We Can Only Be The Center
            of a Creation that Doesn't Exist

                                        What have you done with the world I entrusted to you?
                                                    — God, to Pastor Richard Cizik


                                                   Yom Kippur 2020

Taut heat, scorched grass.
The Willamette slow below.
Summer's last spasm
stirring perfume from soil
and cement — sweet
I've never sensed so late in the year.
A maple glimmers
through convection waves.
Hills shrouded by firs.
Shrouded, too, by smoke,
our genius for parsing earth down  
to what we can extract.
Oh beloved world
the week has skinned us —
skies a livid choreography,
streets a cataract of ash,
fifty thousand exiled.
I rub particulate from tortured eyes,
scratch elegies to strangers —
to lives so drained of life
they are wind. Joys
scrape along my throat —
a first kiss, another body's
startling press, a life's onset,
before I cough out
the erasure that harrows my blood:
Jews burned from history like the bright
pyres of books that lined
their elegant Berlin boulevards —
abscesses on the rich flesh
of a future desperate to retain
all that made it certain.
Here, now, crow commandeering
the pine that owns the view.
Neither, I suddenly know,
will spare a second to the existential,
the conceit of a cosmos without it.
What have you done
with the world I entrusted to you?

Ask yourself:
Are militias storming the Capitol
discrete from glaciers fading?
from whole regions of us consigned to dust?
Ash still intimate tonight.
Who will look back and grieve
the trees that held these hills?
Sea, storm, Talmud
which whispered to me, once,
of stewardship, of the love
I've been too tender to live:
You are not obligated to complete the work.
But neither are you free to abandon it
I steal into a home that's still my own.
Morning unfurling as it always has
into mist and promise — and then,
into knowing that fearless
does not mean I have no fear.
It means fear no longer has me.
So what have I done
with the world You entrusted?
I'm at last too human
to spin dogma from misgiving.
Too human not to submit.
Hills, firs, sky —
imperfect, defenseless heart.
O ancestors, my yearning mantra:
this night I kneel
and hear Creation breathe.