DEATH LOATHING HIMSELF
Mostly because of his choices.
Death wanted to see certain things
Completed but his ADD interfered
With his choices. He found himself
Surprised when someone he was
Interested in would suddenly depart.
He tried to be selective but the climate
His work precipitated made him react,
And when he reacted someone was dead.
Long-term illnesses were the best for him.
He could prepare his entrance, get the boat
Ready and move on satisfied.
But his condition kept getting worse;
Heart attacks, car bombs,
Murder, drowning, car accidents,
Falling down stairs, insane shooters,
Useless wars, plagues, overdosing.
The list got too long for him,
It's hard enough to run the business
Without such a population expansion
Going on all around him. There was no
Rest for him. He became nervous and would
React before he had all the facts.
That used to be okay, someone cut down
At the height of their powers, suicides
That actually worked in his favor. But now
It felt to him like a mistake made in a surgery,
The patient dying because of a human error.
He wasn’t human. He hated making errors.
Time noticed this and would make bets with him,
Challenging his prowess and determination
To run a clean shop. Time had nothing to lose.
It loved to play with death for it could thrill
At seeing himself disappear in every termination.
Death was up against a wall.
He lost track of time until it was too late.
The heroes had to find their way into language
Through books and legends. These things
Death said were ‘timeless’ and the argument
Was on. Time laughing at anything that wasn’t
Time and finally death laughing at anything
He committed in error. He never tried to rid
Himself of his condition. Perhaps he could
Have improved at the job but time was always
There, waiting to be stopped so he could make
Another move, causing something death had
To react to before he could think. Death took to
Holding his breath at times and promoted
Narrow escapes from his ever-present jaws.
THE SONG OF THE SKY
for Guy Murchie
It could have been the wind asking.
I certainly can’t tell.
A kind of ruby-colored light
Was hovering just above my head.
A beacon, as stars are beacons
To their part of creation,
I was here to pierce the sky,
To find a way through it, to truth.
“Truth is deeper than memory
And, unlike memory, timeless,
Inviolable and unbounded.”
I could go no further.
I stood gazing up at the moon.
The moon is capable of anything.
I will leave you alone up here,
Listening, tracing the currents
The night plays across the darkest
Parts of itself.
I press myself against the sky.
It opens for me. Once more
I fly. How I fly.
The car was already burning
When we first saw it.
It was halfway up the mountain
Already, hanging from a cable.
The fire was so bright we could see
The people trapped in the car.
Some of them began to jump,
Surely to a certain death,
But we were wrong.
Instead of falling, they rose up,
A sound coming from them
That sounded like song.
Oh, the voices of angels
Shall rise from the flames
And the songs they will sing
Will course through our veins.
Oh, from the deep heart
They come burning.
They carry us up to the sky.
Though the fire may seek to consume us,
We are cleansed as we climb to the sky.
THE HERMIT DREAMS
China is burning.
My jaw is still wired shut.
We have released the secret
Migration routes of the
Arctic Tern and the Rosette Spoonbill.
We are the unforgiven.
We slide across what is left
Of the ice and start up
The terminal moraine
The glaciers revealed as they
Beat it out of this place.
Water is meditation. Water
Is pure energy. It generates
Heat even as it passes from
Liquid into ice. Whenever
It changes, it is energy.
You are over 70% water.
You are the reason
China is burning. The Yellow River,
The Yangtze River. The rock
Falls high in the Himalayas.
Water sliding under the snows
Of Everest down even to the Ganges.
We have found a place quite
Unknown. The air is thin
But we can hear for miles.
We can hear to listen to the water,
To translate its speech into
Organic things: plants, flowers,
Goats and Yaks, those birds
You see daily above these
High peaks. It is these
Things that have brought
Us the news: China is
Burning. I can see it behind
Your eyes like an infection.
We must shower, change our clothes,
Remove our sandals and begin
To trudge down the mountain.
Day or night do not matter much
When seated in the red- and white-striped chair.
The room requires an ability to
Carve light into huge slashes and crescents
And toss them about the room,
At once careless and precise.
From here it is possible to contemplate
The planets, one minute small, to be
Held in the hand, the next,
An impulse transforming them into
Something beyond human understanding,
An unceasing theology made of swirling
Rocks in an airless void that has no
Center and is everywhere.
I build talismanic instruments,
Swords and knives, and offer them
To the sleepless, thinking they may be gods
That can unwind their own labyrinths
So one may travel from this room
Filled with chintz and recklessness
To find a precise place
Where we might stand, pleased
To be seeing a garden,
A faun waking a nymph,
The lemon trees,
The room where the song has
Finally found a voice that can
Only be heard by La Sonnambula,
Pleasing to the ear, made of water
And the curve of a hand
To cup the ear, to repeat
A weaving in dream after dream,
Honey dripping on my feet,
Holding the ‘shyness of melancholy’
In the hands resting on one’s lap.
I cannot know it but for the
Loneliness of waking illiterate
To all the writing in the world.
Dust creating a language within me,
I endeavor to speak.
‘AND THEY ASKED DEATH TO DANCE FOR THEM’
They have taken me into the morning
And I have been made to dance.
To dance for a city in mourning.
To dance that it may be entranced.
I was dropped by the veils of the morning.
And still I was slow to dance
And I gave my captors a warning
And I gave them a serious glance
And my dancing proved transforming
For by dance I would bring dark romance.
It seems a ticket to freedom at first glance,
Finally a game of good chance,
For the steps I must make to transform them
Would bring forth a curious advance.
The dance that I make is a charmed one.
The power I have, it is strong
So the way that would keep them from mourning
Would blot out their lives with my song.
And all peoples who bid me to magic,
All peoples who bid me to charm,
Know the results will turn tragic.
They had best keep their people from harm.
So take me not into the morning
And be careful to bid me to dance,
For I am the death that seems charming.
But my dance ends your life with its glance.
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner of Elk Grove for today's poems and pix!