Leaving the full moon stranded, honeyed
Clouds dripping from its face.
Trapped inside high pressure,
The trees afraid to move.
The night dragging itself through
The city streets, breaking and entering
With its shadows, soft as caramel.
A buzzing starts up in the ears,
Loud, louder than the the colors
Of a map.
Eight million stones lie hidden all around
The earth. We are to touch as many
Of them as possible.
They tell us of a yearning,
Spit out a history built in terms
Of what common things were named
Before we manifested on the planet.
Our compass swirls, as if confused
At having lost an old Pole Star.
We do not deserve this victory.
Everything that happened
Happened in secret, as smooth
As ivory, almost intangible
To the touch. The sea was blood,
Not just the color of blood, blood.
When the enemy reached the mirrors
There was no one there to look
All we had were images,
The enemy walking through clocks,
Gears and wheels, springs and pawls,
Towering above them, insidious
In their insistence that
The throb of the rhythm should
Overwhelm them, produce
A kind of island that left them
Alone, no way to turn, a forgetting
Pouring into their ranks, a fragrance
Accompanying it, bringing little
Of use in such a battle; the friendship
Of the moon and the elements
Surrounding, a few grapes, the smell
Of honey as we walked into them,
Our swords, singing.
There is a slight rise just at the edge
Of the wood where the trees seemed
To have decided they would go no further
Than this. A rise pushing up with
Visible boulders and short grass.
When I used to go there it seemed
Very important to get right to the brow
Of the place. There one was even with
The tops of the trees and could look down
To the ice-edged creek that named the place,
The Baxter Run the people called it.
Baxter had had a farm not too far
From the rise and the stream was a quick
One, moving over rock, heading for the lake
With a couple of deep holes
Where dark fish dwelt, sun fish,
Perch, crappie and bullheads. Raccoons,
Foxes and raptor birds liked to come here.
I decided to come here for the same
Reason these creatures did,
To know the place.
A place to put my heart and to know it
In my blood and feel it in my bones.
A place where, no matter who came there
They could never find it as I had.
In the silver of summer, if it were quiet
I could hear the lake water lapping
Just at the edge of sound.
A place where I could image old Baxter
Getting up from his kitchen table, lighting
A cigarette, putting on his coat and boots
And making his way to the barn
Where the few head of cattle he kept
Waited for him. Their lowing in the night
Air just above the waves.
He too would walk by the Run.
He too would see the same water
Curl around the edge of the farm,
Past the cabbage field and into
The hardwoods to the rise.
Some evenings I could hear him talking to the cattle,
His voice deep and resonant, a caring.
Then I was the fox and the raccoon,
Then I was the darkened wing headed
Into the woods to find where the night was safe.
Now I wake from deep sleep
In a bed on the other end of evening
And I am on that rise above Baxter’s run.
I wish for a moon. I get one.
If I want to see the water rushing
Just beneath the thin ice, I am able
To do so. If I wish this place
To become forever, it does so and I become
The place, the rain, the snow,
The wildflowers of Summer,
The insect orchestra.
The tendrils of each day breaks
And there will never be anything
Greater than this peace.
THE SONG COMING FROM THE GRAVE
She had been beneath her tomb effigy
Since the mid-13th century.
Can you hear the dogs teasing at the
Morning child? Listen to their beautiful
Voices. They tell the names you knew.
We have a fine dress for you. Your eyes
They have dried and your skin has abandoned
What was your lovely face. But it is not cause
For shame. We remember your sweetness
Oh my dear. We remember your sweetness,
And we recall you once, down at the well
When the shadows grew long on the ground.
The man with the lute was with sound all around him
And he told us of the relics you’d found.
Jean d’Alluye, it was Phillip Augustus he served.
He came back with a relic from the cross.
He came back and remembered your name.
Then he died and they laid him to rest.
But not for long, they needed him still.
They took the top of his tomb, flipped
It over and made it a bridge that led
Past the place where you lay. And now
We want you to return, back to us.
Too long you have been far away.
We will fix up your hair and your skin.
Make your body that of a bride.
We will call your brave hounds
From their far distant fields. We will dress you
In laces and ride, yes, we will dress
You in laces and ride.
Far from the tomb where you lie,
We will meet Jean d’Alluye
By the steam once again. We will
Open the dream with our songs
Once again. Please hasten, unravel
Your shrouds. We have light and fresh fruit.
We have life, once again. We have life.
We have life and your pride.
Trails led out of her eyes.
People were walking on them.
A few of the people we thought we
The moon, crooked behind
One man handles fire
With his bare hands.
He lifts it and puts it
Sells it to ladies
Walking down the strand.
There was a blue cherub
With purple wings
Who never quite made it
Into a song;
We waited as he tried and gave
Him our guides, so we may as well
Take him along.
He can ride in the carts that carry
The hearts, that bundle the darts
For the trade.
He can spot where the bridges
Have all fallen down. He will
Tell us of what they were made.
We stopped for the night beside
A stream of water just as the last
Light was climbing up the trees
To make its jump into night.
As it grew darker, the stream grew
Brighter and brighter and we could
See almost as well as in daylight.
The stream seemed to enjoy our being there.
No one had ever come this far into
The forest. In the morning the stream
Gave us fish, dappled like sunlight,
Sweet of flesh and eager to join
Us in making our bodies work.
When we reached far Marlee
We released many of the birds
We had brought with us from Gothurg.
They flew ahead of us, forming
The shapes of many creatures
As they did so. The people of Marlee
Could see us coming for miles,
As if a cathedral were walking
Toward them, singing the while,
Telling the tales of our journey
In stories that are still told today.
Two giants, squatting, eating flowers.
In the next moment they had become trees.
We wish for the wind but it has left.
It shows us only the softest of touches.
Remembering a last paragraph, the stroke
Each letter assumes to allow us language.
Take a good look, past the patios,
Through the garden, above the river
As its bridges are blown up.
We were not given time. We took
It at the moment we thought we understood
The weight and smell of each day,
Realized that we were not in cages
And that the tiger could walk beside
Us or behind us, appearing when
We least expected it,
In turning the pages of a book,
In the sky unloading its birds across
Convincing us it is a ceremony
That has been lost longer than Ulysses.
We bargain for a dragon and are given
Clouds, terrible waves in the middle
Of the ocean. These are given without
Consideration of ourselves. We deal
For an imagined dream, then leave it lost
In a book, as we throw the bedcovers back.
WHAT THEY WANT US TO RECALL
It has gone forever.
Bound in black leather.
Wrapped in some sort of song.
Crushed beneath our understanding.
Broken apart by dreams we will never
Be able to dream.
They will call us by name.
They will place our mouths against
The parts they will want us to remember
When the blindness arrives with its stainless
Steel instruments and begins to carve
At our gullible understanding.
Those men standing by the door...
They have no intention of ever allowing
Us to leave. They have memorized the names
The camps were given long ago. They know
What happened there. They believe we do not.
From where I am standing I can hear the shots
Being fired into the villages. Later there
Are explosions and what screaming human
Beings do when they are being torn apart
By something they will not forget and hate
We board the buses near the clock tower.
If we pass this way later this evening
We will pick you up and you can come with
Us. We will have guns and big dogs. No one
Will want to mess with us. I promise I will
Not tell them your name if they detain me
At the gates. I heard there were angels
There who would help us. Pray for us.
Reality is not always probable or likely.
—Juan Luis Borges