The housings of my horse
Are embroidered with gold.
My skin is pure blue.
I walk through all forests,
Copper and silver and gold
And I am a story that cannot grow old.
My story is filled with all
Of the royals, prince and princesses,
Kings and queens;
Trolls and the fairies, enchanted
Castles of crystal and dream
And none of these creations will
Be what they seem.
My tasks they are endless. They
Happen in threes, each one more
Complex, but accomplished with ease,
By magic and cunning, with fish,
Birds and beasts and magical fruits
And sweet candies and treats.
Stones more precious than
Jasper or Onyx. Diamonds and
Opals and gems of great worth,
Seen always in dreaming then
Clouded by thunder.
The finest of cloth, silks brighter
Than sun and beautiful slippers
That fit only one and that one
Much more lovely than lovely could be
With witches and wizards turned into trees.
Such not are my stories when you
Have passed by. They live in your
Childhood and are destined to die
Or hide from your grown self
Unless you can be tempted by
Such things that might move
In your sleep and carry the
Fancies to caves where
They’re reaped by poets and traders
In rhyme and in magic—who
Know what steals time. It is
Through these stories joy
You will find.
Oh love them most well
Or the lights will wink out and you’ll
Leave them behind
With much of the joy
Such great things can unwind.
There are tales to tell.
There are tales to tell.
Take all of their gifts
For they well keep you well.
Do not leave them behind.
The smallest frogs have already got
Themselves ahead of the Spring.
They were lacing up the night
With their mating alarms, as wet and warm
Opened the dark in a soft
Run of weather that allowed the windows
To be open all night.
On the night table, a hunk of lampworked
Glass enclosed a few small flowers,
A damsel fly with a slightly irregular
Wing and a tangle of roots too real
To be anything but poetry. But they were
Glass as sure as anything could be.
I haven’t been able to think about much,
Mostly sit and listen, feel my
Body asking me to do something that
Doesn’t hurt to do, that is not sleeping.
There is a grinding and a gnashing of teeth.
Someone is walking in my footsteps.
I am trying to learn why this is so.
I read books about kingdoms that
Have yet to be discovered, to deceive
Myself thinking events will become clearer,
That the water won’t always flow
Into the shadows, that everything need
Not be an extreme language,
That I will choose you and you will
Be my grammar and indulge
The million voices I find wandering
Just out of reach as the moon.
I can see it so clearly. I know exactly
How it feels to touch the precise
Nuance of its finding a way into any
Moment. This is left to vowels that
Require a concordance of
Understanding I am not capable of
Recognizing, except as a hunger
That belongs to a logic of error,
Habit, and a mysterious love of things
I am unable to find except
In talking about an early warmth
That has caught the Winter’s eye
For a few moments. Frogs, the barking
Of a dog left outside, a kind of wonder
That refuses to be quantified in any of us.
LITTLE PARROT’S COVE ROAD
Search for people, places and things
The box at the top of the page read.
"I wish I could," I thought. "I’d like
To search for my uncle Skip. Now there
Was a guy, good-spirited, helpful and always
Concerned for the other person." I missed him.
I wasn’t there when he died. I mean, I was
Living across the country in California when
He died. My family said he died but I could never
Believe anyone died if I wasn’t there to see it for
Myself. I still phone my grandfather and look for him
In stores or alongside the road when I go out to town
To get the things we need out here, bread, cheese,
Milk, salt, flour, those kinds of things.
I know I saw him one time near Little Parrot’s
Cove road. This was last year already, about a week
Before my birthday. I know it was him;
I was driving down the Lake road.
It was about 8:30 in the evening, in the Summer.
He was walking and I saw him turn and head down
Little Parrot. I was going too fast and by the time
I turned around and got headed down Little Parrot,
He was gone. I knew it was him though.
I remembered the time he got real mad at me
Because I got kicked out of school for a couple
Of days because I threw a can of Sodium out
The window of the Chemistry lab at the High School
And it exploded in a rain puddle and blew out a bunch
Of windows. I suppose I knew better. It had been
Raining and I thought it would just fizz and bounce
Around but, no, it exploded and really loud too.
I went over to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house
To tell her about it. It was way early to be home
From school. I was telling her when Grandma said
“Run honey, run.” Grandpa had got up
Out of his chair and started for me. “Run fast."
Hell, I knew he couldn’t catch me. But he was
Angry. His eyes looked real red. I could hear
Grandma yelling at him as I skipped across the
Vacant lot across the street, next to my Great
Grandfather’s gray house. We all lived close
Beside each other, my aunt, my mom, all us
Kids and my great grandpa.
I kept running.
I ran all the way over to Tony’s house. I knew
He would be there. We went upstairs and Tony
Started combing his hair. He was always combing his hair.
It looked real nice. I told him what happened and he
Laughed and told me to forget it. It would be fine.
He gave me a about five sheets of paper, all folded
And typewritten, which was rare. It was a sex
Story about a girl and two guys in a movie
Theater. I read it really slowly because I didn’t
Want to get finished and have to go back home.
When I did go back, Grandpa was gone. I
Didn’t ask where he had gone. I knew I would
See him somewhere in the town. He probably
Wouldn’t be angry any longer. I can’t remember
When I did see him again until that day I saw
Him headed up Little Parrot’s Cove Road, just walking
Slow. Yeah it was the other side of the country.
Yeah, I hadn’t seen him in three years but
Dead. Yeah, dead, like hell he was dead.
I remember he said goodbye to me when I left
For the West Coast. “I’ll see you out there,” he had
Promised. Grandpa didn’t lie.
If he said he’s see me, then he’d see me,
And so that must have been him for sure.
THE LOVELY FURNACES: VANADIUM
When I was small and I suppose
Young as well, I recall standing
In the vacant lot next to my home
On Saint Paul Street and Louisiana Avenue
In the Town of Niagara, Belden Center,
In the evening, dammerung, the twilght,
Gazing at the fires glowing
In the heart of the Vanadium Steel factories.
They were not quite a thousand yards away.
The blue-gray doors were ever open and the huge
Smelting fires reached through the roof
And roared day and night,
Lighting up the sky, bouncing off our
House, bouncing off our skies
Off our neighborhood, our night.
But the prize sight for a lad was the
Slag dump vehicles, full of molten cinder,
Coming from the fiery furnaces closer
And closer to our house
With a mouth full of red and yellow,
Green and blue slag glowing
Like the ten commandments.
Forged from Dante’s vision,
Complete with popping gasses,
Exploding like fireworks going to their
Death. And then they were dumped,
Directly onto the hurt ground,
Between the factories and our homes,
Directly onto a fading history,
Into the weeds and stunted bushes.
This area once held a creek that gained
The name Bloody Run hundreds of years
Ago, from the skirmishes fought there
Between Iroquois and British, motley
Forces embedding themselves in this
Niagara Frontier. And these slag heaps
Glowed and smoked long after I had
To go back to my house and go to bed.
I would look up at the Winter sky,
As gray and green as the whole landscape.
We lived inside the slag. On special
Nights the Northern Lights would come
Making the illusion much too complete.
Larger than the factories with their
Opens maws and deep-throated
Booms and groaning, their belching fires,
The entire sky aching with a message
Not one of us could read. Death riding
Off to World War II on slag trucks
And stinking atmosphere. This too
Was the battleground talking, far away
From the Western Front. Pounding
Over and over into my heart every night.
REHAB: A POEM IN THREE VOICES
I am burning charcoal behind my eyes
To make a red glow that tells
The night it may not approach
Unless asked and invited.
The low buildings house what we were to lose.
I’ve been this way for too long now.
Remove the cutting and slashing the world
Makes of me. Make it worthwhile
That the tattoos on my neck
Really mean something for someone else
Besides me. But it stops at the end
Flesh makes when it meets air.
You have become a demon. Those who
Wish to love you live in fear of your
Flying skin. We can no longer kiss you,
Say “My darling boy,” to you.
The flesh burns in its own fire and eats
Our lives quickly, making room for more food.
A FIRING PIN: A MEETING
for Evan Myquest
We were involved in shadowed work
That concerned itself with proving events
Using photographs which we were
Able to manipulate exquisitely.
Their documents lied even more.
I could see spirits walking across the room.
They were of people I know.
I am suddenly very exhausted.
I try to keep from falling asleep,
Difficult considering that the walls
Are made of living human hands
Joined in handshakes, crumpled into fists,
Gesticulating one to another constantly.
These people remain convinced that their stories
Are the real thing, that nothing has been
Made up, fabricated.
One of the hands reaches out and grasps
A beautiful yellow canary flying by.
It extracts a silver pin from the bird’s head.
They are loading weapons in a back room.
We can hear them talking about their solution.
The room smells of oakum, red phosphorous,
And the kind of dope used in dynamite.
The spirits begin a music that sounds
Like an old gospel song, "Jesus on the Mainline
Tell him what you want, Tell him what you want.
Call him up and tell him what
You want." I think only I can hear this.
Very large crows begin to land outside the door.
They are twice the size of the men
Going outside to meet them.
They seem to be bringing some kind of message.
The hands of the walls all unclasp
At once and begin to wave slowly.
Our little party stands up.
“Keep your stupid documents,” I say.
We retrieve our side arms, button
Our heavy leather coats and prepare
To exit by the back door.
By the time we leave the structure
And make for the woods
We can see small fires popping up
Out of the ground. We can hear
The hands applauding, the noise
Of the giant crows talking.
We enter the woods. We hear
Automatic weapons spitting
Short bursts of chatter.
We do not look back toward
The building. It is better not to.
We stop momentarily to burn
All of our photographs.
We head deeper into the forest.
And she says, “What’s that supposed
To be?” And I tell her it’s my
Life and that it looks like this
Because I’ve been living for
A long time and there has been
Some damage to some part of it.
“You can say that again.”, she says.
So I do.
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's poems and pix!