They pull the early-model compact in
Rusty but clean
Set the brake, kill the engine.
On either side, in front, in back
Empty cars sit locked
On the asphalt patch
Awaiting the return of their drivers
Shoppers, merchants, bureaucrats,
Shirazis on the move.

Before the police arrive
Or the prying eyes of the mullahs
Ooze their reflexive threats,
She digs a tattered paper from her purse,
Farsi from a printer low on toner.
He bows his head subtly near the steering wheel.
Her melodious chant is joined by the counterpoint
Of distant siren, honking bus, downshifting semi.

From a concourse unseen to all but them
Angels swarm and swirl down
From precincts on high
Lights and suns explode overhead
In a sacred joyous riot.
Choristers robed in spun silver dive
To shout their affirmations into the ears
Of the parking attendant.
A cigarette dangles his indifference.
The handmaidens of light
Streaming jet trails of rubies and emeralds behind them
Circle majestically around the parking lot
That the city built
When the government
Tore down the home
Of a long-dead
but unauthorized

She dries her tears.
He kisses her hand
Starts the car, circles the lot.
Blessed is the spot.


–for Joe Fradella

The Aldridge Sawmill

The mill moved in, the town went up
In five and nineteen hundred
They cut down every tree for miles
Lumbermen were then all smiles
As ever in they plundered.

East Texas was a frontier then
And Aldridge on the map
They cut them down and sawed them up
Cashed their checks and only stopped
To clean their saws of sap.

Their party lasted nineteen years.
By nineteen twenty-four
Aldridge was a shadeless plain
No trees, no profit left to gain
They all left, seeking more.

The sawmill now stands there alone
The town completely gone.
Four concrete buildings standing there
Grafitti marred, they’re unaware
The decades have rolled on.

The forest got its just revenge
Its trees now grow inside
That mill, up through its ceiling
And raccoons live there without feeling
Of regret, perhaps with pride.

Nature fixed things in a blinking.
I wonder what Aldridge was thinking.

The Body Washer

He came at first, dagger in robe:
I wish to see the Prisoner!
The Prisoner sent the answer then:
First cast aside your cloaked weapon
Retreating, he is unnerved.

When next he came, one-man jihad
His meaty hands were flexed
To silence that One’s profane voice
He felt he hadn’t any choice
His mind was still perplexed

Again he hailed the prison guard:
“I wish to see the inmate!”
The Prisoner sent the answer out:
First purify your heart throughout.
Again he’d have to wait.

He wandered through the dusty streets
Bewildered and confused
Wondering what magic this
Jailed Heretic could yet possess
To know his subterfuge.

At home, he slept now sound as stone.
The dream came swift and vivid.
And it replayed an episode
And memories from his boyhood flowed
Of a shaykh who’d paid a visit.

“When you are grown” the shaykh had said,
“Watch for the Promised One!
Listen for a Persian tongue
From One atop a stair so long!”
He woke, his hatred gone.

When next he came, his hands and heart
Were cleansed but both atremble.
“I wish to see the prisoner.”
The answer from the cell up there:
Allow him now this temple.

Through the gate he saw the stair
Ascended it and entered
And when their eyes met in that hall
He fell face-down, a helpless thrall
His universe now centered

When last he came his hands got wet
Not with the blood of hatred
But holy water flowed instead,
The Prisoner, years on, was dead
He would perform the sacred.

He wet the cloth, began to wash,
Tears streaming down his face.
How could a vile assassin be
Assigned a duty this lofty?
The miracle of grace.