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Cave of Poems

after theophany

angular
awful
awkwardness
foldedness
of the twisted elbows
a praying
prey
of the praying mantis
a botched
hieroglyph
on a torn canvas
a charred
bush
on Mount Sinai—
unwanted
by God and eternal fire
unused
undone
unfinished

barren tree

RE-GIFTER

 

hand

Palms
Of expectant hands tremble in tension, hang before me
In vain.
Eyelashes curve
Into a question mark:
“What will you give?” Pounding pupils
Beat like a pulse of a monstrous need.
An intractable migraine of giving.
“What have you bought, made? What token
Of lasting affection?”

This is the time of rustling.
Time of giving, they call it. Presents
Travel in an unending, jammed holiday traffic,
Wrapped and bowed, past me, rainbow-shined,
crinkled paper, sizes and shapes.
Smiles and thanks.
Some seem sincere.
I stand
Drenched,
A tinseled object of nicety,
Receiver of timely kindness, considered and sized and given good things,
In their whirpooled midst like a pillar of petrified breath.
A mossed spruce in a magic forest.

I stand empty-handed, the source of nothing.
I have
But what I’ve been given.
I am
But what I’ve been made.

Trembling hands are waiting, and I give
What isn’t mine.
A destined conduit of gifts,
A divinely designed re-gifter.

Like a soup kitchen server who gives away somebody else’s charity,
I keep the line moving along.
Here, a taste of God’s love I have drunk at the foot of the cross –
For you, in a simple, blue plastic cup.
An oath of fidelity wrapped in a foil, I learned it from my Betrothed.
I put in a box my worry and care – my family gave them to me.
The labor of two thin-wristed hands – a meager, emergency portion.
A piece of my heart, unwrapped.
It leaves a scarlet, untidy smudge
In each trembling hand.

dripping heart

***

Traveled heavy

Over dust-crusted plains.

Pressed

Past the walls, through the winds. Blurry

Visions—mirages of the undead.

On the shady dunes of our past

I spilled my rains.

Hurry.

I begin to forget.

dust crusted plain

.

To Jesus the Apple Tree

apple leafYou brush by me.

I wasn’t thinking of your care

Just then

But of the me that passed away

With scarlet flags and visions burned alive

Atop my ruined faith.

 

Your frail, decaying leaf

Brushed by my cheek and nodded

In consolation that transcends the order

Of human giving.

 

I could ask for nothing.

I ask for nothing but for all that’s happened.

I ask for everything that has now happened

And then for everything that’s yet to come.

.

THE GOOD SON

 

Jewish womenThey sat, adjusting coarse headscarves, about

Their women’s chores under the desert sun –

A clucking coop of hens, annoyed and proud,

They argued which had better raised her son.

 

One said, “My boy

Slew in a fearless fight alone

A Roman goy!”

 

Around them lay a Roman-ravaged Judah –

Kin killing kin and cutting wood for kin,

And crosses lined the roads, as if they’d stood there

Since Genesis, gaunt monuments to sin.

 

But Jewish mothers mended clothes

And talked about their sons, of course.

 

Jewish handsAnother said, “My son’s so quick and witty,

Not since the Greeks would you have seen such sport!

And for a wife we found him such a pretty

That children are for sure to please the Lord.

 

And has such love

For his old mother that the heavens

Shatter up above!”

 

“Mine loves me too!” the first exclaimed,

“He brings me trophies from his fights!

Ah, mercy be, The Name…”

 

The day wore on and bent to the horizon.

Much was discussed, and many chores were done

In little isles of mothers’ pride, surrounded

Jewish Son

By images of loving Jewish sons.

 

“My youngest,” said

One, braiding bread,

“Sings songs to me so fine!”

 

“My son,”

Said one,

“At my request

Turned water into wine.”

 

***

    Time is stretching, yet your visions never fade —

Faces only you and none but you may see

In that silent final scene.

But of phantoms in the night be not afraid.

There’s no sin

In

Holding on to a looking glass.

Past is shallow as a mirror in your hand.

Night is falling upon us,

But I can see.

Let me lead you through the shadows of the dead

To the sea,

Storming sea that lies ahead.

RAIN

Rain

It touched

My hands first and eyes,

Then poured

In streams from the skies.

They clutched

Their purses and ran. A nice,

 

Dignified lady said, “Poor

Dear, you’re soaked!

You really now ought to

Come out of the rain!”

 

I stroked

The world’s sodden branches,

And rogue

Drops – holy water! –

Washed into my ears and my mouth, and my shirt

Became second skin just as naked and wet

As we come to our births and our deaths.

And strangers

Looked at me askance and slipped in the dirt.

 

He let

My dance and my breath

Mix with my tears and exhaust, dissolve

Into whisper and simmering kiss,

Trembling, watery lips –

Salve…

Nothing but this…

And carried me softly, the careless daughter

Of ancient, defiant savants,

Through His rustling baptismal font –

Holy water…

As it filled and it tipped,

The above and below,

As it flowed,

Almost spilled…

Here I go.

 

I stood in the rain.

Baptized again.

And again.

Rain 2

THE MASS

the massIt starts

At the time they tell her,

Proceeds with caution.

Singing begins,

Hand movements follow.

Rituals drop like tokens.

The story’s been read.

But stellar

Motion

Converges overhead.

Stop.

Breathe it in.

This Story is always.

Out of time.

The Word Being Spoken.

Blood is heating the veins.

Fall. Praise.

Here it goes.

Bread

Leavens.

Rises

Up to the Heavens.

Smoke and spices.

Here it goes.

Where

Flows

The wine?

And why?

WHEN

When I met you…

I was on my usual everyday trek from the heights of despair to the depths of sorrow.

Trod and familiar path.

 

When I saw you,

I knew that I knew you but not that I’d known you. And I did not know then why.

 

In your features

I saw every promise I’d ever been made, every curve of the Earth, in your eyes

I saw every color and shade of the light that makes the world seen.

And I stopped.

 

You asked me,

“What you are doing, child? Day in and day out, here?”

“Plummeting, climbing, day in and day out and on through the nights,” I said.

“Plummeting, climbing. This is my trek. Plummeting, climbing, again.”

 

When you touched me,

I felt in your hand the warmth that has moved the universe into existence.

And I knew that I’d known you always.

 

Journey to Jesus 4I asked, “Why are you here, my Love?”

And you answered,

“Waiting for you.”

.

 

On April Fool’s Day

April Fool's 2Flakes of winter

Falling toward the spring earth,

Leaving no trace.

Weighting down pine needles

With heavy droplets. Is it snow

That pretends to be rain – or rain

That pretends to be snow?

A silly white lie

On a silly day.

My heavenly lover

In the mood to play.

Dancing for me.

Shall I just watch?

HOUSE

 

You have waited, and there –

Lived.

Waited for me.

Looked out into a thousand greens,

Clovery beard flowing under a sunny spell.

Stood.

Waited for me.

Ever the guard, weathered heavenly moods.

From the skin-shredding passion of gales –

God’s gusty panting –

Soaking into your feet

Thunderous spills of the cosmic orgasms,

Shielded your wandering son,

And both

Waited for me.

On the day of my virgin birth,

You did not welcome me as a guest

Into your warm embrace.

Never did groom for me,

Nothing did hide,

Tears and bleedings ‘n all.

You let me touch your scars,

Tend to the heart of you,

Keep it aflame.

Look – I am your child, I am your lover.

I am your guardian hand.

 ONE

One must be first.

Some one discolored leaf,

a closing vein, a draining life. A shred

of dying beauty.

A yellow leaf, the first of millions—billions—

it

is autumn.

 .

One must be first wherever there are many.

A drop of rain, the first to cut a pinprick

in choked and dusty lands before a deluge

sweeps every living thing

away in waves.

One tear, on the morning of a day

of wailing for a loss.

One soldier’s name,

first on the list of losses

in this, a millionth, list.

One child.  A single round.

Somebody’s mouth

that opened wide millennia ago

to roar a hoarse and fearsome call to our

first ever war.

 ***

What troubles the water?

What troubles a willow’s branches,

bothers the delicate leaves

into uneasy whispering?

A gust of the wind, and another.

The first rush of a distant but coming storm.

The first touch of tomorrow’s worry.

The future troubles our minds.

What ifs… What abouts…

And then the wind touches my face.

The rush of a distant storm

is a caress,

now.

The feel of your tenderest hand —

It is bursting with moist aromas

and the cool of an autumn twilight.

It is peaceful and cleansing, much as a sigh.

Tomorrow, the future will come,

but, the Heart of my Heart,

I am yours

today.

 

What troubles the air, distorts,

makes everything shimmer and tremble

in the unsteady night?

What churns our thoughts that we are

not at peace in the quiet hours?

 What boils

       our blood?

Slow fires, the flames of the past.

Flickers of memories scorching.

Sparks of the haunting and unforgettable,

phantom worlds of the travelled paths —

Burning our restless hearts through and through.

What ifs… What abouts…

And then the flame touches my face.

Slow fire of memories past

is your warmth and your light, now.

Your breath on the raw of my burns —

And they heal.

Yesterday came and went.

Oh, but, the Heart of my Heart,

I am yours

today.

                                                                       ***

In waiting…

All this time on my hands –

Every hour of every day,

Dripping from my hands,

Wasting,

Tracing my steps –

Empty places I walk,

Soaking the ground behind me

With time.

TO APOTHEKARY

 

In a kitchen hot,

In a cauldron pot

Boil your volcanic potion.

Swirls of emerald poison in

A pool of blinding indigo.

Mix in the herbs from the distant fields—

Bitter grasses to ward off lies,

Sour leaves to shorten lives,

For fragrance—velvet bergamot.

Stir in the dust from a sinner’s footprint,

Medicine for regret.

Drop in a scroll and steep the words—

Ancient as Jupiter, scolding as Venus, foreign as Pluto, constant.

Constant as all the stars.

Above your head, the clock will strike—

Another eon has passed.

I will come through the writhing mob

To taste your ultimate deed, and through

The walls to hear the screams.

Oh, they wail in terror —

One hundred thousand mouths.

Two hundred thousand eyes contort.

Ten hundred thousand fingers clench.

“Poison! Death! Deception!

Magic will split the world!”

Pour your potion into our

Bone-encrusted goblets.

Drink.

Burn.

Let us let out to freedom

The one who sees, the one who sings,

The one who wanders. Let us

Step onto a windowsill,

Touch the pane, find it unlocked, and, shocked,

Fly into the salty sky.

Die.

Fall

Into the hole your blood has burned

Through the goose-down world.

Ordinary Time

 

It is time

In this time

Unroll your keys

Black on white

On red

Sing to the Lord

Joy and dirge

Hymns and whispers

Advent and Lent

Stir them together now

Into a purple swirl

Sing and whisper

To the unsung divinity

Of the humanity

Red and brown

Flung

Over the wall

Buried

Under the skulls

At the foot of Golgotha

Life

Pushing itself through the church concrete

Wear your robes

Christmas and Easter

Friday and Sunday

Desperate Sabbath of waiting

Sing

Stir them together

Into a purple swirl

Colors of every season

Colors of every day

Colors of every soul

Colors of my

Eternal

Love

In the end

Blindingly white

***

Originally published in Mad Poets Review 22 (2008).

A season of in-between.

                   Hazy grayishness of the fall —

                   The reign of reversible death.

                   Creatures in waiting,

                   They know their hopes are false. In a pile

                   Of beige autumn leaves a skunk is romancing a cat.

                   Forbidden Shakespearean passion

                   Is piercing the air, accentuated

                   By garbage cans and the smell of burned tires. By morning

                   The rain will have soaked away

                   Traces of courage and sin. Black and yellow

                   Shoes, carrying businesslike bodies

                   Cursing dispassionately at the weather,

                   Will step and slip through a battlefield where

                   Each night the ironclad laws of Nature

                   Are slain in a sweaty and merciless fight

                   By fury, desire, and faith.

To See the Wonder 

I saw
The thread that stretched and spanned
From my unending hand
Into the trembling, vibrant skies.
And, losing breath in awe,
I mouthed the words of old,
“Behold,
My Love, this ever wondrous world!
Look what you’ve made,”
I said.
And then He whispered in my soul,
“I see the wonder through your eyes.”
 
I cried
The overwhelming tears of grief
For every day of all the years
Spent in the dark and torturous night,
And of relief
At bathing in this cleansing light
And in the warmest tears
I’d ever cried.
And, losing breath, I sent a silent call.
“My Love, look what you’ve made,”
I said.
And then He whispered in my ear,
“I see the wonder through your eyes.”
 
I took
A step, and then another through the valley
Of the shadow of the dead.
And on the other side,
Emerging battered, wrecked, and bleeding from the head
And from the heart, into the bliss
Of trembling skies,
I cried.
He wiped away my blood with fleece.
I said,
“My Love, I’ve made
Every wrong choice after wrong choice.
Why have you made me as I am?
Why have you made me so unwise?”
And then I heard a still, small voice.
“To see the wonder through your eyes.”

 

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13 comments

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  1. Vera Zaborska

    Dear Mariechka,
    I love the poetry. It is very well written and brought tears in my eyes. Please, keep writing. He made us in His image a loves to see the wonders through our eyes. 🙂
    Love,
    Vera

  2. Y.A.K.

    Стихи чудесные. Только мало!
    Мама.

    1. River Adams

      Спасибо, дорогая моя. Не волнуйся. Будет больше. Я вообще стихов не много пишу, так что выставлять буду по-немногу.

  3. RitW

    Hi Maria Catherine,

    Finally made the time to visit your site… sorry it took so long.

    Very interesting website, will cause me to do a LOT of thinking… you journey is quite intriguing.

    Your poem “To See the Wonder” is beautiful. It is very personal, yet the window it opens to your walk with God is engaging.

    Question: Why did you start to think about God? As an atheist living in Europe what event turned your mind onto God?? Why did you start to look for Him??

    Blessings,

    1. River Adams

      Thank you, RitW. Your question for me is one of the more profound questions I’ve asked myself. I’ve been answering it in several ways, and some of the reasons and ways by which I came to look for God, if you’re interested, are described in the “How I got here” posts, in the Personal Journey category. Another one is coming up soon, I think — but I must tell you that it was no spectacular event that got me started. It was an internal need. I started looking for something when I was 10 just because the materialist explanation of the world didn’t satisfy. Too small. I think, most of my life I knew something I didn’t know I knew. Hence the need. Hence the search. I will make it a point to post on the subject in the near future.

  4. Erik

    I’ve seen the wonder and the love in your eyes many times as you stare up into the sky. Thanks for letting me see it through your words, as well. They’re beautiful.

    1. River Adams

      Thank you, my friend. Glad to see you here.

  5. Y.A.K.

    Машенька, спасибо, моя дорогая. “To Apothekary,” правда, стихотворение страшное немножечко, но зато таинственное и сказочное. Мама.

  6. Y.A.K.

    Спасибо, Машенька! Мама.

  7. Sister Ann Marie

    Your new post “When” is powerful and touching. I have no other words, except…wow.

    Your older post of “To See the Wonder” is thought-provoking. I pray something a spiritual director once advised me to pray, and perhaps it is a mystic’s prayer…for the grace to see things as they truly are, to see what God sees. What an intriguing perspective this poem gives…maybe God takes joy in seeing the world through our eyes. Can I be in wonder at my own wonder?

    Thank you for sharing the depths of your heart and soul in your poetry. I will pray with these thoughts.

    1. River Adams

      Thank you, my friend. There is no greater gift for a poet.

  8. Len

    Liebe Maria,
    Translucent love!
    Liebe,
    Len

    1. River Adams

      🙂

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