I have seen monks burning
in their saffron robes for days,
coaxing sand from throats
of silver while they bend,
as if in supplication,
over floors or low tables
smooth as their solemn faces.
I have heard them hum
like earth before it opens,
watched them tap kaleidoscopes
of sand into prayer,
into bright galaxies I long to fix
in their mad spinning,
though the monks will finish,
will rise, will circle
that aching perfection
with brushes to ghost
the world into bright ruins
they’ll gather in gold vessels,
carry back to the sand’s restless
maker, all the while
that thrum still thrumming
their throats as if to say…
Return to the river, to the sea:
the same wordless hymn
I caged inside my lungs
as I watched my father gather
his final throatful of breath,
then let it go the way
a soft-mouthed retriever
will drop a fallen hatchling,
unharmed, at his master’s feet,
a leaving so gentle
I could not say for certain
he’d gone until the horizon charred
to its black wick,
a darkness that found its level
on either side of the hospital window
before I opened my fists
and found I had nothing to hold
on to but his feet going cold.
And my heart, my heart,
the dark insistence of its dirge:
You have chased
the wind
all of your days.
Your hands
have always been

Frank Paino