“Aubade” by Robert Siegel

Bellerose, Jeff_Tranquil
Jeff Bellerose (American, 1973–), Tranquil, 2018. Oil on canvas, 20 × 20 in. (50.8 × 50.8 cm).

1

Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy
      while each leaf thrusts into the universe of air
and the light green haze of April rises like smoke
      sweet in the nostril. Let the mind fill the hemisphere
of day while the sun beats a million white wings.
      Let each yellow and red bud in the dew
blaze forth with a hundred suns while night
      picks up her gauze and vanishes over the hills.
Let the rabbit’s eye shine while he drums the turf
      summoning his brethren;
the squirrels spiral down, their tails like clouds,
      to clatter among the woodsy rubble;
and the shrew shriek and hide herself under the root.

2

The cat stretches by the window and cries at the door;
      the dog yawns, then yelps at the rising sun
that will run all day till it drops in the west.
      The mattress creaks as the man rises to fix breakfast,
his back telling him he is—ah!—alive
      while the neighbor’s car snorts and gulps air
in an ascending whine.
      Children feel their way through cool porcelain bathrooms,
teenagers dream a world of shimmering electric presences
      and clothes rise from the dresser to glide across the skin,
the belt firmly encircles the waist
      and the tie mounts to prop the chin.

3

Yet, staring back from the bathroom mirror are
      the ghost of the office, the boss’s purposeful smile,
fog of the night’s dream, the nattering conscience,
      the gluttonous mortgage, the skin in love with gravity,
and the razor’s unkind cut—awareness of
      what is done and undone—the thousand engines of destruction
the cerebral cortex draws across its synapses
      toward the fragile sanctum of the present moment.
Let each ghost wither and vanish in sunlight,
      crisp to the nothing it is,
while a joyful procession dances along
      the myriad lightning pathways of the mind.

4

Tree and house are clear in this moment
      when light is given shape and each thing pauses,
itself—before the frame blurs, the attention fails
      and we fall into one or another distraction:
the horrors and banalities of the news, the half-typed letter,
      the mysteries of long division, the tumbled tower of blocks,
regret’s heavy shadow or the usual obsession.
      Lord, in the bright vehicle of this moment,
descend to us and spread your golden tent
      that we might keep sweet breakfast together, your beard dripping
honey as we ascend the dayspring of your eyes
      into an emptiness that is present, solid and real.

“Aubade” by Robert Siegel originally appeared in A Pentecost of Finches (Paraclete, 2006) and is published in the posthumous collection Within This Tree of Bones: New and Selected Poems (Cascade/Wipf & Stock, 2013). Used by permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers.

“Matins” by George Herbert

Industrial Cottage (detail) by James Rosenquist
James Rosenquist (American, 1933–2017), Industrial Cottage (upper right detail), 1977. Oil on canvas, 80 × 182 in. (203.2 × 462.3 cm). Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC. Photo: Victoria Emily Jones.

I cannot ope mine eyes,
But thou art ready there to catch
My morning-soul and sacrifice:
Then we must needs for that day make a match.

My God, what is a heart?
Silver, or gold, or precious stone,
Or star, or rainbow, or a part
Of all these things, or all of them in one?

My God, what is a heart,
That thou shouldst it so eye, and woo,
Pouring upon it all thy art,
As if that thou hadst nothing else to do?

Indeed man’s whole estate
Amounts (and richly) to serve thee:
He did not heav’n and earth create,
Yet studies them, not him by whom they be.

Teach me thy love to know;
That this new light, which now I see,
May both the work and workman show:
Then by a sunbeam I will climb to thee.