(February 2001)

Copyright (c) 2001 First Things 110 (February 2001): 10, 17, 30, 56.

Catalogue Choices

I could buy a garden gargoyle
And set it out relentlessly scowling
Toward the kitchen window of the woman
Who flings dead branches from her yard to mine
Because they’ve fallen from my willow trees.
I would love a garden gargoyle.

But there are outdoor angels, too.
Perhaps if one stood serenely smiling
Toward the kitchen window of the flinger,
It would sweeten her cherished sourness
So she’d leave the branches for her yard man.
I could love an outdoor angel.

Still, I’m afraid I’d love the gargoyle more
If only I thought God would not keep score.

—Mary Margaret Milbrath

A Frieze of Stone Saints

Without their heads, they look eloquent
still, seated as they are in an attitude

of attention, upright on thrones. Patient,
I suppose, as the long-buried dead

who perhaps don’t know they are dead
what do the dead know? Maybe nothing,

in which case they don’t wait for God,
though we tell ourselves they are waiting,

however long it takes. Along this wall
the saints look down without eyes.

Their lost faces either grave or joyful
or both. Never neither. Nor anonymous,

though no one names them. Nor mute. The very stone
testifies: We were made. We remain.

—Sally Thomas

Ivy Pretends

Ivy pretends
To grow in whimsy,
Perpendicular, accidental,
Tendrils right, left.
Unawed by granite,
Ivy scales, claims the top,
Extends, droops,
Flutters downward,
Deceptively pliant,
Knowing, greenly:
Growth is never

—Cleo Griffith

Death of the Schooner Muerte

Confront the wind and lose
all motion. Do body and mind bemuse,
viewed as adversary
harbors? In jibbing’s momentary
flight, atmosphere is muse.

Cardinal points in queues,
roulette-wheels, transfuse
pole to magnetic pole. In contrary:
bow and stern, fore and aft, lies the necessary
other. A shadow finds the body for its ruse.

Must fixed points confuse
all else as motion? Muerte, peruse
calligraphic wave: sanctuary,
melodic script: reliquary
where all waters, winds, diffuse.

—Valerie Wohlfeld