Monday, December 23, 2013

Alaska Shorts: Three Poems by Anne Caston

And Though God's Eye

      is on the sparrow, this one
nevertheless falls today to earth
having dashed itself head-long against
the windowed wall of my study, a pane
it did not see in time to save itself.

The unbroken wing folds.
The blank black bead of an eye looks skyward.

By the time a trowel can be found
in the musty shed with which to bury
the small, newly-dead, first stars shine
overhead along the edges of space.
The mute rooster of my neighbor's

weathervane swings mournfully on the spine
of his roof, quivering north, northwest.

Trees begin to shiver in a storm-wind
and pink roses balance on their tall stems
dropping pale petals over the final
resting-place. The evening tide
shushes in and out

along the Atlantic side of the island.
In the God-blink of an eye, he fell.

Office At The Parting Of The Soul From The Body
When A Man Has Suffered A Long Time

Gone now, for him, the prickly
nettle of the body and its ambient

desires. Gone too, the doused
      dreams, slurred wakings, a life

lately measured in pills. Done now, the daily
      ritual of wasting, the ruined flesh

roused over and over from repose
      and conveyed, feet-first, into the argent
light and burred clicks of the MRI. Gone
      for good: catheters, syringes, the ferrous
after-taste of food on the tongue. Absent:
      clock, watch, metronome, pulse.

Time, as he's known it, slides
      into oblivion's iron-white hand-

kerchief, slipped from the mortal hand
      into the wine-dark casks of eternity.

Forgive me, Father, for I have
      wanted to say to the Psalmist

and priest and to the whole wretched
      scripture-wrecked Body of Christ,

Oh, for once, will you
      please just shut up.

The Fix

            for Jonas (1939 – 1999)


What if I told you my heart travels towards you always,
     still, wildflowers and purple thistle in my fist

to make up for the pristine lilies I sent   
     when you were buried?

Would it please you to know     
     I opened your coin-purse yesterday

and emptied the silver dimes you'd saved
     since 1961 into a beggar's hat?

Or that I gave the neighbor's boy your slingshot and the rotted
     bag of worn-smooth pebbles you called Goliath stones?

I kept your prayer shawl, though
     I do not pray. Nights now, as firelight burns

low in the stone hearth, it warms me
     to remember you and how, for hours, we argued

law and scripture and whether afterlife existed
     and, if it did, where we'd like to see Hitler spend it.


When Death swept through last century and stripped you
     of your little wool jacket with the goldenrod

star your mother had sewn on by hand, you
     vowed to have it out with God one day.

I hope you do.  I hope you fix God in your steely
     sights and let Him have it good.


I'm glad that we were foolish then enough to lie
     for hours in the dew-laced river-

grass and mud, watching for falling
     stars so we could wish the world

whole enough that we could be
     together – Jew and not-Jew – without trouble.

But even if it isn't – never will be – I am thankful
     you were in the world with me

and that we lived that century well
     as we could between the two of us.

Fifty-two Sabbath twilights now, I've washed 
      at this sink, watching darkness sweep through

wiping the evening gold and rose from the sky
      and throwing its shadow over every thing

I've tried to get by heart: the too-unruly lawn gone gray,
      the river's face a sable blank, the crooked half-wall
vanished.  I've watched the lights
      come warmly up in other people's houses

while everything I think I know plunges
       blackly out of sight.

If, one day, the sky goes wholly-dark
      I want to believe that, somewhere,
beyond the old blood-gospels of sacrifice
      and slaughter, of ritual and religion, beyond
the small firelights of our own time and space, a new
      gospel of love will open before us
there – wherever we might find ourselves –
      like a new tongue we've want most to learn.

Anne Caston is a professor and former nurse. She was as 1996-97 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at University of Wisconsin-Madison and the 1999-2000 Jenny McKean Moore Fellow in Poetry at the George Washington University in Washington DC. Currently, Anne Caston is core faculty in poetry in the Low-Residency M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She is author of Flying Out With The Wounded (NYU Press, 1997) Judah's Lion (THP, 2009), and Prodigal (Aldrich Press, 2014). She lives with her husband, Ian Gallimore, in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

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Anne Caston said...

Thank you, Deb & Linda, for featuring these today. So honored!

Anne said...

Lovely, Anne. Love the irreverence of "Office..." A lot. Great to read your work. Happy Holidays. We fly on Thursday, to Colorado, but back in a week. ~ Sandy

Eric said...

Beautiful, Anne. Just beautiful.