Freshly fallen from the mountain, Jedidiah in the thick garden
moonlight cautions us that death is an illusion. Some ease
their dark debt with blindness but Jedidiah steps forward, intact:
I rotted in the rock for a long lake of years
before uninvited, I inhaled my roses again.
Between sky and dust, death is the only fiction.
I looked suffering in the face, saw its cruel intention,
seized the history of ages by its forearm for a strong pulse.
My choice was the branch and this rope of my own hand
but that door closed on me. I am more alive now
than when my life was an egg in the womb of the world.
Oblivion took pity on me, freed my shackled breath,
declared my destiny. I am a tool of God
and his legions of descendants who spread like spilled
wine from this garden. They need my blood
to rinse their absolution.
This piece first appeared in Cerise Press, Spring 2013 under the title Incrimination.
When creation collapsed upon the cross, wind and rain capsized the village of my birth and wrapped it in fishes. The wrinkled sky wore an ashen winter cloak and we nibbled sodden leaves from the pinnacles of trees.
The animals inside us mated with distress and in breathtaking discord obstructed the humanity of our voices. My family retreated beneath the waves and the air imprisoned in their lungs was wholly liberated.
Exhausted, and pardoned by an impartial shore, I stripped myself somber and naked, then encouraged my dripping form and figure south.
I saw a streak of my rightful self across an enormous canyon but rodents on the long road had gnawed my strength to stubs.
An angel melted into my nose and throat to thaw my frozen blood. The heartbeat of my fear slowed to a waltz and my eyesight grew a pointed stick to puncture the mist.
Exhuming a fallow torchlight, I seeded it with oil and illuminated the corridors that run as reckless ponies through the raging night. All the impious gods came out to greet me with their fingers on their faces and their hair in bamboo shock! to find me still alive.
For I had arrived from across a sea of petrified nations, over the discarded bodies of the warm unborn, and through a furious gauntlet of desperate dying worlds.
This piece first appeared in Generations Literary Journal, Fall 2013
In hard-packed craters, when water ran foul and my heart was still small in its progression from slave song to symphony, I watched for your seed in sand, saw spring limp into summer.
Truth and dust in my face, with my books and the entire bones of Joseph, I renounce my country (a hailstorm of welts) and search the complete evening of my life for a hillside of crops.
These things still nourish me: olive, peach, corn, cactus, orange — and a fragile sense of a god who has lost control of his bladder.
In my child mind, a furrow
cut with a stick
on the harvest table
and my mother
a warm robe
to cover my shaking chest.
Yet: from concord, war slips beyond reconciliation. Brother surrenders to the flood. The hawk swoops down on the snake. God burns his image on my thigh.
These are my stories
that on a cool night crackle
in the knots of logs; these are my smells that mix
from the curling edge of bark.
This piece first appeared in Stone Telling, January 2016.
The morning is fragrant and urgent; you leap from the blankets, rattle bed posts, boil water, sip tea, walk the terraced gardens, and admire how the years and seeds have grown into your own private labyrinth.
You speak with the woman you love in a warm stream of words and stroke her cheek with your fingers, but she is not visible to us. The bench you share with her sinks slightly into the Earth at your end, and the Camilla tree has dropped a petal that sits between you and the other armrest.
You have not lost your way. It is we who cannot see into the distance, south across many rivers and borders to the lake where a thousand generations have bled into the birth sheet.
No one person seems to know how you escaped from the city. Some say you were helped by Muwadi who dragged you from the crater and stood you upright among the rubble. Others claim to have seen you pierced by lightning and drawn up into a cloud.
Sometimes truth is the exaggeration minus the lie. For the legend, the tales we tell our children before bed, we allow that you are the only offspring of God and disregard the impossible purity contained in such an account.
However, when the fire is coals and our descendants simmer in sleep, we place candor on our tongues and admit that you are more than that. You are the heart, the lungs, and the bladder of a strong-beating people and no single angel can contain you.
This piece first appeared in Cerise Press, Summer 2013.