The Question of Old Trees

In the Garden of Gethsemane
they squat in the rain like ancient Muslems.
Pruned to the quick, pale green leavings of three centuries
supple above their tumored bellies fat five feet across.
The olive trees alone would make this holy ground.
In their shadowy reaches their rootings were awake
to the intimate sojourner,
His fugitive peace,
before the incalculable fraud.
Out of the gray-black hulks
the wispy limbs give to the wind,
and the tasteless rain goes without falling
like old tears.
The thousand thousands shout their incredible claims
in the narrow crossings of this barkless place
And the heavy trunks store their bright secrets.
It would not take another cross to let them flow;
only certainty.
The arms are raised by judicious pruning
and have met the cuts with impertinent green.

From Emma Lou Thayne, Once in Israel, forthcoming from Brigham Young University Press (Spring 1980)

Altered Course

Father—this?
Is this the answer
matched to my question?
Do sunflowers grow
beneath a winter window?
Or birds face north
at winter storm’s suggestion
when sense and longing
ply against the wind, snow?
Ah—
Can some grace
so disguised in grander reason
grow up against
my season?

Sunrise on Christmas

Looking up the glacial valley of the Weber
Into the high Uintas, past fading trails
Where Bannock and Shoshoni summered into Colorado,
I see light grow out above the southeast ridge.
Ah, it is the day returning,
Pale upon my face;
It is the ancient figure of my hope.
Three days ago, with a mind of winter, I marked
Again the edge of the dead lodgepole’s first shadow
On the aspen log, where other marks in shortening steps
Converged to this mark, repeated at the dark solstice.
Ai-yah! It is the sun’s death
And cold upon my breath;
It is the stillness of the turning point.
Now where I kneel to mark the rising fire,
The first rays glitter around distant spruces
But fix the shadow back a tiny step,
As it returns to the south of earlier ones.
Dear God, it is the sun returning,
Burning on my face.
It is the April taste upon my tongue.

[photo] Photography by Longin Lonczyna