I suppose there are unplanted gardens in all of us. Neglected spaces. Parts of the soul lying fallow. Stores of seeds forgotten in memory. Dreams of clearings. Fresh earth, smelling both like graves and like renewing grass, wild meadows.
I look forward to teaching for the IWWG this July:
You sign your full name with a stick on the freshly poured
Path of cement: the end of the last letter returns to
your first name In the wet dust. Around, a slew of peonies
Hurry to bloom before the bluebells, before you plant them.
You surprise me with dill seeds from Grandmother
That you kept since our last trip home.
You brought her in this soil and now we are together
Through plants we touched in different countries.
Remember? A cart full of red and white grapes at the head
Of our vineyard, red wine pressed years before,
Goat’s cheese and tomatoes spread under the oak tree
And horses let loose for children whose voices ripened the earth.
I have the picture in which you crossed yourself in front of St Mary’s icon at Vatra.
It was the first week of chemotherapy when we had the service with
Seven candles and seven prayers and seven readings from the Gospels.
Seven times we walked to the altar where the priest painted crosses with holy oil
On our cheeks, on our foreheads, and the backs of our hands. For we must sin
With our minds, hurt others with our hands, and carry our shame on our faces.
So we try to redeem ourselves with our minds, and hands, and clean our cheeks.
I look at your pale profile, at your balding head in front of those candles
And ask what the mother in red and her child in white,
carefully placed In the whitest of wood frames, will do for you.
We cried with you: Mother, I, and a congregation of exiles
Dreaming their own into the smoke of the censer.
We are small gardens in strange places, small voices –
Prayers weakening with age and heavy accents hammering wrong syllables:
Does God understand us in English or our own language still?
You choose the path with handwriting that marks your name and year
And I carry your garden in my head, along with the memory of you and Mother
Embracing on the doorstep the day we received the news:
In the months to come what binds us is the most silent of prayers, unuttered still.
By now even the faith has got it wrong,
The Patriarch held hands with the invader
And praised the unjust war, with crossed candles.
The faithful broke ranks, the filigreed eggs
Sat in baskets like stones, the sweet bread
Laid on the table like a closed book.
And us, aghast at what love means
In different homes, to different people,
Unable to choose a place to pray,
Except God’s true garden: the forests,
And the sea marshes where perfect
Great white herons dance in pairs
Just above our heads, their sinewy necks
Above still water: love in mirrors—free,
Wild, calling out the pink crab apple blooms.
The dwarf pines send forth long cones,
An offering of candles lit by the sun.
Christ rises on great heron’s wings.
in the still sea:
a peony blooming
above golden sand.
When she stretches
In the water’s glow
she names my yearning
Ides of March 2022
Waves of the sea
in snowy wind:
manes of mares
white and restless—
of leaving winter.
March 12, 2022
The warring language floats in the winter air
At the words of one dictator. People forget
Preparations for Clean Monday to begin the war.
Across the border, children wake up
In the night, to the sound of bombs,
A neighborhood grocery store will turn to ruin,
And old men, together with young women
Will take up their guns, to join the army.
Old mistrust rises poisoning words.
If I could halt the madness with a call
To prayer, a reminder of old kindnesses
We all so easily tend to forget.
Today Europe is a woman
Whose body has been sliced by the birthing
Knife, over and over, her cesarean
Wound badly patched birth after birth,
Her womb crisscrossed; flesh hardened
Along ridges of history written in blood.
Protect its life-giving womb, slice her no more.
Consider the early patches of snowdrops
Under the wheels of the tanks.
Would those who fly the bomber planes
Notice the change of seasons in the sky
For the peace it could bring, and fly back home?
Will neighborly kindness revisit memory?
The world lifts its hands in prayer as Europe
Suffers. This is no birth.
Stony Brook, 27 February 2022