The great white heron, its body a knife
In the delta air, above the marshy flats,
Above the rice fields and the dreaming
The trees protect in the Summer of the year,
Carves the wind into a thing that speaks.
We fill baskets with the finest fruits,
Find berries that have been told of in tales,
So sweet and blue and black and red and green
As we would have them be, that lead us through
The dust of day to the banks of the sloughs,
The voices of the hidden places so soothing
In the heat of noon, and draw us down beside
The hiding places of the crayfish and the perch,
The lordly sturgeon, the striped bass in its grassy reeds.
We are the children of the delta, mother.
We have dwelt here in the true magic of its
Charms and can hold the very colors of the evening
In our hands and track our way among the hidden
Islands where no one lives but beaver and the kingfisher,
The quail and the starlings, the darkest voices of the crows.
This is our place and we will tell no one of the place
This is. Not that they would remember if we did,
For those not of this cloth will not remember the soft
And silent flapping of the heron’s wings. The White,
The Great blue, the joyous fireworks of egrets, wrens and smaller
Birds. The quiet of the owls in flight is ours as well.
Our blood vessels are as the sloughs, their color
That of sunset and the twilight, our voices, the singing
Frogs and crickets, katydids charming the cattle,
The chickens in their night coops and the rising
Breeze that only comes at night here, in this place.
A mouth that worked like flames.
She had a Transylvanian horse
With soft silver trappings and a blue
Flamingo that spit pure gold. She
Would sit in the alley and wait for
The forest to catch up to her.
At least, that’s what she preferred.
And her mother had told me not
To draw attention to those beautiful
Fires that could be seen on the hills.
Memories could be had one hell of a lot
Cheaper and you could pay for them
With your childhood and pills.
There was a broken-down railroad
That once ran to Texas or someplace
That looked like Texas in New York.
And a man with a fracture that he called
A smile who ran freight on both sides
Right through the middle of the park.
At three AM on Saturdays we would go to
The theater. They gave away roles to those hungry
For fame. And the aisles were always crowded
And the lights were always flickering and there wasn’t
One person who would admit it was a game.
We live far from the heartland, we live close to the bone.
The children who come visit, they come always alone.
They tell us we are crazy to live lives in these places;
They tell us it will cripple us and we will live in fear.
But the sun here, it does something that looks like a morning
And there’s coffee if you don’t mind waiting in line.
They make fires out of old doors and they keep them burning.
They have never once, never once, asked us our names.
A COTTAGE BY THE LAKE
The conversation could have gone anywhere.
By the time it became conscious, there were
Life buoys of many different colors floating
All around the room. It was quite amusing.
Someone, I forget now who it was, kept picking
Up the loose ends, trying to use them to form
A warp. The argument was that there was a fabric
To the entire situation and that there was nowhere
To go but up. These things do not always go so easily.
Someone began constructing what looked like light-
Houses on any point that looked as if something could
Be made of it, as if someone would actually want to listen
To where the whole thing was going. No one really knew.
Cars were prepared and packed with provisions that
Could easily last for weeks in a climate like this.
Someone else checked for batteries. They insisted
We would need them. “One can never have enough,”
They said. It was clear we were the only ones
Who knew where this was going. They had built a solid
Framework that would survive a lot of travel and abuse.
When we saw that the entire crew was involved with the project,
We quietly slipped away. There was a beautiful lake not too
Far from here. The water was clear and the moon seemed to
Enjoy being there as often as possible. And no one ever spoke.
So what do you hold on to this morning?
Amnesia clouds ticking into the room,
Leaving stains on the floor. One can hear
Whispers collecting in the hall. Someone is out there
Trying to put them into battles. They have such
Intriguing colors and run close to the cars,
Arranging themselves in patterns that could
Easily be mistaken for someone trying
To speak. The floor becomes sticky.
A language begins, accompanied by dreams
And a furious breathing. The eyes
And mouth begin to bleed. Insects
Start their metallic humming. It may
Be easier right now to open up a vein.
The red air is filled with the transparent
Wings of large dragonflies. They perch
On the ends of my fingers and cluster
Close to my mouth when I begin speaking.
Tell me, can you see this room?
Can you still tell where the doors are?
Is that light coming from under them
Or just a fire coming closer?
We quickly begin singing a chant-like song.
We are overrun by horses. Their riders,
The color of an ancient yellow chalk.
SHADOWS OF NIGHTMARES
They lean against the windows unwrapping
Whatever is left of the day and setting
It loose to run headlong toward the night,
Transmuting what were the waking dreams
Into the colorless liquid of the sleeping
Dream, blurring the green eternity.
Robbing it of its mysteriousness and installing
The horses that can never find their way
To morning. They flow without end,
Piercing all the mirrors of sanity.
How could we have forgotten that they
Would come with their blood and agony,
The true trappings of time dressed in
Those hours time embraces as its own.
This is no way accident and death,
Never interested in any particular story,
Allow them to open as a great strangeness,
Unknown to memory.
They remain circular but take
What could be revelation, transmuting
The sweetness sleep might be into an elegy,
Ancient, full of consuming confusion,
That, full of objects, fountains,
Statues, their songs with their dust,
Murders with the power of tigers,
Again and again all of shadows
Except their own.
When he found her she was covered
Surprised and out
An idiosyncratic scribbling that looked
As if a spider were writing in Arabic
Using the old Kufic form of the language
With its lovely shoulders and abrupt turns.
He wrote harbors and views of the Bosphorus
From the early nineteenth century, the wind
Over the fens, a seagull's eye over the deeply
Hidden places for the river delta,
A chant heard in the early morning from a monastery
High above a village in Western Tibet, the veldt
Covered with a silver-blue moonlight and the sounds
Of grazing. Things that would end the dumbness,
Open her body to a unique language that one
Might hold the world in this way, sliding behind
The eyes with the assurance of a map that contained
More than maps are asked to contain, rivers, towns,
Great cities, the largest and smallest of roadways,
Railroad routes and points of interest and somewhere
Deep inside it all, requiring coordinates, a heart.
I know no state that is not your lips
Upon my own or my arms enfolding you.
You are the childhood of all my dreaming,
Where soft, the fell of the morning comes
To touch us where we touch one another.
Where I know these jewels that are your eyes
And, finding angels in our bed, beg them gaze
Into them as I do and know the raiments of heaven
That are music, more than music, water more than
Water and more than this, the softness of the streets
With rain, the muted caprices of the early evening
With the sun tending to the affairs of lateness,
Returning home to where, once again I am able
To pronounce magic in your name and once again
Am able to release my soul to that which is holy,
As the prayers of the earth are holy to the sun.
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's poems and pix!