The Blueprint

I’ve been thinking about what you said about dwelling on things. Tell me about it! Lately I keep coming back to a memory that has plagued me since I was fifteen. That summer I worked for the Youth Conservation Corps, at Fort Columbia State Park. It was a great job – being outdoors, fixing trail, with kids my age and older. But there was a younger kid who annoyed me. He didn’t work with us. His dad was the park ranger. He was nice enough, I can’t remember him actually ever doing anything “wrong.” I guess he just cramped my style. And so I shared that thought, one night in one of the army tents. “He’s always around. It bugs me.” Which brought, from behind me in the dark, words that have echoed in me ever since. “I’m sorry. I won’t do that anymore.” He kept his word. He never came around again. Nor did I seek him out. Life sets traps and I jump right in. I get after myself and then I get after God. What a mess, what a godawful blueprint!

What I thought about today

Seeing my black boots, I thought

of how Dad put them outside

that Christmas we visited –

when his mind was going

and he draped a shroud

over my head – and my boots

were cold when I retrieved them.

And about how my uncle Mike

at a family reunion

put his arm in the photo

around the one who was missing

and said the next time might be

the last time

and it was.

And about how we’ll stand outside in a minute

watching a hearse go by,

and it will carry no one I’ve mentioned

thus far.

Tinier than a man can see

I had thought light and then dust

was my enemy, but then I saw the mold,

spores of it skipping from the window to the shelf

to the tops of the books below.

These freckles I bleached.

Till I dreamt of them, swirling.

Not for fear but love did I dream –

for he in whom the cancer had spread –

of microbursts and a metastatic sky.

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?

Who you are

You won’t be passing out stones

or scorpions or wasps on the other side

of apples. You won’t be not holding

the ladder when he climbs,

or not looking when she crosses.

You’ll not wonder when you should know,

for you’ll know, though you’d rather not.

You’ll know and do what you should do

because you are who you are,

the man, at last, you were meant to be.