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Sample Poems by Lee Herrick


Ars Poetica

Yes, the ocean is Buddhist. And the foam
scrambling onto the beach is a symphony
of cymbals, small and caring like mothers
whispering to their children in the front pew,
sssshhh. Perhaps then the trees should
believe in God. Of course. How they reach
straight up after all those years like the Chinese
grandmothers rising at dawn, when the air's
cleanest, an orchestra of their own, stretching
toward the sun. None of this true. The ocean
is only Buddhist because a poet writes of it
that way--just like the grandmothers who keep
surfacing in his poems, usually dancing
somewhere near a body of water, blissfully.



Adoption Music


I am learning to play the taiko, to feel
how leaves reappear in the trees with such ease.
One monk says this will teach me to hear
the variations of my name:
how my lover sighs it,
how a teacher grinded it out like a curse,
how your mother says it, drowning in a lake
before she leaves you. How it means somewhere
between mothers, not quite the rose
but not quite the roots. Like the woman
who finds you says, Lee, like a discovery--
one more child found in the world's history
of found children. How she said it like the echo
of one plucked e string, a clear pang of delight.



Hands

They imagine the lines of their palms like maps of a city.
At night they like to align them, clasping each other's futures gently.

Tonight they stare at those shapes, the hope and intrigue
of their various constellations.

And he imagines her hand as one, a fusion
of water, bone, light.

He imagines it the center of their own starry arrangement,
that dream about serenity they discuss each year.

And their hands callous from the work of it,
the labor of curiosity, asking the hands why

the skin rises toward God through work.

Tonight, they examine the texture of their hands
and take new vows. To rub the palm gently more often.

To work at defining the sky. To care for each other's hands
like small children, recently born into the world.



Gravity

A partially deflated balloon landed
in our backyard, the evidence of some

young boy's experiment that proves
gravity is a fact, that what is released

must come down, like when his mother
let go of the boy's father. Like a balloon

he floated off into the horizon until
he disappeared beyond the trees, and

somewhere, perhaps in the Midwest or Texas,
he has landed in another child's life.

This is when the boy starts to believe
in what he cannot see, like faith and God,

but even though his mother says it exists,
he doesn't quite believe in love.

Gravity means someone will receive the love.
It's not all that much work to love,

his mother says. Listen for the opportunity
and run alongside it, let your hair blaze

through the wind. Let everything go
if the wind decides to take control.

The angels orchestrate it all, anyway.
They have landed on a cloud on tested

all the theories--relativity, evolution, keeping
all the answers to themselves. In a moment

of levity the boy begins to love his mother
because she can hold a handful of balloons

and let them all go free, let them all slither
up into the sky like little air-packed circles

of guilt. He imagines her smiling
at the mirror for the first time in years,

like she used to do before
the father floated away.

In the evenings, when he imagines clouds
landing on the ground like tumbleweeds

in the middle lane, he is certain that gravity
will rule the day and that all those words

he has lofted into the air--hope and love
and a woman's name he will someday marry--

will land in someone's backyard and inspire
something kind, something extraordinary,

like a soft tiny cloud, landing
in the palm of your hand.