I wash her hands with summer rain.

Illustration by Kristina Closs

“Taproot and Cradle” by Khaled Mattawa (1964-)

Evening coffee, and my mother salts
her evening broth—not equanimity,
but the nick of her wrist—

and my mother bakes bread,
and my mother hobbles knees locked,
and my mother carries the soft stones of her years.

Fists balled in my pocket,
riding the century’s drift,
I carry a wish and a wound.

It’s raining a noisy frost,
the inhabitants’ cruel happy laughs,
their sighs and curses,

small upheavals that slide
from their bellies,
down to their freezing toes..

And the city trudges, and night
loosens its reins, a stolen bulldozer,
a tank full of clowns.

Who’s calling
my name
from the window now?

She touches her hair—
She caresses her beauty
like the coffin of a child.

O pen of late arrivals.
O knife of darkened temples.
O my scurrying, my drunken snakes. 

I wash her hands with summer rain.
I remember the killed enemy.
I remember my good friends.

But the world is beautifully made for doing good and for resting

bouldercreek.jpg
A rainy day in Boulder Creek, California. December, 2019.

“A Quiet Joy”
by Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000)

I’m standing in a place where I once loved.
The rain is falling. The rain is my home.

I think words of longing: a landscape
out to the very edge of what’s possible.

I remember you waving your hand
as if wiping mist from the windowpane,

and your face, as if enlarged
from an old blurred photo.

Once I committed a terrible wrong
to myself and others.

But the world is beautifully made for doing good
and for resting, like a park bench.

And late in life I discovered
a quiet joy
like a serious disease that’s discovered too late:

just a little time left now for quiet joy.

And how does a body break bread with the word when the word has broken.

A beautifully haunting kick in the gut from C.D. Wright (1949-2016).

Bread, Breakfast, Food, Knife, Loaf

“More Blues and the Abstract Truth”

I back the car over a soft, large object;
hair appears on my chest in dreams.
The paperboy comes to collect
with a pit bull. Call Grandmother
and she says, Well you know
death is death and none other.

In the mornings we’re in the dark;
even at the end of June
the zucchini keep on the sill.
Ring Grandmother for advice
and she says, O you know
I used to grow so many things.

Then there’s the frequent bleeding,
the tender nipples, and the rot
under the floormat. If I’m not seeing
a cold-eyed doctor it is
another gouging mechanic.
Grandmother says, Thanks to the blue rugs
and Eileen Briscoe’s elms
the house keeps cool.

Well. Then. You say Grandmother
let me just ask you this:
How does a body rise up again and rinse
her mouth from the tap. And how
does a body put in a plum tree
or lie again on top of another body
or string a trellis. Or go on drying
the flatware. Fix rainbow trout. Grout the tile.
Buy a bag of onions. Beat an egg stiff. Yes,
how does the cat continue
to lick itself from toenail to tailhole.
And how does a body break
bread with the word when the word
has broken. Again. And. Again.
With the wine. And the loaf.
And the excellent glass
of the body. And she says,
Even. If. The. Sky. Is. Falling.
My. Peace. Rose. Is. In. Bloom.

from Steal Away: New and Selected Poems