Two Poems by Chris Anderson

Mr. B

When I asked Mr. B about solar wind, he said 
there was no such thing, in front of the whole class. 
I was pretty sure he was wrong, and he was:  
solar wind is a stream of charged particles, mostly 
protons, released from the upper atmosphere 
of the sun and permeating the whole solar system.  

You can harness it, like these kids in a story 
I’d read about a regatta in space.  Their sail unfurled 
for half a mile, glittering in the blackness.  

But I don’t blame Mr. B.  The universe is vast 
and beautiful and full of things we don’t understand.  

I won the Madison Elementary Science Fair
for what I called “a Solar House.” It was just 
a plywood box, cut on the diagonal, with glass 
on the slant and two thermometers, one on the inside,
one on the outside.  In the morning when the sun 
came up, the box got warmer and warmer, 
and in the evening, when the sun set, it cooled.
Like everything else. Like the world.

On the Feast of Our Lady 

It’s really a miracle, her former jailer says,
sitting across from us in the gym 
on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

For weeks the voices had been coming from billboards 
and newspapers and over the radio 
in the car as she drove the kids to soccer practice,
until one day in the kitchen cutting bagels

she lifted up the bread knife and stabbed her mother
in the chest, there, in front of her children,
above the cream cheese and the peanut butter. Killed her.
A kind, white-haired woman who had come to help.

Then the red lights flashing down our street,
the yellow tape sealing off their driveway.

You don’t want to know, her husband said.  
You don’t want to know.

Now it’s years later and she is home 
from the State Hospital and we are all together in the gym, 
my friend and her husband and her former jailer, 
the whole parish is gathered, on the Feast of Our Lady 
of Guadalupe, and we’re eating spaghetti and telling stories, 
behind us the image of Our Lady projected on a screen. 

She is brown and she is bursting, she is with child,
and the light is raying out of her like fire.
A boy in a cape shuffles on stage and kneels before the screen,
our Juan Diego, the man who may or may not have seen 
the Virgin one night five hundred years ago,
on a hilltop in Mexico. Who may or may not have existed.

Listen, my son, my little one, says a voice 
over the PA system. Where are you going?

Kids running up and down the aisles.
The gym cold and cavernous, smelling of tomato sauce.
Her hair gone white now,
and she is smaller somehow, fragile,

she is sitting beside me in purple fleece, 
chatting with her former jailer—No, they won’t let me drive yet
a sad, rumpled man with a quiet face, eating a cookie, 
and whatever miracle this is, 
it is ordinary. No one is denying anything.

Am I worthy of you, Juan Diego asks. Am I only dreaming?

No, we hear over the PA. Be certain, my son, 
that I am the Mother of the God of Great Truth.

Chris Anderson is an emeritus professor of English at Oregon State University and a Catholic deacon. He has published a number of books, poetry, and prose. These two poems are part of his new book of poems, Love Calls Us Here, forthcoming at Wildhouse Press.