Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Roots of Language

At the Beach

The roots of language are of steel.               
                            —J.L. Borges
The objects hardest to break remain.
                            —I. Calvino

All of the words which speak of distances
In lovely forms, describing groves
Of trees, armies riding with their
Banners declaring what banners may declare,
Cities shimmering on the plain
Or blinking with myriad lights on the
Seaward sides of rolling hills, market
Places crowded with all one might
Desire, great waterfalls with their towers
Of mist, each of these, a symphony
In that distance, is not that thing.

As we come closer to them
They are changed or we perceive them
As having changed.  Sometimes the
Most compelling of images are dull
And mundane as we draw near to them.

And, as a bit of writing on one side
Of a piece of paper cannot know
The other, will never inform more
Than it can call up of its own page,
So a magic is born there and we
Create tales of the smallest of things.

A ring made of ivory and ruby that
Once belonged to a princess who married
A spider who later became a handsome
Prince because he was loved.

A horse of such perfection that it
Took years to find someone as
Beautiful as the horse to ride it
And by then the horse had become old.

Perhaps and only perhaps, could a song
Made on this side of the page
Be heard on the other side?
But it would take the best
Of singers, one who could imagine
What that page might say,
How the words might carry
The mystery to us.


JUNE 23, 2013

The moon really means it tonight.
It’s not just fooling around.

It turns the sky pink even when
It is not in that part of it.

And when it is there,
There is no room for anything

The moon has become a fluid
Or a cask leaking moon spirit
Over everything,

Tonight there is no place to hide.
Even I can see the light in the eye
Of a vole moving by the fence,
Separating the yards.  It is no longer
Frightened.  This night has made all
Things the same.  The shadows are
Inside the houses.  The mouth
Of the moon is all over everything.

It pretends to kiss us, to love us
But it is sloppy and comes too
Close.   Just when we feel it does not
Have anything to do with us, that it
Is just a rock sphere sitting out there,

It begins insisting
We go back into the house
So as not to not have to look
At it anymore, or if unable
To do so, decide to invent pastures,
The fields, the so specific light.
Light crosses the forest
Tonight and begins to create rumors

About the moon...the rabbit
Who dwells there, what the man
In the moon really does.
Where have the nursery rhymes gone
Now that we have become adults?

Beach Graffiti


I had already left the room,
Left the house and started
Down the long alley of Lombardy poplars
When it occurred to me that I was
Still hearing the last part of the conversation
I had been engaged in previously.

It was the sound that surprised me so.
It was actually coming into my ears.
I was nowhere near any other person
And caught myself clutching at my throat,
Words coming out of my mouth.
I had not been thinking about the conversation
At all.

I began to be frightened that the sounds
Were so clear and that I was speaking,
When I realized it could just be
The wind through the trees,
The little arguments the sparrows
Were having, the cicadas informing
Each other of their music with one
Another.  I stopped on the path,
Waiting for something substantial to indicate
That this was an entirely different
Experience than my conversation
In the house.

I listened a long time.  I could feel
The night begin its walk, and waited
For the moon to rise and throw shadows
Along the walkway.

This waiting and this listening and this
Royal collection of sounds and
Vision had exactly the same qualities
My conversation had had.

Finally, I continued and could no longer
Distinguish what the subject
Had been.  I was part of a greater
Language that went beyond both
Words and concerns, understanding
Everything, calm in my knowledge,
Wondering if I ever need to speak again.

                              —Lydia Davis

So many little rooms, each one full
Of beautiful rugs, mostly
North African with their
Lovely borders, ‘his hand
In his brother’s hand.’

“Nobody cares about these rooms,”
Ramon said, pulling me along
To get back to the horses.

“They don’t care about much;
What they are going to eat,
Where they will sleep,
Do they look good.”

We reach the horses and quickly
Get out of town, get back to the forest.

“We will make some music when
We get back,” says Ramon.

“I want to sing a song about rugs,”
I tell him.

“That’s a good idea.  That’s what they are
Good for,” said Ramon.

 Rock and Stone


During the night the enemy had come,
Taking our shields as we slept.

There were lions near the camp.
We could hear them coughing close
To the edge of the forest.
We were not afraid.

Ramon and Miguel could speak to them.
The lions had seen the thieves come
During the night. They had followed them.

The large pride led us into a clearing
Where our shields were
Lined up on a row.
There were also a number of other
Weapons next to them, not ours.

“Why were the shields left here?”
I asked Ramon.
“The lions put them there for us.”
“Where are the soldiers who took
Them?” I asked Ramon.

“It is impolite to ask,” he answered.



No one has touched his body in a very long time.
And he watched it as if it were
A golden boat lifting from the surface
Of the water, claiming air
To hold the hull, to drive it
With only wind. Wind and a perfect star.

“Yes, that is something I have done,”
He thinks and gathers in the streamers
Of light that lit the labyrinth
For a thousand years.  He plies
Them into a belt and wears it.

Gazing down from a great height,
Not discovered by the twinkling
Lights so far below his delicate balance.

“I have something for this.  It will
Be a song.”  He helps it along
Through the harbor, tests it with
A three-pronged tool to ease
The sea back into the dream.

He will even borrow someone
Else’s dream of living by the shore,
Listening to the gulls in the morning
And the crispness of the air.
“They will never notice,” he thinks,
Letting the sails fill with a phantom wind,
Allowing light to escape and bounce
On the throat of the waves.

“No one will see this,” he assures himself,
“No one at all,”
The shore line disappearing
In the wake of such a beautiful ship.


Today's LittleNip:


“There is no way
You can go everywhere,”
She said.

“You just watch,”
He said.


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's poems and pix!

Palm Shadow