During the Reformation in Europe, Menno Simons left his work as a Catholic priest to become a leader of the Anabaptist movement, which was distinguished by a belief in adult baptism. Many Anabaptists -- now known as Mennonites, Amish and Brethren -- were martyred for their practice.
On the foothills of Sangre de Christo, my brother rinses his low-
floating beard in spring water and stones. I don't know
how far he goes when he leaves his home near Grape Creek,
but I can see his bones more clearly through his face each
My philosophy has been, he says, not so much to have friends
but to have no enemies.
Day after day, he finds company in volcanic rock, in pine-riddled
air, in grasshopper and snake.
He says his aim is gold. Like stories we were told from Martyrs
Mirror: of those who believed in baptism, of
plunging their grown bodies into rivers and calling it
My brother follows an impulse, just as our father and great-
grandfather set out to save souls back east, to abandon
home fires, where what is kept is not always true,
to go out by horse and carriage, by train or foot to excavate a thing
that is precious: souls, gold, voices in the wilderness.
To find a thing that won't be defiled or won't be sold.
When they at weddings and feasts, Simons told his friends,
pipe and beat the tambourine, we must look out,
when the dogs bark, lest the captors be at hand.
Heretic, hedge preacher, Simons died a natural death.
His followers buried him, secretly,
in his own garden,
a baptism of sweet earth.
I ask my brother, who has come back with a sack in his hand.
I ask what he has found, if anything.
He shows me fool's gold, its tiny mouths of sunlight
nestled in his palm
and rolled between his fingers,
gently as though a rosary,
but more like a question.
The Reluctant Carnivore
It's true: I eat the ovum of mother hens, take the shell -- perfect, tan,
the color of my hand -- strike it on the rim of a sizzling pan.
Mama hen, I will keep you penned for this nourishment.
It is the privilege, you see, at the top of the food chain, this power to
take, o cow, your suckling milk and hand it over to my
Make no mistake, I will wrap his glorious feet in the skins
of your young.
Watch out! I am a ravenous she-wolf, a hyena, tearing at your gut,
laughing shrilly at the feast.
I wasn't always so vicious, so ready to steal.
As a child, I rescued an egg from its carton and hid it under
the winter radiator, checking it every morning for the appearance
of some tender, chirping thing.
How sadly the week expired, the egg warm and motionless.
But now I have my own to feed, and he is crying.
I won't be sparing.
(But I will pray.)
Mama hen, bless you as you labor day after day, as your young
and shipped away.
With blood on my lips, mother cow, I bow to you.
An Extinction:The Last Tiger Addresses its Poacher
So this is what it’s like to be bone, lying naked in the ash
after the gods’ bacchanal has ended.
Licked clean of any resemblance
of what I once was
before the ambush, before
the last poaching.
I had plans wrapped around like fur, luxurious,
I would have been glorious on the riverbank,
preying on herds of deer
in the wayward grass
feeding on their warm flesh.
We see only our one desire.
Soon, you will be as I am – a hungry ghost
looking for food not found
on this earth.
I am the last bone of the last tiger,
with no more fearful sound to make
than the ash makes, when the night wind
stirs it in the pit.
On my feather pillow, your head with gossamer
hair, you are the smallest matryoshka doll.
You were there all along, and only now do I see you,
and how every soul who has come before us surrounds
you, the same sweet face.
You carry us onward, as happened just yesterday:
the woman we passed on the street clutched
her hands at her chest at the sight of you.
Her veil of weariness, for that moment, lifted.
You are a flood, creating a new beginning. The dove
bearing the leafed branch.
Everything I’ve known has changed, as if I were
a fossil uncovered from under layers
I see now that you were present at the beginning, my child,
but not my child.
Everything I fear, I put away. I release you to whom
you belong, to the Alpha and Omega, who holds us