Our Lady of Shift Lock

Upper case, lower case.
Chest voice, head voice. Shouting,
whispering. Outside voice,
indoor voice. Active voice,
passive voice. Times Roman,
Comic Sans. There are rules
the dyslexic cannot
understand, never mind
follow. It’s not about
respect; it is about
ability. There are
so many rules. Where do
they come from? How can rules
change what is said, and how?
If a battlecry is
whispered, what happens? If
someone screams out love poems
with tears streaking, running
down their face, what comes next?
If I change this voice, my
voice, am I still able
to pray? Will my prayers be
heard? Moving through margins
of this world of built things
fitting together like
puzzle pieces — walls are
not like women; paths are
safe places; gears shift to
keep us in line — there are
reasons why, good ones. Still,
I have lived a life typed
in shift lock on broken
keys. I count syllables
that make a word, the words
that make a sentence. There
are words, feelings, lives, worlds
that cannot be typed out,
because they cannot be
written shifting between
upper and lower case,
but must be fluid. Is
there a place in heaven
where God preserves the way
my mouth feels (hot and cold,
liquid and still as an
anchor) when I do not
say your name?

Our Lady of Light

“Quae est ista quae ascendit
sicut aurora consurgens,
pulchra ut luna, electa ut sol,
terribilis ut castrorum
acies ordinata?”

Light glints from her shoulders like spears,
like wing feathers, like lifting up

and soaring fiercely into blue,
a sky that changes everything,

the first hot dawn, hand to hand. This
is about to be. She. Flowers

know. The azaleas shift from shy
to a burning bush comprised of

a thousand tiny perfect tongues.
Tulips silken petals tremble

into long drawn out silken lines
translucent and ripe with cupped breath.

Leaves know. Vines stubbornly cling, climb,
and push forward into the light

that is right, unfurling hand-shaped
sails through which all the brightness glows,

illuminating everything
from which they are made just before

they let go. In the breeze, waltz-like,
the outermost edges of trees

shift slowly, full of potential,
as if on the verge of waking.

An impossible bumblebee
flies overhead, into branches,

settling on a wide leaf, as if
almost home. It is this for which

the light girds her in the armor
of openness, slow-coming clear.

Our Lady of Worms

Graceful sideways sidewalk dancer!
Delicately, blindly, probe
barriers & chasms (tap, sniff,
touch, taste). Then, equally gently,
bridge them. Oh, you wriggler, tickler

of palms, and terrains, and all things
subterranean; earth’s lively
living fingers that so boldly
venture skyward, robed in a slick
Joseph’s coat whose rainbow arcs from

chocolate to sand, from peony
to pulsing red, urgent as youth,
as reproduction. How lovely.
How very lovely you are. How
sad I am to see you aching,

crusted with sand and soil, muscles
meant for dancing stuttering as
grit tugs and scrapes flesh stiffly back.
You persist. After all, this is
life and death, a journey from home

to the unknown, from unknown to
the unknowable. I don’t know —
would you rather die now, like this,
or recover and try again?
I insert a twig under you,

into a momentary gap
beneath your arching belly, then
for a moment, you are airborne
as I carry you to the green
grass, soil moist as it’s meant to be.

Our Lady of May Flowers

i.
This pink tulip struggles to raise its head,
bent down with today’s rain, coming after
days of chill mixed with spikes of hot thunder.
How the thick leaves curl close, what a strong stem.

ii.

The serviceberry bloomed early this year,
and early drops its petals, white dabbing
the broad green leaves, a painterly speckling.
So soon, anthers curl, ovary thickens.

iii.

The dandelion pushes itself up, up
into the rain. It’s an old white-haired bloom,
but drenched as a toddler spinning under
a downspout, hair clumped, arms outstretched, laughing.

Our Lady, Robin

Abundant and widespread.
So familiar. Cities,
towns, lawns, farmland, forests.

Running and hopping with
upright stance. Robin’s
rich caroling is the

earliest song in Spring.
Heard at dawn, beginning
just before fall. Gather,

roaming, running, pausing.
Hear the move. “Robin’s-egg
blue.” Young leave the nest, tend,

defend territories
by singing. Most buildings:
horizontal ledges,

houses, barns, bridges, cup
of grass, twigs, debris, worked
into mud, lined with fine

grasses. Migrate in flocks
by day. With the breakup,
it may be a bird that

wintered only a few
miles away. All seasons
common. All seasons un-

common. Song is rich notes,
rising, falling: cheer-up,
cheerily, cheer-up, cheer.


An erasure poem from “The Audubon Field Guide, American Robin, Turdus migratoriushttps://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/american-robin

Our Lady of Counting

Eight thousand eight hundred and eighty one
steps today. Yesterday, seven thousand,
three hundred and thirty four. Together,
two hundred twenty-nine thousand, nine

hundred and thirty steps since then. There were
twenty-five bus rides; nine car rides from four
dear friends. Next week will have at least sixteen
contact hours teaching. I’m already tired,

slumped in my chair, staring out the window.
Four poster presentations were loaded
to the conference website twenty-three times
in one day. There have been five rehearsals

for the church choir, one guest conductor, one
termination, and two performances.
Because of whispering, there’s no data
on the amount of speculation or

incidents of church politics. Just guess.
Three batches of dog food were cooked. The dog
still has to eat. I wore blue, thinking of
you: eight times all blue; four times blue and brown;

one time blue and orange. Three times I wore green,
two times purple. I have two scarves that now
are security-blankets. I wear one
or both each day. One medium blue knit

by Holly. One woven dark blue on blue
with purple flowers from Cathy. It has
tassels. One bluebird of happiness came
to sit on my desk. Thanks, Kate. It’s lovely.

There were two hundred and fifty-two pics
of the play posted to Facebook. There were
forty-seven and a half grueling hours
of all-cast full show rehearsals in less

than two weeks. There were six performances.
There was one cast party with too much beer
from which escape became necessary.
There was one lost book, and thirty-seven

emails with nine people about the book.
There was one book found exactly where it
belonged. There was one lost heart. It wanders
during the day; cries in shadows at night,

waiting for old trash to be thrown at it.
Four neighbors mowed their lawns today; the hot
smell of gasoline exhaust, the sharp-sweet
cut grass saying summer loudly even

when it is barely Spring. Two crows cawed, croaked,
and raised a ruckus, bobbing overhead,
then politely fell silent as I walked
beneath the tree. One smiling bicyclist

nodded hello. No dandelions were picked.
It has been thirty days since we last spoke.
It has been eighteen days since, well, you know.
Three friends entered hospice. All are so kind.

One, I learned, is the wife of a cousin
of a high school classmate. Such a small world.
There were two donations to help cover
hospital expenses. Both were too small

to really help. There was one dream in which
you talked to me again. I wish I could.
There was one new death. Yours. I heard of no
funeral, but surely there must have been.

Our Lady of Change

Before the fracture, before the melting,
before mundane shifts to miraculous
and back, there is the wry pointillism

of skin gone goosebumps. Freeze still as a tree,
and listen. Whispered echoes of a voice
that hasn’t yet spoken shiver through air

as full of holes as torn fishnet stockings.
What is it that is about to happen?
All the buses change their schedules and routes

at once. No, not that. Well, that, but something
else. A mouse squirms between shingles, breaking
into a house that may or may not have

a cat. A soul stretches like it’s waking
from sleep, like a rubberband at the point
of breaking. And then it is, yes, broken.

Something fierce, something tremulous, something.
Claim the risk, the responsibility.
Is it a microscope or telescope?

It is forever. It is a moment
sung with drumming fingers. It expands, and
shrinks. It is a magnificat made small.

It is weeping made large. The days counted
like beads on a string are broken and roll
into cracks in the floors and walls. Trumpets

sound beyond time or hearing, but we aren’t
going there yet. Tree buds born pink and soft
will never be pink again, but here they,

right now, arc toward a wordless sky that is
new to them, in a moment like petals.
Brush your dreams like watercolors. Fold them

into birds that fly, into frogs that jump.
Tune yourself like a piano string. Don’t speak.
Be patient. Be ready. Something will change.