I pity my compadre

Don’t strike the snake

I thought as I struck

at the root of my sin.

Fear not but pity

weighed my spade as I cut

earth with my thought.

For the serpent, too, a creature is –

rise thus he must –

and the first to fall waits longest of all.

Yes, by God he’ll rise. I say it is just.

For what better blow

to the little man’s pride

than to give what he hates

and wants all along?

Mercy was a schoolyard word

Mercy was a schoolyard word,

the key unlocking the grip of the bully,

something I saw often enough

but normally (neatly, nimbly)

dodged myself. God did thus

himself a disservice, putting

his good word first in the

mouth of the enemy who demanded it –

of his victim no less.

And this was part of a larger pattern,

I saw, God betting on the wrong horse,

dumping his treasures in the mud,

thinking all-screwed-up might make

the good, the true and the beautiful


Oh I’ll admit:

I never see the truth better

than when I’m wrong

or love purity more

than when I’ve sinned.

So maybe this is just the way.

But why?

Why must dark

dress up our day?

A detailed map of the road ahead

I have often thought Purgatory would not be some

hot fire of God, but, knowing me and what

would be excruciating for me, a

glimpse of every witless and witty,

witting and unwitting hurt I’d done –

all played back in the clarity of lovelight –

God at the back, wordless, with me left to

make of this story what I could –

the reputation-slicing jokes, the

cold overwhelming power to ignore –

even for years, even to this day –

boots on flowers, the girl crying

as she shuts the door, the friend who

knows I was never a friend –

and in answer to this nothing but

my own tears, the endless stream of them.


I almost welcome it. Why not

start now? Why not separate

the spirit from the salt and get the jump

on what so obviously must be done?


I thought of this yesterday, seeing a man

doing just that, though invertedly, being  on

on this side of the divide, and not

regretful but grateful.

He was engaged in a kind of

love summation, going back over the old ground,

reviewing blessings –

the man who’d said, you’ll need a trade,

the doctor who’d cured tuberculosis,

the girl who hadn’t turned him in.

He, too, was in tears,

but here at the splendor of it all,

knowing you couldn’t contain it,

couldn’t hold even one of those blessings –

not in your little cup,

not in your little hand.