Two Poems by Brian Hendrickson



To Become the Cup



Not the guest of honor
Or radiant in your hands
The unwrapped gift,

But the wrapping paper, still neatly folded,
And in your mailbox, waiting,
The unopened invitation.

Not the breath that blows the candles out
Or the wish that rides the breath headlong through fire
Like some hero, or lover, or fool,

But your closed eyes while you’re wishing,
The silence, and in the moments just before,
The un-struck match.

Never the wine
That you have not yet even opened.

To become what you will fill with wine
And never the wine.

To become what you will fill
That you may be filled.

To become the cup
That you will hold up to your lips.




The View from Several Thousand Feet above Arlington Cemetery (and Climbing)




The wanting’s worst at takeoff—
That other someone joining the long parade

Of headlights out into the night
You will not share. Ascending, words are

Heavier, and love, like
The unknown soldier, is better left

Unnamed, entombed, guarded. Below,
The National Gallery of Art—where

You fell again and again for
Vermeer, Manet, Degas—recedes

Into the pooling city lights, and what you’re left with
Is your memory of the Madonna of the Goldfinch

Not Rafael’s but Tiepolo’s, wherein the bird
Rests in Christ’s palm and he in Mary’s arm

As if both finch and savior might take wing at any moment, as if
The way each is held is permission,

And the fragility of that moment is an amulet
Hung from your collarbone,

Swinging between your ribs.
Below, the groundskeepers plot

More graves and then go home to make
Love and to curse the Redskins,

But out your window all you see is death
And the inevitability of Florida,

And you’re tired of always boarding
Another plane, wanting something

Somewhere else while all your sweet and hopeless friends
Are dying, joining the long parade of light

Out into the night that no one shares,
While all the world is secretly

Aware that this is it, while all any of us wants is
Someone to tell us we should stay.