I have been all opened up
In the caves that line the seas.
They are unknown to most of the world.
A song from the kestrel helps me to know
Where I am and sheds an incomparable
Light that shows the secret parts of mystery
As I am so opened up.
I will find others here to be sure.
The shadows will show them
As gods who kindled our days upon
The earth as I sit rapt knowing that
My body too is earth once more
And I too will become no more
Than memory shunting through labyrinths,
When words are the rain, and nighttime
Glowers at the precious shapes of forgetting.
We will know that we eat of defeat,
That we eat of humiliation,
That we eat of treachery,
But will still use our years up
As traces that mark the way
For others as we watch this same bird
Lead us to a night where we will be
Used up completely to complete a single poem.
The hotel seemed overly beautiful
In the Winter. Driving into the place
The white rabbits in the white snow
Made it seem magical. The sun was
So bright it was almost impossible
To tell when the road ended and
The building began.
From the high cliffs the ocean hardly
Had a voice. It was long and measured
With automobiles far below, moving
Like notes on a score played by
The afternoon. A hawk hung in the air
Searching as we were searching. Something
Like this could never be lost.
The children had made a little parade
In the street. They carried sticks and
Sang songs they made up from what
They saw as they paraded. There were
Sounds that joined them from so far away
Only memories could come close to them.
They faded into the heat of the day
Almost as if they had never been there.
I had built a labyrinth that occupied
Most of the lands between the mountains
And the river Gill. I had thought it would
Be an interesting task, but my life had
Become caught in it and I had
Put so many mirrors in the place
That the days got lost in it.
Now I can only recall fragments of my own
Dreams, but they are inexhaustible in
Their variety; full of animals of all kinds,
Full of ancient languages of which
Only shards of knowledge can
I find myself there as some other being,
A poet at times. I had a nightingale
I called Virgil. I worked assiduously
To find things to do. Dreams were created
Despite the greatness of the odds.
Finally everything came down to this.
I know its light perfectly. I handled
It with the care Milton took with
His writing. I became able to show
You parts of its precious hours.
Nothing but black reminders.
The tree where Jim had been hit
By hot stick lightning so long ago,
Now split in half, down the middle.
A golden colored core flashing
Sunlight up the hill.
His hands burned pure black.
There were a great range of bruises
Like colors moving up his arms
All the way to his shoulders.
His look wasn’t even one of surprise,
But his eyes were gone, evaporated.
We were stealing wire from high tower
Transmission lines from near the factories.
There hadn’t been any electricity in
The lines for a couple of weeks and
We felt it was a safe time to do this.
We were poking the lines to see
If they were still dead. Bobby
Tossed his pole up to the top row
A giant spark flew from the wire.
Shot down the pole and into
A tree where Jim was holding on with
Both hands to a long piece of water pipe.
We could not get the pipe out
Of his hands after he hit the ground.
The rescue workers had to break
His charcoal fingers off to do it.
I hadn’t been here for years.
All the factories had closed years ago.
Everything was rusted and collapsing.
The towers had been dismantled.
Now even the tree was dead.
I think some of death fell out
Of all of us that day. It just slipped out
Slowly until all that was left was
That damn tree.
AT THE CANAL
We didn’t know what to do
So we went down by the river.
There were three barges heaped
With some yellow stuff, probably sulphur.
“We’re so lucky to have this,” she said,
Reaching for another cigarette.
“Well, quit coming down here then.
You know it always makes you think
Everything is okay, like that wooden model
Of a horse you keep on your dresser.
You never made any pictures of that horse."
I had some beef jerky in my
Back pocket and offered it
To her but she said it was
Probably dirty because it was
In my pocket.
The sun was in a hurry to leave.
One of the tugboats leaned on its whistle.
It sounded like somebody had
Hurt a small animal.
The barges began to look very beautiful.
“I’m going to walk up to the locks."
Every step sounded like sheets of paper
Being crumpled up and tossed to the ground.
I saw some grouse lift from near
The fence as I came close to the canal.
I hate water that looks still on
Its surface but is really flowing
Very, very quickly just inches below.
You can see the mood in that kind of water.
It wants you. You know it does.
She was shouting at me from the river
Bank. I leaned against the chain link
Fence around the canal. I began
To weep. My ears were getting cold.
I thought I knew these people.
OUR LADY OF THE NETS
She was eighty years old
And her story was a comet
That her words could kill
Like snakes. She was on the edge
Of the canal telling everyone
The world could work if only,
If only, they would listen.
There was a great silence.
It was terror getting itself
“I can’t stand moving,” she said
So we dug a pit around her.
It was like a halo, a glory.
She rose to it like a trout.
Before we could net her
There was a rush of men
Armed with poles and braces.
We ran, but could only see her close
To the surface, struggling,
Trying to keep the nets away. Crying. Crying.
ROAD TRIP AGAIN: TRADING MUSIC
There must have been something important
In the fact he took the long road over to the coast.
After they left the main road, things seemed to stretch
Out. At every town the language grew stranger.
By the time they reached Verner, only a few words
Remained that could be understood.
She wanted to tell him she had forgotten the road
Where the motel was located but the moon kept
Interrupting her with its silly beauty and he kept
Singing those dumb songs about palm trees.
The flat tire was the worst part. It seemed to take
Hours to fix and they both could hear the cars
Coming up the grade; first the gears, then the lights
Changing with the turns, then that rush as they hurried
Past. No one was driving those cars, it seemed.
It was too dark to see if this was true but it might
As well have been.
After the tire was fixed she had picked up a handful
Of pine tree branches and begun to pick each needle
From the branch and toss them to the floor of the car.
“Stop that!” he said. She had been thinking about
How every day for the past month had seemed to slam shut.
There were little songs attached to her thoughts but she
Didn’t sing them. He would only yell at her for the noise
They made. He liked the engine sounds.
When they reached Mendocino it was late. The fog
Was living in the streets. She wanted to find a place
To sleep. He started singing those shitty songs she hated.
We must get used to eternity.
It has all the words no matter
What way we play it. It simply does
Not understand time. It looks at it
As if it were a fountain or a monastery
Where echoes come to live if only
To get away from whispers.
But the fountain itself whispers.
We rock back and forth, vertiginous
Ships on the high seas. The constant roaring
The sea insists upon, even as we walk
Its shore. Then, the endless shoreline.
A perfect place to put all the lines
The poem demands. No one will notice.
Hopefully someone will play the guitar
Or perhaps we will see the dawn
Before anyone has touched it.
We will be going away as we do so.
We think we will tell the others
About this as soon as we are able.
Everything happening for the first time again.
There aren’t any cities
This big, I thought.
Then I remembered
That this was a poem.
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's poems and pix!