Muriel Nelson >

Alleluia Trope
Holy Wit



No, Michelangelo, no.
I could ruin your ceiling’s symmetry
and stretch those false girders impossible lengths.
Eyes, not muscles, should bulge from figures,
extruding, exploding.

Your god idles
light years from earth,
left arm around Eve, right hand
stretched toward Adam. Mine burns
in a terrible kitchen the loneliest stare of all.

Unnoticed (blinding the man),
huge, but not human — the hot-eyed root
is draining itself, diced tossed white into infinite
falling: on Adam, a constant stream of graffiti, common
as airborne pollution, cosmic dust, rainwater damage, as unwanted charity.



Alleluia Trope

I'm watching those little hanging birds — 
      I'll look up their name if you like.
It's easy to see how they're hung like slipped ornaments,
      comfortably swallowing bugs,
      but how do they land from underneath
      or fly upside down?
      How do they know from above
      where they'll find their underside prey?
      And how do they sing all together, when 
      it's time to come and go?
 Is it easy for them?
I remember a poet envying Bach:
      (I won't name him. You may if you like.)
For Bach it was easy, he just wrote a cantata
      whenever he wanted to praise.
      Did J. S. think praise easy for poets,
      who had finished when his work began — 
      their awe not troubled by fights
      with good churchmen who want 
      parts simpler or more French?
      It's all so easy, isn't it,
to — look! — make light of wings.



Holy Wit

A tree fell
in my neighbor’s yard:
a mystery
to him (the yard’s overgrown)
and to me (I climbed the fence to see
the trunk bottom up, and I saw it healed —
barked over — as if roots had never formed).
Even now, its leaves are green.

At the roots, my dog’s fur is light;
at the ends, it’s black — like Hardy’s tales.
Fur flourishes from roots to ends
gradations through blonde and brunette
when Emily breathes in,
quivers, and quickens
with a sense I can’t know.

When we walk, to see light
I must peer through fluttering leaves, through
stiller leaves, then through small leaf-dots, past
fast-moving branches, past still small lines, into
chinks of open and winking sky, into
leaf-flashings brighter than sky, into
no sky. Must I?

A driver’s eyes pass me and hit gray road.
A passenger’s eyes attach to living dog.
How do we get these ways?

My father used to sing
of a pair of eyes rhymed with Paradise.
Once he took us there — I read the sign —
and I stared at plain blinding light, above it all.
I was sure I’d been tricked by hyperbole
(much later, tricked, too, he fought a tear),
and I pouted at beargrass, shooting star, avalanche lily,
monkeyflower, Mt. Rainier’s dome, my father’s cheer,
his pointing finger. Here. Here, he
and alpine evergreens — earth-hugging, unfellable — raised
a small me.