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Thursday, August 30, 2018


by David Chorlton

Andrus Nichols in The Saintliness of Margery Kempe directed by Austin Pendleton at The Duke on 42nd Street. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

A hawk against the dawning clouds
moves high and dark
as the city underneath him
awakens. On this day the news
breaks with a louder
crack than usual, and even
the quail who spill out
from the neighbor’s bougainvillea
walk a nervous line.
The television screen lights up
with happiness and Earthly delights
before names
start to be named
and analysts dissect the crimes
they are suspected of. But it’s early
and the shadows of the palm trees
lie wet across the ground. It’s hard to believe
in such joy as advertisements show
while subterfuge and scheming are the order
of the day: also a day
in which lizards flash
across the back yard wall, hummingbirds
fly constantly
from bush to bush, and a Funereal Duskywing
trembles at  the Coral Bells
that silently ring the hours
rolling along the wash and up
the mountain to the ridge
where they rub their cheeks against
the timeless moon.

Another day: another cog
clicks in the universe. The sun rolls
into place. It’s hard to tell so early
whether that’s a Cabbage White or Southern
Dogface, but the nascent flowers on the milkweed
are a marker on the winged way
to truth.

The jasmine draws its power from the rain
recently fallen
and the air feels as though
it were smiling as we breathe it,
even in this tainted world
where sin remains popular
centuries past the age when heretics
were burned, although
defining it depends on which
side you’re on, and being accused
just generates more mystics
like Margery Kempe, who the more she was mocked
the more she believed she was right.
Some people believe
the sulfur floating on the scents just now
is someone’s soul; a proposition
kind enough to merit acceptance.
When in doubt
take beauty’s side, even
when the hawk marks its path
with a talon drawn across the midday sky.

David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications online and in print, and often reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. A recent collection of poems is Bird on a Wire from Presa Press. The Bitter Oleander Press published Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant. A new book Reading T. S. Eliot to a Bird is due from Hoot ‘n Waddle, based in Phoenix.