Beyond Grace

Beyond Grace:  New York City,  January 2008

Yellow cab, yellow cab, van
over coats clutched
twined scarves, dry-iced January
I have to look up, Grace
I have to give myself away


New York denim and sneakers
or black over black, ubiquitous
top coats, cashmere or leather
boxes with handles
girls chitter lunch-time
bitter coffee or Diet Cokes


Grace, there was a time
when all I expected was cold
pavement spotted with chewed gum.
I am listening for Brother
down the crowded corridors.


Hard. Mean. Full of sorrow
I wait for an answer
surrender my apparitions
between exhilaration and exhaustion

I know those among us
who can teach us how to live a life
that does not feel
like a long slow death
– we may have to relinquish
how we listen.

The Teacher sings, key of survivor.
Her round eyes, her new song
Listen, Traveler — she may reach you.
Traveler – Brother lies ill
apart from us
we suffer his absence and pain.


Traveler give over to grace
for you are treasured
remember, I remember them all as well.

In the other city beside a quiet harbor
we did something real –
There we were never restless
never wordless or unkind.
Salt aired our skin, there
we were the plumb line,
no shame, no wound
the past astonished into art.


Grace touched eyes –
veterans live the body’s memory

a fevered beginning
never ends anger

the cordite touched mind
folding words,
beaten into capitulation

Brother, forgive me
I started late to reach you


It cannot be helped, Traveler
life breathes you forward
I see you racing the song
the dead would have you to hear.

Each word I hear is a source, a well —
Teacher each word, a stone
Translator –words sung the ways of wind.
three graces.

Teacher sings of collected stones
sacked away these stones
rock against each other
telling of earth’s innocence
and human ignorance

sand, chits of stones
settle in the bag’s seams
a muddled history


I enter the cathedral of stone:
polished, ordered
into earthly eminence:
marble, granite, sandstone
sheltered candle glow.

Within the wildness of God’s mercy
I receive bread and body
pray for Grace and Brother

Translator does not neglect beauty.
Teacher keeps what heartbreak bears fully.


How can you ever know
when you are another’s hero?
My sister calls: you are my rock
I place a stone in my pocket.


Metal face, verdigris smiles
all words belong to a world that comes next
Traveler, Teacher, Brother –
See?  I carry them gently.

Crows in mourning
Doves in waiting, a Stranger

knows my need to travel
to the village
for bread and wine –

sobriety asks too much.

Brother – the Stranger knows
the spring where swim

we talk,
untouchable, un-troubled

by the city
and our different voices.

Traveler, your dark Louisiana
face is memory, is mirror.

Teacher, we are not separable
from our acts – Translator

people want a keepsake
Brother – after a time

we’re supposed to forget
to move on, to get over
that God is not watching


I howl the cry of my dream,
the shadows cry back

If you want to go nowhere
follow another’s dream
latch the door to your heart

Grace would say: better to live
in your own skin, beauty will beat
a drum at the window.


Traveler – Brother – Teacher
they tell the world’s sad tales of war

Translator takes up the braid
to make the words

work across the line
the new diaspora create.


We are the griots
we are the ceiling walkers
we are the yeast bearers
we are the tick pickers
we are the knot tenders

we build cities from crumbs
sing the water song
hear the rock’s birth
kiss fire’s mouth —
we keep it in motion

we will not ignore the dead
Grace, we labor under such stress.


Translator – Brother – Teacher
speak up, we lose volume over distance
and Traveler requires
comfort noise, the friction of movement,
sound bends reality
into unfamiliar countries
different weathers, different blues,
peculiar and alone
we persevere dosed with media mythologies
the new- age pestilence.


Brother return to the fire —
Traveler tucks into shadow
with songs he did not want to sing again

Teacher does not know
her own name today

Translator is beyond the pale
and dazzling


Grace, I am lonely
with the asphalt
so hard to believe
like this: knapsack, duffel
carry away, take away
yellow cab, yellow cab
blue striped bus.

Is it naïve to say yours are the words
I paint on my skin — Brother
those who know will sigh,
those who don’t
see the illusion
of a painted whole.

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