EDGE OF THE SEA
Death was asleep
When the children
Found his coat
Lying next to him
In the leaves.
They took it down
To the ocean shore
And tossed it high
In the air. Watched
It settle like a bird
They thought it looked
Like a bird.
But soon death awoke
And saw the children playing.
“Give me back my coat!”
Shouted Death. “Give me back
But the children could not
Hear death because of laughing
And because of the sea
And because the day was big
And because of the fluttering
Coat. So death walked up
To where they were and smiled
At the children. “My coat,”
He said reaching into the sky
Where it fluttered, and drew
It down about his shoulders.
The children thought the bird
Had flown away, so cold was
The air of a sudden. The coat
Rising higher and higher. “This is
Some bird,” said one of them.
“It can be so big and soft but
When it rides on the wind it becomes
Small and rises up
To where we cannot see it at all.”
As strange as it seems, there was no one
Waiting for him on the other side.
There had been no edges, nothing that would
Frighten anyone. True, he could see
The pendulum swing back and forth
Behind him. He looked at it for awhile
Nearly hypnotized by its slow sway.
It seemed like this place was the present tense
But it was yesterday. It had a gentle
Slap to it that was comforting.
There were other people, but they had
No faces and they did not harm him.
Echoes were much more prominent.
One could hear Dante as clear
As if he were in the room or a famous
Sword. The acts of the dead slide
Away without any mirror at all,
Without reflection. Knowledge
Comes with its own price.
One forgets what brought one
Here in the first place.
I like to think it was a vague speculation
That led me here to what I will call
The Magical. I can speak to others
But one’s voice gathers all the things
King David did as he grew old.
The days pour out their poetry.
It might be in any language.
Anyone might appear at any moment:
Goethe or Browning, Whitman or Blake
Rise up from the end of the end of the pen
And allow me to echo them,
Trim my sails that my lines
Be smart, that reality be just that
Much closer to any reader.
I am no longer afraid of the moon.
I encourage others to be the same.
I can imagine morning but it is more
Beautiful than anything I have previously
There are dreams.
They are like the rain.
It is a remarkable rain.
Each rain like no other
Every drop fitted
To its own dream.
I will walk to that seat
By the corner of the road
And it will be more than enough
To drive the poetry out of the place.
The blue of the sky. The changing
Alphabet of the clouds.
The singing, always the singing,
Coming over the patio as we sit
And listen to the fountain
At the edge of the garden.
We have our myths. The smooth stones
Our solitude seeks out and populates
With stars, some of which we
Know the names of and so many
Of which we will never hear more
Than this fleeting evening presents to us.
I will drink the water from my cup
And walk you past any door—
Even suicide if you would like to
Meet yourself again very quickly.
I can offer my rememberings.
I could teach you about prayer,
But you have proven you know
All the words.
THE ROADS ARE SLIPPERY WITH OIL
Occasionally tiny blue creatures
Glide across its surface,
Heads down, skimming for
The sun was flickering
We were sitting by the side
Of the roads, smoking.
“The sun was never
That color,” you said.
“It’s all the fires,”
“We always think it’s something
Else,” you said.
During the playback the image
Fluttered a lot and we
Couldn’t see the parts
With the gunfire clearly.
They advanced our ages
Very quickly. We could say
“Can we see it again?” you said.
“The tiny blue creatures
Look so different now.
They led us away.
It was like being blind.
(first pub. in Star Line, 2012)
LAKE ONTARIO, LATE NOVEMBER 1994
The other night, I was thinking who
Would understand these words as they
Blew by you, into the space just past
What I knew a moment ago, when everything
I thought was true, unleashed itself and drew
A new venue for my feelings; rooms full of ways
Of feeling, full of methods to blast through the
Gestures and emotions that we use to clue one
Another as to how we might believe in any
Given situation, phasing of the moon—to try,
At least, to try and understand ourselves
Together, bound by words and promises made
Each to each. We choose this way to teach
Each other what we know of love and its uncharted
Roads. No one ever told us that a special light
Might suddenly announce itself and stand before
Us, friends from long ago, suddenly here, unannounced,
Clear as a summer’s day, our name upon its lips,
A message held in the hand saying: "Hello, it is us, those who
Have known you throughout time. We have seen you standing here
This evening, full of concern for one and another, love depending on
Your very shirtsleeves, and came here to envelop you, a kind of
Cloak, if you will. You need not say our names. They are your own,
Transformed by touch and speaking so simply
Even rocks may understand. Look at this.”
A gull flies past us. It is so close we can hear its wing
Lifting above our heads. The another and another, a
Circle and procession toward the center of the lake. Sound
Bouncing on the rocks, our footfalls, moving toward the parking
Lot, and the car, quiet and protected, a place to watch the wind.
GOING TO FARS
We were taken to the site
Of Fars where we would study
The Jumping phenomena
Everyday hundreds of people
Jumped from the towers
Of Fars and became smears
On the face of time.
The whole place
Had been burned out
Years earlier. A flaw
Of the imagination
Caused the towers to rise
Again and no one
Could stop the flow
Of those who came to Fars.
As we drew near,
Our skin filmed over
And we could see the city
With new eyes. It appeared
Heart-shaped in the distance,
Covered with fingermarks
And on the verge of breaking.
Once inside a tower
We knew why the city
Was mad. From here
And through the film
We could see as through the eyes
Of a Far. The whole of
The city seemed to be
We left at once.
It took weeks
For the redness
To leave our skin.
AN UNEXPECTED DOORWAY
The final archetypes are no longer
The fabric we have come to know
So well: the morning, the afternoon,
They have been eclipsed by other shadows.
Fractured by mirrors, pleasing
To the eyes as a marble curve
Over a bower hiding an entrance
To a labyrinth paved with black sand,
Punctuated by the scent of jasmine.
Let us not go there. Rather
Let us embrace the evening as a thing
Most mysterious, eternal, fragile,
And as clear as any melancholy
Is to the heart. No matter.
We will embrace this time,
Bleed its colors, look to its end
As the ransom paid for colors
For the some remote future we
May deserve, dust and the dreams of dust.
We will stand at the battlements
With this one thing, an evening,
Perhaps this very one.
I will open my hand.
I will find my way back
To the black sands, enter
That labyrinth, practice
Each moment, imagine
There is some captain I may
Report to, claiming a great
Knowledge of all that has happened
On the earth.
The lights are coming on.
We are finally able to see
All the way to the mountains.
A sense of wonder has invaded
Us again and we marvel at red-violets,
The softest of purples, the honeyed air
The evening brings to this place.
We can wait no longer. We have been
Waiting for this moment all of the day.
The moths begin to take the air once again.
The night birds prepare the songs they will
Sing all night.
Now, I will hold you close to me and kiss
Your lips and feel those feelings that I have not
Found anywhere else in the world today.
Let this be a song of praise for the valley
Where we can see the lights of the farmhouses
From miles away, hear the lowing of the cattle
As they too know this moment, believing as
We do, that they are singing the most beautiful
Teardrops like hot rockets.
They slice lines into
The face but the bones
The skin becomes thin
Like uncooked eggs.
A low dry noise escapes
From its place. It coats
It is full of superlatives.
When we feel, the membrane
Pulses. For this we are called
This is the perfect place.
No footprints anywhere.
Things like these cool
The blood slightly.
They are beyond remembering.
They are called kites.
We watch their silky
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's poems and pix! Click on any picture to expand it.
For more about poetry in Bolinas, see www.jackmagazine.com/issue3/renhist.html for Kevin Opstedal's article, "A Literary History of the San Andreas Fault: Bolinas Section".