The air is filled with dust
And still these angels will not abandon
Us. They dress us in jeweled and embroidered
Coronets and speak to us as you have
Heard them speak when gathered
At the mirror pools, unwinding
The wind from our hair and opening
Us up so that we may know
The beat of the labyrinth that courses
Round these battlegrounds. We might
See Hector. We might see
The great fleets loading course after course
Of soldiers into the oil lamps
We can hardly recognize as the
Exact same clothing dreams
Wear when they feel they will win.
When they can see us slipping, slipping,
As if everything were glass; all the mirrors
Our bodies dissolving into them
Even as we speak, Do you care?
Do you care? we ask one another.
From across the fields the men are bringing
Their dogs. We search for items
That might mean endearment
But it is much too late, my darlings.
The sky cracks open. An eye that
Has known murder gazes down at
Us. We forget we even know
How to speak. The bones of our
Bodies are numbered. Trumpets
Begin to make melodies about
The breath; how it ranges,
Where it finally might be going.
The one with the broken mouth.
The one who used to put her hands
In the water, lift them back to her mouth,
Speak into it and put it back in the stream.
She was the one. We saw her many times.
Once she was a hill just outside of a small town.
Once she was a squabble of birds in a tree.
It was summer. It was almost dark, but it was her.
Those bay-colored horses with the darker spots
On their sides and their perfect eyes.
We saw them standing in the moonlight.
There was barely a breeze. We were waiting.
It was her, no doubt. She was the one.
It was her too that time we were driving
Through the jungle at night, trying to get
Matt to a hospital. He had mangled his leg
While cutting wood. It was a bad cut.
We passed about a half-mile-wide fire
That ran almost to the edge of the road.
We knew it was her. Ramon said, “It’s her.”
Once there was a ship leaving the harbor,
Easing through the morning mist. The trees
On the far side of the river, all pink and wonder.
It groaned and creaked and moved into the river.
She was called The Little Star of China.
They had slipped past each other in their relationship so that what one of them said to the other never made much sense if it addressed anything beside food or what to watch on the tube. The bed didn’t get made some days but only because one of them was sleeping in it.
That dog knew this wasn’t right and asked for walks more often than ever, just to get one or the other of them outside where the world was very much different and there was something to be noticed, perhaps explored. He hoped things would improve. But this didn’t work very well either.
Finally that dog decided to leave the house. He loved the house. He loved both of them, but perhaps if he were gone, they could find their way back to each other. So he left. Didn’t tell anyone anything at all. Went out to the backyard one evening and never came in.
He wound up in Montana eventually. He found a job on a cattle ranch and spent three very nice years there working cattle and getting excited when anyone came to visit, which was not very often. It was good work for a dog but it wasn’t his people and he thought about them constantly; were they together? were there still evenings in the parlor, the street sounds, their low conversations?
One day the rancher came out to the big barn, where he stayed and told him that he had finally found his owners and that one of them was coming to collect him within a week. He was surprised. He didn’t think anyone was looking for him.
When the lady got there he did not recognize her at all. This wasn’t his person. He pretended to know her and she seemed to believe that he was her dog and he left with her and they drove all the way back to near the city he was from. It was a small town with a short name. She had children, teenagers, and a husband and they all were very happy to see that dog. It was pleasant enough to live there. Still, he kept thinking about his people and after about eighteen months he decided to go back to his house and see about his people. So, once again he left.
It only took about two weeks to get there. They lived in the city and he recognized the streets and the people who lived near the house.
When he found the house, he went up to the low front windows and looked in. There was a sweet-looking Mexican lady cleaning the kitchen. He didn’t recognize any of the furniture but it still smelled like his house. He walked around the neighborhood for a few hours and then came back. The Mexican lady had left but there was still no one home. The house lights came on automatically as it grew dark. That was right. The sky was more lovely than he remembered it. He found his place on the front stair and fell asleep. He had a dream. It was the first time he had ever had a dream. When he woke up he knew he was not going anywhere again and that they would just have to deal with him, even after all this time. He circled three times and lay back down to await the streetlights. He loved the streetlights.
THE CHAIR THAT WOULD NOT BE STILL
Look what comes in here.
Who do these ships belong to?
Who do these things belong to?
They seem secret, as if a hidden
Garden or a temple. There is no
Stopping them from finding a way in.
They look like your friends. You are
Credulous, like a lost prince
In a children’s fairy tale,
Sliding on the vast slopes of
Night. All has golden shadows.
Watch how things become vague
As soon as one grows used to them.
Holding a book, one can see when
It ends. The pages simply stop.
But here the chairs move, back
And forth and through the mirror, so one
The miscellaneous books which
Hold the iron of secrets,
Which hold the dresses of the man.
These chairs continue their fevered rounds.
They weight upon the heart like
Dynasties that have ruled so long
Few can remember when they were
Not bound by flesh to a sameness
That consumes the body, quells
The whispers of the seeker,
Slips eternity into these chairs.
The labyrinth opens once again
And there is no sleep. Insomnia
Of the spirit, lured into a dream
As into water, dissolving the soul
With voices of promises.
We shall not stop for one thousand
Seasons. We are the captives of
These moving chairs, our bodies still
And stinking of eternity. Our eyes
Begging for a dignity that will
Help perfect all of the lines
Spoken, the pictures of ancient crafts,
The constant shifting of the night and light.
She spoke with the elegance of brocade
And bobbin lace, pale pink modifiers
And beautiful curving adjectives, a Spring
Rain across a flower garden. This is a pure thing.
Perfect as anything.
A few stars remain checking things out,
Almost drifting by, but attentive to the
Tides, the regular spinning of the planets,
The pulse of all living things.
She had come down the years
To see her children, how they
Had grown, what their names
Were now, what they had done
To the place. What about those stars?
We had an entire panel of lights and switches
Before us, all lit up like a Christmas tree.
Ramon had found the room deep
Inside the center. The whole board
Was functioning but it was impossible
To read the language written on the gear.
‘This is a big deal,’ Ramon said.
‘This device is omniscient like the dogs,
The rabbits, the cats, the tiny mouse,
The birds across this entire valley.’
‘But we do not know how to use this,’
‘True,’ he said, ‘Very true. But let us try.’
Sometimes we come down the corridors
To find ourselves looking out from the windows.
The whole place is made of looking
From these high windows and this
Asks everything of us. It is a tremendous
Responsibility for each of us.
We must live our lives this way.
Tonight I will stand on the end of
The pier on the lake and regard the moon
Just as so many of us have already done.
They were waiting by the table.
The lights had just come on,
Tearing little holes in the night
Around the park. One could see other
Light, shifting slightly below the tree
Tops. We didn’t know what was
Making them. Too large for fireflies.
Ramon said they were souls. That
They came here when gatherings
At the table were held.
They made very unusual patterns.
Their lights were beautiful; soft
Changes approaching color but never
Committing to it. Occasionally they made
Patterns that might have been recognizable
As other creatures, bats, dragonflies,
Hummingbirds, even attempts at words
In some archaic language.
I could read these patterns but
It seemed no one else could do so.
When the meal began, so did a very
Unique music. It came from within
Our bodies and brought inaudible
Serenity to everyone, exquisite melodies
That became tied to our breathing.
These meals went late into the night.
The conversation was far-reaching.
It was full of dreaming that moved
Through and around us. We became
Unable to know if we were dreaming
Or not. We did not question anything.
We held to our bodies as if we were
Attached to them by the finest
Of threads. We could watch them dance
Before us. They became our own literature.
We could see the stars beginning
To address us in the way that only
Stars are able to do. We could
Only remember we would meet again
Like this and it would be even
More than our imaginations could manage.
Or anything that is not?