For Mary Oliver


I put my trust in cities

Brick and glass and window washer, each climbing like a sort of secular ivy

aching angularly, always arcing heavenward.

Tonight I am

wearing boots my wife bought for me,

on a train quiet enough for me to hear my own whispers

because everyone who is usually here has stayed home.

My mind goes to the woods, the life I make up for there

when my dogs pull me ever faster, and my love calls behind me

for me to stop and take in a magnificent old tree

in a spot where it’s quiet enough for me to hear the whispers

of the whole life I’m yet to live.

Tonight, as the rattle of the tracks below my feet

provide the backbeat for my aching, arcing whispers

I’m praying for Mary Oliver.

If there is a heaven,

I pray

May Jane Jacobs be saving you a seat

so you can whisper and laugh and talk about cities and the woods,

the delicate winged landing of a crane, and the delight of a good front porch.

The train arrives at my stop,

the escalator leans up heavenward

and I wonder

If I am the only Tennessee preacher to have ever

hedged the claim of a prayer about heaven

with an If. 

I emerge, above ground, 

To snow, alive and everywhere.





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