An artist’s life – 3

January 30, 2008


Hunched over hard white bread
and plastic soup bowl filled with gruel,
he looked like a stork, a silly angel,
all neck and bony shoulder-wings
and awkward beak.

His head lifted, then fell
in a slow deliberate dance,
three, four times, dough-skinned
in a gray room sickened by yellow light.
He kept his eyes shut tight.

Outside the prison dining hall,
a turnkey slammed and locked
the heavy iron gate. The old man placed
his palms together softly, raised
them to his stubbled chin,

crossed himself, and ate.

—Sam Hamill



It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

—Mary Oliver


Forget your life. Say “God is Great”. Get up.
You think you know what time it is. It’s time to pray.
You’ve carved so many little figurines, too many.
Don’t knock on any random door like a beggar.
Reach your long hand out to another door, beyond where
you go on the street, the street
where everyone says, “How are you?”
and no one says “How aren’t you?”

Tomorrow you’ll see what you’ve broken and torn tonight,
thrashing in the dark. Inside you
there’s an artist you don’t know about.
This artist is not interested in how things look different in moonlight.

If you are here unfaithfully with us,
you’re causing terrible damage.
If you’ve opened your loving to God’s love,
you’re helping people you don’t know
and have never seen.

Is what I say true? Say “yes” quickly,
if you know, if you’ve known it
from before the beginning of the universe.


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