Minding Rites | David Yezzi

”Minding Rites”
David Yezzi

This guy I know, a rabbi, Friday nights,
on his way home before sunset in winter,
always stops at a florist or bodega
and buys a bunch of flowers for his wife.

Every week the same, a ritual,
regardless of her mood that morning, fresh
upsets at work, or snarling on the bridge;
he brings her roses wrapped in cellophane.

But isn’t there a ring of hokiness
in that? Why should a good man have to show
his devotion? Some things go unspoken;
some things get tested on the real world,

and isn’t that the place that matters most?
So when you told me I should bring you flowers,
I joked, “But don’t I show my feelings more
in dog walks, diapers, and rewiring lamps?”

The flowers, I learned later, weren’t for wooing,
not for affection in long marriage, but
for something seeded even deeper down,
through frost heaves, and which might be, roughly, peace.

(It’s funny that I just assumed romance.)
Now there’s no peace with us. I wonder what
they might have meant to you, those simple tokens,
holding in sight what no rite can grow back.


Paper creased is
with a touch
made less by half,
reduced as much

again by a second
fold—so the wish
to press our designs
can diminish

what we hold.
But by your hand’s
careful work,
I understand

how this unleaving
makes of what’s before
something finer
and finally more.

David Yezzi
from Birds of the Air, Carnegie Mellon, 2013.

It’s when we’re most engaged with other things that the angel enters, a twist in temperature, a lightness in the chest that we call wings. Giddy with sacrament and the impure gluttony of blood and air and skin, we look with panoramic eyes to where the earth curls under and the sky begins, though we ourselves are of this light-shot air, senses extending without obstacle, reaching past by rooting down through rock— obdurate kindness, heaven’s windowsill. We are as useless as an open lock, more insubstantial than a drinking song, and marked by sandstone long after we’re gone.          ~ David Yezzi ~ from Flatirons
God sees me. I see you. You’re just like me.
      This is the cul-de-sac I’ve longed to live on.
Pure-white and dormered houses sit handsomely

along the slate-roofed, yew-lined neighborhood.
      Past there is where my daughters walk to school,
across the common rounded by a wood.

And in my great room, a modest TV
    informs me how the earth is grown so small,
ringed in spice routes of connectivity.

My father lived and died in his same chair
      and kept it to one beer. There’s good in that.
Who could look down upon, or even dare

to question, what he managed out of life?
      Age makes us foolish. Still, he had a house,
a patch of grass and room to breathe, a wife.

It’s my house now, and I do as I please.
      I bless his name. I edge the yard, plant greens.
Our girls swing on the porch in a coming breeze.

Poem of the day: June 10, 2015
Living Room // David Yezzi

This Is My Proof

Inside a book 
I’ve been meaning to
read forever, I 
come across you

decades later 
and find again
words you wrote 
to calm me when

we were together:
your photo pressed 
like an aspen leaf 
I guess I missed.

The scribble across 
the back, your name—
if more was meant, 
it never came.

There were others 
(there’s someone now),
same as you. 
And yet, somehow

among dust motes,
none of it matters: 
a rush of breath 
comes in then scatters.

from Birds of the Air, Carnegie Mellon University Press.