Easter Sunday, ’19.
Every poem an elegy,
Each moment of breath is a debt owed the dead.
To live is to die longing to hold and behold the face
Of the mystery that brought us here. O, Holy: what keeps us here.
Holy the sun above us. Holy the watchful eyes of our mothers.
Holy the breeze. Holy what returns to the Earth, which, too, is mother
To everything that will cleave. And if my body is earth, then what, after
It’s been plowed, will flower here? O, Holy that which must spring
Forth out of us to quench another’s thirst, or be the answer to
Another’s hunger. Though blood-stained the soil might be, there is
A man, who with tender hands, picks out of it berries. The red
Stain on his favorite shirt, it is not blood. O Rain, it falls
All the same. For the one who prayed for it and in spite
Of the death of the rain dancer. Somewhere, vultures circle
Above a mother hen as she gathers her brood under her wings.
Holy what makes a home of what is thrown out the Ocean’s guts.
Holy the strings. Holy the shells. Holy the straws. Holy the bottle
Caps. Holy, too, the bodies that won’t return to us. Holy the body,
How it bends under the weight of a log severed. Holy the body
Broken. Holy the cup that holds the spilled blood. Holy
Our hands stained with thick black oil. Holy the shoulders
That carry, in black trash bags, the weight of our sins.
Holy the trail of red harvester ants, how they do not have,
In their language, the word for border. Holy the seeds they carry
Like the reward of a day’s labor. Holy the labor of naming
What will, if not named, be dead. Holy the body. Holy the body
Of the beloved. O, Love! Holy moly, my hand in yours! O Worry,
Wife of my youth, mother of our imminent desolation, what else
Can you birth? As one does a ticket, Lord, I tender my worry. In its stead,
Give me wonder—a ram with horns caught in the thick of the thicket—
So I can learn to say: I wonder about the future, I wonder what I’ll leave
Behind. To say: I am alive, in love, in the age of wonder. To watch
My sister make, for the woman I love, a bracelet. Each letter
Of her name strung on a string with beads of green, a piece
Of a snail’s shell, and a metal crown inside of which is a small
White pearl. To know this too as a poem. Lord, gift me this
Moment as a never-ending loop stitched inside my cornea.
Yes, I want it all, my rage and my joy though both will kill me.
I want the honey inside the carcass and, too, the dislodged jaw
Of the beast. The blood-stained concrete, take that from me but
Let me keep the crack giving way to the budding of a wildflower.
Note: The poem takes its title from the chorus of John Mayer’s The Age of Worry. “Each moment of breath is a debt owed the dead” has in its right ear June Jordan’s “To live means you owe something big to those whose lives are taken away from them” (from the introduction to Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays) while “To live is to die . . .” has “What is living, anyway, but dying” (from Sharon Olds’s Known to Be Left) in its left ear. “And if my body is earth, then what . . . will flower here?” expands on a question—“And if my body is earth, then what?”—in Robert Bly’s The Owlets at Nightfall.