“Altar Smoke” by Rosalie Grayer

I wrote my dissertation on travel writing and, while some people keep a St. Christopher medal for travel protection, I look for travel poems. This is one of my favorites.

“Alter Smoke” Rosalie Grayer

Somewhere inside me

There must have always been

A tenderness

For the little, lived-with things

A man crowds upon his worn fistful of earth.

Somewhere inside of me

There must have always been

A love

Made to fill the square aggressiveness of new-cut hedges,

And feed the pursed green mouths of baby leaves;

A love made to understand

The way grass cuddles up to porch steps leaned upon by time,

And why dandelions nudge the stones along the walk;

A love for the garden hose curled sleeping in the noon hush,

Coolness trickling lazily from its open mouth,

For shingles starched and saucy in white paint,

And an old rake rusty with dreams of tangled grass and butterflies.

A love

for candle flames, like pointed blossoms on their ghostly stems,

And frost-forests breathing wonder on the parlor windows.

Somewhere inside me

There must have always been

An altar of hewn stones

upon which my love casts these–

burnt offerings–

To make a sweet savor

Unto my soul.


Give me strength, my God,

To scatter my fires and tumble the altar stones in confusion;

Give me strength to raise my eyes,

So that hard and sharp across my heart

Like shadow cut on mountain rock,

Will fall the agony of sunset–

So that I can see

The laughter of clouds spun into the web of infinity,

So that my soul can reach out

And melt in the sweep of forever

Above all these.