A group of cedar waxwings
jumps among the red berries in this holly,
December morning in 2014,
as I walk from building to building
Have you ever seen one?
Plain gray-green body,
the bottom edge of its tail
dipped in chrome yellow,
eyes masked with black triangles
like a robber,
the head sleek, topped with a crest,
as though sitting still
were an insult to the effect
of fierce forward thrust.
Who do I thank?
intelligent evolutionary design,
or the gears of random forces meshing
and unmeshing for a billion years?
Their breasts heave up and down,
quick little breaths,
proof of the work of flight
that has brought them to this moment
where we meet.
To these cedar waxwings romping
romping in the holly tree, swallowing berries,
having flown as a bunch
from somewhere up north
to Atlanta, Georgia 30307
where cars and concrete are king,
and to whatever gave me eyes
to behold them with
and the momentary sense to look up,
I say thank you.
The Cosmos in the Cave
In the three black-and-white ultrasound images
that my daughter sends us
we see the next member of our family
gestating at 20 weeks.
Curled and nestled in the warm cave of her belly,
we see its tiny hand held out
against the black backdrop of what
looks like space swirled and dotted with stars,
and parts of the baby, the vertebrae, for instance,
shine, one two three four buttons of light,
as it floats there in the cosmos.
Just an image, I know,
the dark and light are artifacts of the process,
but this secret growing in closed, pocketed space
against the vast, galaxied universe
seems just right.
Arising out of the prolific and prodigal dark
we nurse on nebulas,
each one of us swims in divine debris,
even as we’re bound for earth,
and soon to be delivered,
kicking and screaming, here.
The Wonders of Emphathy, Or a Brother Found
In the practice of extending empathy to another
I discover compassion for a new brother.
While resting on a Sunday
gearing up for the working week’s try,
I consider how like
the common housefly am I.
When it’s zooming about in such a hurry,
all I hear is the sawmill of its worry.
And then from the quiet I think
the fly has found peace when it lands,
but upon closer inspection
I see him wringing his tiny hands.
I’m up on the ladder outside
facing you on the inside.
I spray, then rub
corner to corner and in between
till the window is clean and dry.
From your perspective
you see what I can’t.
You tap here, here, and here,
showing me the spots I missed.
I hold my annoyance in check
and go at it with gusto.
You shout through the window to change sides
of the cloth, that it’s dirty, leaving streaks.
I make a face, irritated
that my effort isn’t good enough for you.
My efforts are never good enough for you
is the thundering in my head.
Every marriage has its themes--
cleaning is one of ours,
me and you and your first-generation German parents:
We take care of things--we do things right.
It was slow-going, cleaning those windows.
However, you were right--
not about everything, I have to add,
even though you can’t defend yourself--
but you were so right about this.
Even if the work stole the whole afternoon,
the light drenching our rooms was of a different order,
like the light in the heaven of your eyes
in our best moments.
April, Atlanta, pollen--
people advised me to wait--
but remembering how light the light looked,
I didn’t listen.
Which is why I’m on the ladder
to wash windows for the first time by myself.
I have to clear cobwebs and the leaves hung up in them
before I can spray and polish hard
with the old tshirt fished out of the ragbag.
Not long into it,
I am surprised to see you through the window.
You approach the glass
and tap here and here
showing me again what I am missing.
My old irritation softens
into a warm joke between us;
a quick stab of regret burns
and then I soften also to the fool I was
not to have climbed down, run inside,
thrown my arms around you--
even while holding the cloth
and the Windex bottle--
and to have kissed your nourishing lips.
I keep working on this set of six mullioned panes,
then go inside, spot the flaws,
and mark the streaks with ripped bits
of blue masking tape.
Back in the air again with rag and spray
I target the taped places,
and then realize with a laugh
that the color of this torn tape
is the closest I’ll get
to the shining okay I used
to receive from you.