Here are ten religious poems worth knowing.
Like sacred-texts, only with more rhythm. There’s a beat and a breeze here.
The beat and the breeze, my heart belongs here.
It shall rest in these words for a while from now on, until it can find a way to love itself once again that it may finally learn to love a second, third, fourth — hell, more, more than four — other throbbing sentient hearts.
Ease in their passing my beloved friends,
all others too I have cared for in a travelling life,
anyone anywhere indeed. Lift up
sober toward truth a scared self-estimate.
So from the ground we felt that virtue branch
Through all our veins till we were whole, our wrists
As fresh and pure as water from a well,
Our hands made new to handle holy things,
The source of all our seeing rinsed and cleansed
Till earth and light and water entering there
Gave back to us the clear unfallen world.
Recalled from the shades to be a seeing being,
From absence to be on display,
Without a name or history I wake
Between my body and the day.
and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun’s light
There’s a Rembrandt glow on his face,
a triangle of orange in the hollow of his cheek
as a last flash of sunset
blazes the storefronts and lit windows of the street.
Our Father who art in heaven, I am drunk.
Again. Red wine. For which I offer thanks.
I ought to start with praise, but praise
comes hard to me. I stutter. Did I tell you
about the woman whom I taught, in bed,
this prayer? It starts with praise; the simple form
keeps things in order. I hear from her sometimes.
the use of my body. It’s only hands
I care about, my mouth that still
loves. Even in sleep, I feel
his fingers reading my terrified face,
tracing my lips like a patient lover.
He found my breath. You bastards
can have my body.
I aspire to “a self-forgetful,
perfectly useless concentration,”
as Elizabeth Bishop put it.
So who shall I say I am?
I’m a prism, an expressive temporary
sentience, a pinecone falling.
I can hear my teacher saying, No.
That misses it.
suddenly a veritable balm
and I’m so touched by these amazing goings-on
that I’ve forgotten all about the autumn
staring straight at me: still alive, still golden.
What’s gold, anyway, compared to poetry?
a trick of chlorophyll, a trick of sun.
True. It was something, my changing tree
with its perfect complement: a crimson vine,
both thrown into panic by a Steller’s jay,
but it’s hard to shake the habit of digression.
Wandering has always been my people’s way
whether we’re in a desert or narration.