After 2 Corinthians 12
A pelt of black berries hardens
on the gnarled
underside of branch, stored up.
On the beach path,
the maple holds rare light in salt cool—
oil distilled from the crush.
A birch, a white birch, a weeping
birch, startles me, its branches
like incense unfurled, through bare air, with gold and clove —as though
a thurible had been flung
burned and fragrant still.
I pick up a shell
for its inner blue—by chance I
hold it to a certain light,
and what had once been
a slender membrane where the body
held together is now rent, dried
where it was once tender; is now limned in gold
rare and profligate
for its raw and hidden hurt,
the other half
A bride waits all night in cold.
A leaf stores up oil:
a word like a candle watched over,
transfused through a lamp’s puckered spout
readied for the weight of the vow, a live coal
pressed to the closed mouth.
Only when it is broken
can it be given, like this,
full of light as it falls.
He falls on his face to wine-dark ground.
Olive trees press around him, distilled
as sweat and blood, as vinegar
through maple light in Indian Summer.
To Timothy, Paul writes, his execution
near in Rome—fan the flame.
And this expenditure is daily and apparent:
a wave of health that fails like body
or like word, an exhalation over a dying ember,
a wineskin over lips parched and torn;
a tide so gloriously spent
for having burned.
A drink offering,
He will spend and be spent for us.
It is noble as that:
we are inflamed and insufficient as this
to know light more—
held inner, in salt tears, water,
indwelling and entire,
becomes after much heaving, a final gasp, more—
the cup taken and given, entrusted
to the sudden taste of salt and iron.
Maybe we are the flesh of leaf in this limned shatter—
though the vital skin withers and the cell is held closed, puckered as salt;
though water hardly passes through, the sugar
no longer a sweet descent to root (though this is still
intact and crowned, woven with light’s dark food);
though the body fails, the edges
inflamed then going, torn, gone, poured out like wax slipped clean of wick to be poured, new, into what it has been before—
we fall in rarest color, purple as sumac, a second abundance
suffused as strength and wind through the weakened frame of us.
So it is that we receive
of that undying light