By Ken Meisel
Off Highway 5, in the San Joaquin Valley, I spotted a gold finch,
his yellow shoulders prideful, glorious, like poured stars,
& he was singing in the almond groves.
Let me whisper a secret to you: I heard the bird
before I saw it. I’d been kneeling in the orchards,
trying to pray. & that is because prayer
is the way we try to complete something. & I was
finished with something lonesome in me,
but they never tell you that in church. They tell you
that prayer opens possibility – which might be true –
is actually asking death to move a life aside
when I was praying like this I’d never been
much less the San Joaquin Valley
the sadness of it all made me believe some people are born
by contradictory value & others, by veneration,
& I wanted that. I wanted the veneration.
I mattered so little to what my name told me about me
& so I started to pray,
just at the edge of some revolt.
& the way
the almond blossoms fell to the ground, so soft & silent
like angel fingerprints
trying, one at a time, to kiss the sore spots of the earth,
captured me, moved me inward.
& that they could smell of honey, against the dry ground
& love a limitlessness in them anyway . . . & do a duty in order to love
a perfection in them even as they dropped
without the slightest prompting, made the softest turning
of faith rise me.
& I could see, without a shape, someone shrouded & veiled
in the distant white canopy
where the white petals were falling like a Universe being born
& I couldn’t fully see her there – a light most glad of all –
but she was there, waiting in that way we anticipate a dream
to launch again – to revive its cinematic pictures for us.
incarnation is so unintelligible at first, it’s so un–invented,
the mind can’t find it . . . & it’s never our two eyes that are first to see,
but it’s just the wound in us – so long & so patient in the waiting –
the one who gains the wound to love can only find it
through veneration – I swear that’s true –
& through someone else
who opens likewise . . .
& so . . .
I could sense her there, like a flickering orb,
opening like a star in the Universe
I waited, in an inexpressible anticipation, like I was a branch
of extended almond blossoms that had been told they’d shiver
& fall till I was emptied,
& then I’d be ready to be seized by something
& the unctuous little rat there, hunched & twitching
& grinning at me by a hot spot under the moon, waited . . .
it waited for me – oh I swear it did – till I was done praying.
it kept me whole & attentive, till that orb came. & I saw
Ken Meisel is a poet and psychotherapist, a 2012 Kresge Arts Literary Fellow, a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of eight books of poetry. His most recent books are: Our Common Souls: New & Selected Poems of Detroit (Blue Horse Press: 2020) and Mortal Lullabies (FutureCycle Press: 2018). His new book, Studies Inside the Consent of a Distance, was published in 2022 by Kelsay Books. Meisel has recent work in Concho River Review, I-70 Review, San Pedro River Review, Crab Creek Review and Rabid Oak.