Psalm with Near Blindness

i.
The world mostly gone, I make it what I want:
from the balcony, the morning a silver robe of mist.

I make a reckless blessing of it—the flaming,
flowering spurge of the world, the wind

the birds stir up as they flock and sing.
Edges yes, the green lift and fall of live oaks,

something metal wheeling past,
and yet for every detail alive and embodied—

the horses with their tails switching back and forth,
daylilies parting their lobes to heat—

I cannot stop asking, Sparrow or wren? Oak
or elm? Because it matters

if the gray fox curled in sleep
is a patch of dark along the fence line,

or if the bush hung with fish kites
is actually a wisteria in flower. Though

even before my retinas bled and scarred
and bled again, I wanted everything

different, better. And then this afternoon,
out walking the meadow together,

my husband bent to pick a bleeding heart.
Held it close as I needed

to see its delicate lanterns,
the shaken light.

ii.
Deer, he says, our car stopped in traffic.
And since I can’t see them, I ask, Where?

Between the oaks, he answers,
and since I can’t see the between,
                                                                I ask, In the dappling?                        
He takes my hand and points
to the darkest stutter in the branches
                                                                and I see a shadow

in the sight line of his hand, his arm,
his blue shirt with its clean scent of laundry,

my hand shading my eyes from glare.
There! he says, and I can see
                                                              the dark flash of them
                                                              leaping over a fence (or is it reeds?),

                                                              one a buck with his bony crown,
                                                         and one a doe, and one smaller, a fawn,

but by then it seems they’ve disappeared
and so I ask, Gone?
and he nods.

We’re moving again,

                                                               and so I let the inner become outer

                                                               become pasture and Douglas firs
                                                               with large herds of deer, elk, even bison,

                                                               and just beyond view, a mountain lion

auburn red, like the one we saw years before,
hidden behind a grove of live oaks,

                                                                                        listening.

Milk

Even in the dream, it is long past the possible
when I uncover my breast and hold the baby
close enough to drink. How helpless he is

to resist, helpless as the mind in a deep dream
to stop and change direction. Though, on waking,
the mind remembers our grown daughters

and the room where we sleep, and beyond it,
the outside made white with smoke from a fire.
Remembers, yesterday’s eerie milk-gold light

we walked through, and stopped a moment
beside a baby fox. In the road, wasps lighted on his skull,
their black bodies beading his torn-apart torso,

while gnats and flies sipped at the glistening.
And the work of those winged things seemed a fire
chewing through manzanita and alder,

Douglas fir and cedar, the maggots and flies
and wasps carrying the forest out of the fox,
the way the fire carried the forest out of the world.

You asked then if a mother fox could feel sadness.
And because last night my mind had used a memory
of my body to deceive me, had pressed my son close,

believing if he drank, I could keep him,
I want to believe the dead fox was a twin,
a mirror image following yet behind the vixen,

the way a dream can shadow the mind,
and the mind helpless against our stillborn son
that lives inside my dreams and runs silent

as a wild fox behind our daughters. It was dusk
when we turned to go, so quickly the wasps and flies
rose together, as if the black-and-yellow robes

they carried through the milk-gold light had slipped
from the death they had just been covering. All of us helpless
against the beauty of the hurt world as it burns.

The Lives of the Saints

I stand at the kitchen sink, washing wineglasses.
In the fifth century BCE, Heraclitus wrote that the way up

is the way down. Like my five empty bottles of merlot in recycle
and the depression I’d fallen into before quitting my job—

clinical director of the county emergency shelter—
which meant talking to children after their father lit them on fire,

the foster parents forcing them to eat from a dog bowl on the floor
while the biological kids ate at the dinner table.

The saints were all about suffering: scourges, crucifixion, drownings.
Nothing but death led a saint to give up on intercession.

As for me, I’d seen my last four-point restraint of a preteen with HIV,
last feral kid armed with a blade extracted from the pencil sharpener.

Now I look out the kitchen window, remembering this one kid,
her hair a dark forest of perfectly matched firs, her black eyes.

In Catholicism, only an exercise of infallible magisterium makes a saint.
Or to paraphrase Heraclitus, the pope decides if a saint’s way down

is the way up. For ten years, that girl was returned to us after every failed
placement, with a new tattoo or piercing for every john she’d tricked,

only to hang herself on her eighteenth birthday.
It was March, vernal equinox, first day of spring. Emancipated Minor,

they called her at Social Services, meaning no money, nowhere to go.
Did I already say she was extraordinarily beautiful?

Before her, I thought beauty was easy to see. Something the spirit feasted on,
while the saints starved themselves on behalf of the afflicted.

Now I set the wineglasses on a clean towel to dry.
Stare at the plum tree that secretly erupted into blossom overnight.

I still can’t tell you the girl’s name, but I’m whispering it to myself.
She taught me something true about beauty.

It is not just those impossibly perfect stars of petals detonated all at once.
It’s how you see the rain-dark branches when the white lace is gone.

Netherland

Snow a celestial orchard in bloom,

mile after mile of pine and granite
clothed in an empire of silence.

We burned newspapers, a cord of wood, a bed frame
the squatters before us had left.

Mornings, our boots made tracks
beside the split moons of deer, the clawed prints of bear,

even as wind whittled it all away.
Some afternoons, there was sunlight through the windows

and we’d lie inside our zipped-together bags
moving like a legless shadow.

Nights, we heard wolves with the sky inside their throats.
No one but your friend knew where we were,

and he had driven us into the Rockies at dark,
saying, The nearest town is Netherland.

Meaning, you can't rescue astonishment
from a boy and girl lost inside the molten light of desire.

Imagine your first love as a road of crumbs
marking a path back to the awakened whole

and your future
as all the small, invisible hungers of this world      
devouring the trail.