explosions of words,
blubbering and gushing praises
to your late father.
It might have scared you.
It might have scared me!

Your father wasn't just a poet to me.
He wasn't the down-to-earth Seamus Heaney
signing my copy of Field Work, and smiling
at my teenage exuberance.
He wasn't John Ashbery, delightfully bickering
with James Merrill about the double sestina
in that legendary twin bill of a reading
at Mount Holyoke.

Dylan Thomas taught me my own language.
He was a working-class lad from the "provinces"
with a tenth-grade education,
a young dog roaring like a druid lion,
a verbal Merlin on a pagan sabbath
glorying the grass, brooks, nooks, dales, vales,
the oceans above, alive and bright with stars; --
hymnographer of a bellicose century,
voice of a curly cardigan'd angel
thundering peace to the coal-black veins of the earth.

My idol's middle child,
I put your name through the YouTube search engine,
and found you reading your own poems
from a book called Later than Laugharne.

How shall I describe your voice?
I'll steal from Dante Gabriel Rossetti:
It was "a hand laid softly on the soul."

When I heard the first few words
you spoke into the video recorder --
"My name is Aeronwy Thomas" --
I started weeping.

You are almost as familiar as family,
since your father's name and work
so filled and thrilled my adolescence
among triple-deckers and fire-hydrants,
among noise and airports and America.
I learned by heart his psalms to the estuary
stretching beneath the Boat House,
his hymns to the cormorant, to
herons and shells
that speak seven seas
eternal waters away
from the cities of nine days' night ...

Your father in the flesh
was my father in the art.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


This is sweet Leah's year,
the year her cherished name
shines in the stratosphere!

Whenever she draws near,
my heart, wild beast, grows tame.
This is her year, the year

of many a joyful tear!
Loneliness, doubt, and shame
are quite unheard-of here!

Dejection, disappear!
Priests and poets, proclaim
the year of Leah, the year

when deserts vast and sere
blaze bright with flower-flame,
blessing the atmosphere.

The gods I once held dear
seem blind and deaf and lame.
Sad heart, be of good cheer:
This is sweet Leah’s year!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

On Prayer


When mobs run riot
And tempers flare
My soul seeks quiet
I sit in a chair

And aim to embrace
The silent Love
Whose unseen face
Smiles from above


When rulers flout
Our precious right
When mad crowds shout
Against the light

My faint heart needs
A sacred place
To tell my beads
To the Queen of Grace

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Guess What

Against the cracked asphalt
of the parking lot,
it's raining
with a persistence
much like the chatter
of a three-year-old child
pulling at sleeves, impatient
to have us grown-ups
guess what.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Prayer by Candlelight

Let self be stilled.
Enter your heart's church, head bowed low.
Receive the Light that pacifies,
That silences those nagging little voices.

Dim the room to a hush.
Stop trying to control, to force, to push.
Rest beyond must and ought and should.
Let now be Now.