To think of faith as mine
is to bar the door.
My precious, my purity,
truth’s little coin I can bestow
or hoard, or nail up to gleam
like the prize on Ahab’s mast.
Is it humility that dumbs
men who should beg for this?
They affront me who have not seen death
shining in the plattered fish’s eye
and on the sleek braided bread,
death diving through the blue air
on the metal wings they trust.
A spoonful of ashes
where the tower stood.
Or still stands. Time collapses
in my eyes like God’s.
This thing I believe
happened once to a man
who possessed nothing but his death—
father-forsaken, letting the light
of the nations go out
like a match dropped from burnt fingers.
What obedience to refuse
to set an example
of faith’s triumph, which is but a subtler
triumph of the will.
I was on that hill, on the spit of land
where the walls fell into flame
and all around me wept, amazed and bloody
as babies after a hard birth
into all that cold space called the world,
their first permanence shaken.
Now you see what I see,
with relief, God help me.
published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Spring/Summer 2003