Andy Oram

By water

A few steps down the glistening stones to the edge of the marsh 
The trees have not started to show their colors, so their rich lime green 
      Is in the rippled surface below

My hands in my pockets, fingering breadcrumbs, my thoughts on a woman 
Pounding the stones of a dry land 
      Her thoughts not on her far-off home, she was not even headed in its direction 
      Her thoughts not on her iron-hearted husband 
      Her thoughts not even on her son crying out for water 
      Her thoughts only on the need for a crucial well 
So distressed she doesn't see it right away

By the woodland pond, 
My thoughts not on my sins, not even on the year ahead 
      But how Hagar had freedom 
      And knew her son would survive her 
That day she cradled a partnership with God



The flute

A tremor 
just a whistle through the pallid descent 
of air across the sanctuary 
almost lost in the clamor of condemned sinners accosting their 
timeless anger 
Their sobs mark the indulgences denied them

Meanwhile the lad who came from the field does not know the prayers 
Spurning a too extended silence during the litany 
he fingers a wooden pocket flute 
and brings to life the airs and goatpaths he knows inside the house of meeting 
Open fourths and a soft sad flattened sixth

His trembling overtones lift flaccid necks 
Now they are all dry-eyed 
sensing well that the sanctuary air is listening




They asked me my religion

They asked me my religion 
And I tried to fill out their form. 
But the circles wouldn't stay put. 
They refused to line up with the labels, and when I filled in one the others would flicker on and off.

They asked me my religion 
Their hands on their holsters 
So I started to blather about phenomena and theosophies, 
But the words started toallflowintooneanother 
And I forgot what I was answering.

They asked me my religion 
Their guns raised by now 
And I tried to fumble through ancient rites.

They asked me my religion 
So I led them outside 
Past rusty grates on storefront windows 
The lamp fixtures plastered with notices 
To the people poised on stoops smoking on rapid words 
And the bright-faced children kicking a cardboard box along the pavement.





If we knew that gravity-trapping fissure from which the cosmos spread, 
Propelling itself into the dust and novae through which we whirl and tumble, 
We could measure our angle against a fixed vector at each moment, 
And sense our resonance with eyes closed upon 
The background vibration of the universe.

If we could identify the intersection of all the diameters of the Earth, 
A fulcrum for our misshapen spheroid, 
We could stop the sloshing of the metal viscous interior 
That rips our precious veneer of shingles and lattices, 
The tsunamis that drown our finest dreams.

The bad man's funeral revolved around his noble intents, 
Extolled his love for the soil and nature's purity and blah-blah. 
Dark violence glinted through affectionate references to 
Prickly moments, a thorn in one's side, a gruff demeanor that turned compassionate if one could be patient. 
But his gift seemed all the richer for pain.

He served on boards and launched projects, 
Staked out the center of every civic initiative, 
Championed forests, watersheds, country lanes, and all that was not human.

I bowed my head with the rest to the loss of this community member, 
Then took the afternoon to wallow in all that he hated, 
The glassy highway that sped me to a superstore where consumer longings 
Could be expeditiously satisfied with goods built by cheap foreigners. 
Was there balance?

If we could isolate the quark that distinguishes proton from neutron, 
And hold the unique identity of each atom in our hand, 
We could call each play of dancing electrons 
And weigh the mass of dust, beast, and man 
In this circulating tumble of indications and tangents, our constant orientation. 





Andy Oram is a writer and editor at O'Reilly Media, a highly respected book publisher and technology information provider. His editorial projects have ranged from a legal guide covering intellectual property to a graphic novel about teenage hackers. Print publications where his work has appeared include The Economist, the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, and Vanguardia Dossier. He has lived in the Boston, Massachusetts area for more than 30 years. His poems have been published in Aj√≠, Arlington Literary Journal, DASH, Genre: Urban Arts, Offcourse, and Panoply.