Sonnet of the Seven Layers

Wislawa Szymborska wrote, in her poem “Going Home,”
He exists just as he did inside his mother’s womb,
     clad in seven walls of skin, in sheltered darkness.
Case in point: I stare past the space of this heated room,
through shimmering clear plastic covering the north window
where warm air from the floor vent flows along its surface
as a summer breeze would ripple the flat sheet of a pond,
through the double-paned glass window behind the plastic,
across five minutes’ walk of grown-out pasture and potato fields,
over the winter-bare thicket of criss-cross aspen branches
and the dark green cedars and firs along the old stone wall,
to the pearly gray sky that obscures the sun
and a billion lost stars that shine beyond our small imagining.
We are wrapped in layer upon layer of enigma.


Yerma Means Barren in Spanish

A poet told me today
the barren space is shaped like God.

I have never found God,
so maybe He is right behind me,

between the breaths of air I just parted
with my bullish striding,

or in the empty womb,
not so much a space as a clench

of despair waiting to give birth
to miracles never realized.

*Yerma was the first of Federico Garcia Lorca’s three “rural tragedies,” plays he wrote in the 1930s that depicted the brutality of rural Spanish society, its gender roles and honor codes, its religion (medieval Catholicism) and its strict sexual morality. The other two were Blood Wedding (Bodas de sangre) and The House of Bernarda Alba (La casa de Bernarda Alba). Lorca was executed by fascists in the Spanish Civil War for his liberal views, opposition to the Franco regime, and open bisexuality.