Where are the voices in a dream?
—from “For Yassgar’s Farm”
by the rock group, Mountain
Your nightmares posted on the internet:
The Joy of Cooking blazing on the stove,
assignments turned in late, teachers upset,
and shards of glass mixed in your treasure-trove;
burning giraffes, limp watches and Voltaire—
or are two women standing by the gate?
a visit from a workman to repair
your leaky spleen, your flickering prostate.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on—so
a vampire bat swims in your cocktail glass;
you sit with Gower, Tennyson, Li Po
and swap yarns in a bar in Inverness.
An avalanche of feathers ends the day.
Next time you’ll meet beyond the Milky Way.
In the Bar after Presenting at a Conference on Christianity and Literature
I always drank my whiskey straight, but you
preferred red wine—not liquor, never beer.
I told a colleague I’d gone to Purdue.
He asked you about your teaching career.
You said you had just started back again
and planned to finish your bachelor’s degree
now that your kids were grown. He could commend
your resolution and audacity.
He said he’d seen some poems he admired—
the book I’d bought for you, Archaic Smile,
token of how I felt. His talk grew tired,
but still we sat and chatted for a while.
At twelve o’clock, we said good-night to him,
went to our room, and fucked till 2 am.
Marius the Abbot Leads The Nestorian Mission to China (623 A.D.)
These lands lie in the grip of unbelief;
the gospel of our Lord remains untold
here in this realm of darkness, Satan’s fief
where false religion keeps a stranglehold.
In Galilee the people who had dwelt
in darkness saw great light; those in the thrall
of shadow saw a glorious dawn and felt
the healing that proceeds out of God’s call
to leave false ways behind, enter his rest,
pass through the narrow gate. So they may hear
in these far Eastern lands, we’ve left the West,
turning our backs on all that we hold dear
to preach the gospel message in this place—
so full of wealth, so empty of God’s grace.
Ambrosias the Novice Arrives in China (625 A.D.)
Jesus, Son of Mary, Son of God
loses his luster in this land of streams
and terraced fields and watchtowers. We plod
toward the eastern world. The message that redeems
is on our tongues, but as I walk I find
the works of sages, grave and holy men:
Confucius, wisest teacher of mankind;
Buddha, whose Eightfold Pathway can amend
the errors of desire; the sage Lao Tzu
who taught the Way. The further on we go
toward the East, the more I doubt what I held true.
There may be many truths and many doors.
There may be many paths. The Living Way
perhaps walked here in Gansu, in Cathay.