Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Furniture of the Emotions

Baxter's Cattle Feeding


First there were fires that scattered the villages
Far and wide.  So many languages came upon
Us that it became most difficult for us to understand
One another.  The fires made a night that lasted
A long time.  We often walked long distances
Singing songs we invented during the night.

Recently we have been able to see the sun.
It has made us want to find all of the others.
Once we saw many ships on the great waters,
Near the horizon.  We built fires to signal them
But they passed before us headed to the west.

To prepare ourselves we have created dances,
Plays and three spectacles including many animals
We have come to know and speak to as friends.

Our dances allow these animals to come into
Our bodies and speak directly to us, telling us
About our relationships to ourselves and others.
We wear masks at these times so that we may
Leave our bodies empty for their spirits to come
To us.  We have found we must do this as it is
Difficult to speak to them otherwise.  They are

Guides and messengers.  We have learned
May things from them.  We fear this information
May be lost.  The buffalo, the eagle, the deer,
The antelope: the ways we share with one another
Are many and quite complex.  Even when we
Meet our brothers, we must depend on these dances.

There are many signs telling us that much will
Be lost,  Even these words coming so late through
The spirit may seem quaint and unimportant
To you as you read them.  Please.  They are not.
Listen to one another.  Try to hear this.  Wear
Masks if you are able.  Gather together with
Your friends.  Your bodies can carry messages
Far beyond what you may imagine.  You do not
Need to be more than to be in love with this world
For this to happen.  Surely you are able to do
This.  Surely this is why you are here now.



Far down from the North a wraith

Draped in ice came floating.

It was without a name.  It was

Without a claim to any knowledge

That might feign describe its glow.

For light itself was locked inside

Its resemblance to a soul and this

Leaked upon the land, to silvered

Fields and frozen meadowlands.

We were later told it was the soul

That Winter drags across the world

With its spare and haunting songs

Or, terrified by great winds

Drives a blindness of snow before

Itself and slides on the edge of morning

To show up worlds of white

On trees and water both.

The snap of names inside the frozen

Voice it uses to call across this stark, stark place

And rises up in a swirl of white

As if it were the frozen smile

Legends clamor to be when we

Are gathered here together in

Small stone shelters with our sheep

At night and gaze out upon a million,

Million stars and the soft voices

The sheep offer to this white that echoes 

Their own white fleece.

All of this we will never know

For we come here within the ice.

We come as wraith to the seasons

Man denotes as he lifts his

Boot-clad feet, pushing past the drifts,

Believing he too is moving

Through such a perfect soul.



It’s this road.  No, it’s that one.
I enter the room.  It is a huge
Open room, all wood, with a bar
At one end. Two or three people
Are drinking, one of them is standing.

“So did you find your mother?’
The men in the gray suits inquire.
“What are you talking about?’ I ask

“Look at your hands, boy.” someone says.
I do.  They are red with blood.
It drips on my pants.  I begin to cry.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve coming
In here.” he says.  “You need a lot
More than just a drink.”

I look across the room.  A heavenly
Light pours in through the door.
“This way please,” the light says.
We will all be home before morning.”



Can’t even pry my mouth open.
I am pained by the tenacity of the dead.
I find them in books, like black bulls
Hurling themselves again and again,
Trying to be lightning as I sit
On the veranda of the house and see
Real lightning in the sky across the pampas.

I can uncouple them, attach them to
What I dream, to evenings they never saw,
Call them to life again, keep them
Under the roof, Borges, Dickinson,
Patchen, Stevens, levy, the lot.

And they will think they have shadows
Once again, fill my roving spirit with their luggage,
Arm me with their words.  I will take them
Gladly, happy to be full of such a crowd.
And we shall once again
Be together as we watch
The lightning gain on us.

In Baxter's Barn


I had a memory of a fence made
From human skulls that fled from me
When I realized it was not just
The dreaming crowding into the emergency
Rooms, pushing past triage, shoving gurneys
Into the halls, the intravenous lines
Disconnected and spurting their
Clear and not so clear fluids.

We have done all we can, dear friends.
Those of you who still can walk
Should get out of the place while
You still are able.  Sirens shrieking
Across the nights.  Lights begin to wash
The yellow walls just before emergency
Power comes on.  This one’s medications
Need to be adjusted.  He is hallucinating.

The car skids sideways, broadsiding into
A bridge abutment.  There are other
Bodies here, lit by many burning automobiles.


            for N.E. Gotthart

Dry flames eat
into the passages
of the heart.

There is no room here.
Turning as to the plane
of eternal thought
without seeing thru
the butter of it all;
the subtle closing of one
eye, questions asked
of the storm until the spirit
wavers, clouds and descends
as into a shower of pearls.

Tears and tears and still
more.  The furniture of the emotions
is shuffled and regrouped,
made to look as if home
was where I love you’s came from
or went out to.
I was never quite sure
which one, if either.

So the flames crisp
up the edges of fry life
and seek new apartments.
Far beyond
the body with its fleshy
dreams and admirations.
Here, for instance, in these words
we can come together, alone
for awhile and gaze
into the glass at the
fires rolling among the mysteries
and know it is ourselves
who venture thru
unable to dream again presently,
like a night without stars
wavering and still.

(first pub. in Cruisin’ at the Limit from
Duck Down Press, Fallon, NV, 1982)


and told me I could go down to the lake
when the evening grew long and toss them
out across the water so’s to watch
the colors they would make.

It grew quite loud in the dream.
I couldn’t drive them back
with my voice.  Sound had abandoned
all things and the ropes of joy
lashed out at me.  No one would
ever get home from this one.
I looked at their eyes.

When I saw you walking along the shoreline
I was already too tired to hear anymore.
You looked as if someone had managed
to fill you up with children playing alone
on rainy afternoons.  The wind moved your
dress like a thousand flags
excited by the parade of you.
I began to throw the stars out
across the river.

She was next to me watching them skip
and sputter and finally shine deep within
the lake, wavering.  “All these stars,” she
said “what for?"  And the dogs began snapping
at my ankles and I wanted to throw them all
in her face and scream at her.  “You
don’t need stars in here at all," she said.

And I, I continued to toss them one by one
until the whole night was lit up bright
as any room, all the while looking into
her eyes at the reflections.  Silver lances
stuck in the sand, we remained motionless
like this, somehow outside time and still
creatures of it.

(first pub. in Cruisin’ at the Limit from
Duck Down Press, Fallon, NV, 1982)


Today's LittleNip:

The mind is its own place, and in itself, 
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, A Hell of Heav'n.

—John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 1


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's poetry and pix, and a reminder to scroll down to our blue bulletin board at the right of this column to check out all the poetry action in our area today! D.R. is reading this afternoon (with J.T. Odochartaigh) at Sac. Poetry Center; Crossroads is having its last reading this afternoon (JoAnn Anglin and Graciela Ramirez); or you can attend the Poetic License read-around in El Dorado (just south of Placerville); and tonight NSAA hosts Anna Marie, again at SPC. So many choices...

A Congress of Leaves