Chiaroscuro

My words aren’t holding up so well these days.  I’ve started a number of entries that didn’t amount to a hill of beans.  So I’m hiding out in poetry these days, trying hard to listen.  Here are the three I keep coming back to.

THE ROWING ENDETH
I’m mooring my rowboat
at the dock of the island called God.
This dock is made in the shape of a fish
and there are many boats moored
at many different docks.
“It’s okay.” I say to myself,
with blisters that broke and healed
and broke and healed
– saving themselves over and over.
And salt sticking to my face
and arms like a glue-skin
pocked with grains of tapioca.
I empty myself from my wooden boat
and onto the flesh of The Island.

“On with it!” He says
and thus we squat on the rocks by the sea
and play – can it be true – a game of poker.
He calls me.
I win because I hold a royal straight flush.
He wins because He holds five aces,
A wild card had been announced
but I had not heard it
being in such a state of awe
when He took out the cards and dealt.

As he plunks down His five aces
and I am still grinning at my royal flush,
He starts to laugh,
and laughter rolling like a hoop
out of His mouth and into mine,
and such laughter that He doubles right over me
laughing a Rejoice-Chorus
at our two triumphs.
Then I laugh,
the fishy dock laughs
the sea laughs.
The Island laughs.
The Absurd laughs.

Dearest dealer,
I with my royal straight flush,
love you so for your wild card,
that untamable, eternal,
gut-driven ha-ha
and lucky love. 
Anne Sexton

THE PONDS
Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe
their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them-

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch
only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided-
and that one wears an orange blight-
and this one is a glossy cheek
half nibbled away-
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled-
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.

I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing-
that the light is everything-that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.
Mary Oliver

Allegro
After a black day, I play Haydn,
and feel a little warmth in my hands.
The keys are ready. Kind hammers fall.
The sound is spirited, green, and full of silence.
The sound says that freedom exists
and someone pays no tax to Caesar.

I shove my hands in my haydnpockets
and act like a man who is calm about it all.
I raise my haydnflag. The signal is:
“We do not surrender. But want peace.”
The music is a house of glass standing on a slope;
rocks are flying, rocks are rolling.
The rocks roll straight through the house
but every pane of glass is still whole.
Tomas Tranströmer

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