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.

      The maple a ghost  
in convection waves.
      Hills shrouded by firs.

Shrouded, too, by
      our genius for parsing earth down  
to what we can extract.

      The week has skinned us —
skies a livid choreography,
      streets a cataract of ash,

fifty thousand unhomed.  
      I rub particulate from tortured eyes,
scratch prayers for strangers —

      for lives so drained of life
they are wind. Joys scrape along
      my throat — a first kiss,

another body's startling press,
      the imminence of love,
before I cough out loss

      and then, more rasped,
the erasure that still harrows my blood:
      Jews struck from history

like the bright pyres of books that lined
      their elegant Berlin boulevards —
offerings to a future desperate to seize

      all that would make it certain.
Here, now, crow commandeering
      the pine that owns the view.

Neither will spare a second
      to the existential,
the ache of a cosmos without it —

      to what have you done
with the world I entrusted to you
      Who will grieve

the trees that loved these hills?
      Whole regions of us consigned
to dust, the silence

      our bodies now must harbor.
Sea, storm, Talmud
      which whispered to me, once,

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.

      And so I steal back

into the home that's still my own.
      Try to atone. 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?

      Hills, firs, sky —
imperfect, defenseless heart — beauty
      that sings me to my knees.