The Iron Bridge, Coalbrookdale

David Morse

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Poetry

The Gardener

Treat the soil as your body.
Pause to ask the weed's permission
as you start to pull, feel the roots relax.
Honor the stones.
In times of drought, take
what you can from dew.

Remember that wisdom grows
not in one leaf but in many.
May you have abundance
even as you have less, and joy
even as you suffer unforeseeable
pain, refulgent and green.

May you have as much understanding
as you can tolerate, enough chaos
for compost; enough wonder
to feed your love. May you know
when the task is complete
and when your hands are full.

Come Back to me, you said

Back to pale sky, snow striping forest
like a goat's jawbone in ashes, back to
Connecticut at the tag end of December.
Bare trees stitch sky and earth together
like thorns through cold lips of remembrance.
I want to telephone you, tell you I'm home safe -
as if you'd somehow waited for me, though
I told you not to wait, said goodbye.
Come back to me, you said.

Now I am back and you are gone
I want to dial your number under this
bone cold sky and fill your ears with
stories of Sudan, warm you with red
clay the color of rust and share mangos
from western Nile; unfold for your fingertips
the magic carpet of Nairobi scams.
People-packed matatus careen pell-mell
in and out of traffic, weaving blue smoke
choreographed by guys who slap the roof
and yell to lure not-so-sure customers
into hip-hop blare, slide the door open
and slide the door closed in a ballet
to keep the fourteen seats filled.

All this: the refugee who fled helicopter
spotlight, saw his eight brothers killed
still looks for mother and sister, camp
surrounded by coils of concertina wire,
Maasai with milk white bulls dying of thirst,
unfamiliar birdsong, the Rift Valley's skewed
shadows stretching like wings into evening:
I want to lay it all at your feet, now that
I am back, but you are gone far away
your hands folded into the safety of dust.

"Honor the Stones", from David's chapbook. Available from Dogwood Press.

Waiting for Spring

I take the first pew in this rough church,
seat myself on flat stones and look up
at fractured bedrock bulging skyward,
vertical black stripe painted by groundwater
curved into a bow, picture the arrow flying
across the valley and try not to think about
Darfur, or the woman at the embassy of Sudan
whose job is to delay requests for visas,
or flies dabbling in a dead baby's wound,
women's eyes dulled by rape and loss
of everything; helicopter gunships, devils
on horseback. This is Connecticut,
green land waiting for spring to untie
the black knot of winter. Soon will come
choirs of spring peepers, skunk cabbage.
Last night on a hill I inhaled the soft
sweet fragrance of maple sap funneling
moonlit steam into the shape of Africa.

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© copyright David Morse, 2003-2011