I live with my two dogs on the edge of the university research forest, where I walk everyday and think and pray. I have taught at Oregon State University since 1986 and have been a Catholic deacon since 1987. I have written a number of books, including two books of poetry. My second book of poems, THE NEXT THING ALWAYS BELONGS, was published in 2011 by Airlie Press.
Angel! Angel! I hear a woman crying, deep in the woods
one morning. She is calling for her dog,
a squat, white cattle dog, pot-bellied, bowlegged--
I’ve seen it, I tell her, trotting along the trail.
One ear flat. Tongue dragging. Just as happy as can be.
It Won’t Be Long Now
I waltz into the room and shape an arabesque.
Pirouette. Perform my sensitivity.
But popularity never lasts,
not here or anywhere else.
In 2034, according to the Vatican Astronomer,
an asteroid the size of the English Department
will smash into the earth, and all our plans
that day will come to naught.
We are chatting over tea at the palace.
Scones and clotted cream.
Bougainvillea blooms in the papal gardens.
It’s like when you’re walking down the stairs
and you think, hey, I’m walking
down the stairs, and suddenly the rise and fall
of your own two feet seems entirely
improbable. Completely crazy.
It won’t be long now, says the monkey,
as he backs into the lawnmower.
My Mind to Me
My mind to me has become a piece of difficult ground.
St. Augustine, The Confessions
My mind to me has become like the sound system at church
when it kept picking up that morning talk show.
The priest would be invoking the Spirit to come upon these gifts
to make them holy, or we’d be saying the Our Father or the Agnus Dei,
or there’d be one of those silences we really go to mass for,
one of those moments when we’re all just sitting in our places
and we can hear the silence of all of us being together
and rustling and breathing in this big space smelling of candle wax,
and all the while some AM radio talk show host or another
would be gibbering in the background, mumbling over the speakers,
softer, then louder, blah blah blahing. We couldn’t understand
what any of the words meant. We just knew they were words,
we just recognized their jagged, spiky syntax, because it’s always
in our ears. There’s a radio talk show host in all our heads,
a pale, bloated, spittling man blithering on and on about who to hate,
most of all ourselves. O Lord, my mind to me has become
like a sound system. It has become to me a piece of difficult ground.
It has become to me like the stream this morning, and the trees
along the stream, and the warblers hopping from branch to branch
in the trees, the Townsend Warblers and the chickadees,
fretting the bare maple and oak. I was walking down the road,
and it was muddy and wet, and the Townsend Warblers,
with that soft, yellow almond curving around the dark of their eyes,
they’re back, they’re making their way again, and standing there
behind the priest, later, at mass, stepping forward to raise the cup,
I suddenly realized this. This came to me. With a start.
The warblers are back, and I had already forgotten them.
©2016 Chris Anderson