Poem with Blue Agapanthus


The garden was filled with cornflowers
And sprouts of sweet chamomile
Clouds tumbled overhead,
By the crab apple tree, a well of clear water.
Somehow we were pulled underwater.
In their brocade skirts, dolls pirouetted, then floated free.
I needed to be a dancer, mother knew this.
I see her pale hands, still fluttering.

A bird perched on a black stone
A swallow at the edge of our garden.
A bird of parting if there ever was one.
Who knew it could sing like that ?
All night alphabets rose from damp soil,
They glimmered in the light of the cosmos
Then splintered into particles
Turquoise, ruby, jade, shadowy onyx:
We wanted light to etch our syllables together.
Place names drowned on our tongues

Above a strip of earth, by the ungovernable sea,
War planes hover. I watch the Angel of Ruin,
He is clothed in a twist of cloud,
His eyes are blue with a terrible blindness,
His hair a mess of snakes.
Why have you brought us here?
Where are the nets of mercy? He does not hear.
Lightening coils over him, a typhoon boils.
In one hand the angel grips a machine gun
In the other, a pen -- nib dark with blood.
Where was he when they lifted the tiny ones
Wrapped them in dusty white,
Dug holes in the ground, laid the infants there?
I saw those parents, their tears were the color of summer air.
For them too, the blossoms of death are quivering.

Lacking body, clothed only in a fistful of leaves,
I approach a woman whose name I do not know.
Sparks stitch her hands. Her womb is aflame.
She sees the school door swing open,
Sees the paint crack in sudden heat,
Hears the small exhalations, the panicked cries,
Sees streams of water grow dark,
Sees her child's face melt into starlight.

When the instruments of war are melted into fish hooks,
When the factories of death are finally stilled
When evil is swallowed up in a hot wind
That strikes our names into the base of the uncharted sea,
A garden fed by the streams of longing will rise up.
In limestone crannies the forget- me- not takes root
And how quickly the sky- blue agapanthus,
Flower of all love, restores itself.

Search for the laurel -- tree of flight and metamorphosis,
Bruised alphabets are cut into its bark,
They shine with red resin, glow in the dark.
In the shade of that tree you will find your child.
His clothing wet with sea salt
He crouches, picture book in hand, utterly bewildered,
A kite string tangled in his hair.
Go find him there, Beloved, wordless, waiting.

(Shimla 4 -13, August -- New York City October 2, 2014 )