The land is flat to the horizon.
Oak trees, dark thoughts on the landscape,
Seem only inches tall as they pour across
The golden grasses.
High above, from the north, slices of silver
Show though the painted blue.
These are not angels. Their voices,
The roar of jet engines barely
Audible. We are surrounded by distance.
Through this landscape, a brighter silver
Thread of the river unwinding.
Meandering into sloughs and
Dreamy with egret and heron,
Kingfishers and beaver, the sounds
Of cricket and frogs, a steady
Hum of myriad insects. These songs
Populate the river and the air.
This is the place. The house
Of the sun. The house of the tule fog,
The house of the gifts of the earth.
The great valley. The great room.
The house of grace for all.
GULLS IN THE MORNING
The house recedes in the morning fogs.
Now it is here, now it is gone. From an upstairs
Window a dull yellow light of a candle, lit late
In the nearer dawn rather than a companion for
The entire night. I lift my hand and make a greeting.
Here we go.
I notice something has been stolen from the pain
Of seeing this place as from a dream. I am feeling the veil
But unable to push it away. There is a piano playing
Somewhere but I think it is another’s dream moving
In this sea air. It attracts dreamers like gulls to fish.
The long gliding of bird bodies and a soundless beacon
Struggles to throw the quilt aside and see what is really
Happening in this moment. Here we go.
The mouth is still moist. I was there. I was there.
Who are you anyway? Why would we be here together?
I need to be able to see you but at this moment we are both
Without bodies. Is this the currency of dreaming?
Here we go loop de loop.
Here we go loop de li.
Here we go loop de loop.
The gulls in the morning circle
In closer. They have seen us
Before. They seem to be
Expecting something from us.
AN AVENUE OF THE DEAD
Souls within souls
Blown here in the form
Of flocks of birds,
Coursing through shadowed
Woods. Sometimes they twinkle
As incomprehensible miracles
Across the rows upon rows
The mausoleums make in this place.
They are the sentences of the dead,
A language of bodies dispersed
Into the quiet of books.
The dark sweep of a library
Hallway reaching back further
And further into ashes.
We see an occasional
Painting, or perhaps our own
Reflection as we gaze into
The coolness of the cistern
In the middle of the garden.
We manage to stay within
Strict limits: If you are
Breathing you can be here with me.
If you are not breathing
You become part of the deception,
The parade jingling through
The cemeteries. All has
Become vague and
Seems to stand still.
I wish for the sky to slope
Down from the mountains,
Hold me in that ceiling
Of its dusk and glory,
Make me listen for eternity
As if such a thing were possible.
THE GREAT SHAPES OF THE NIGHT
The great shapes of the night
Move around us. We play
At naming them, inventing
Punctuations to see if we
Can direct the shadows
That catch glints of gold,
Liquid silver, an arduous
Munching at memory
That loves to haunt
We really cannot afford
To be this careless.
After all, the night
Is a serious thing.
We continue to build corridors
For dreams to wander,
Canals for nameless fears.
We visit the outskirts
Of the night with its
Huge walls and empty palaces
Where echoes repeat
Vague memories of garden
Pathways, dim labyrinths
That lead to empty patios
Where one might hear
The distant ring of a telephone
As if it were part of an
Even greater plan than
This unchangeable landscape,
This perfection of form.
The clouds were trying to tell us something
Again. Not about the weather or about water
But about the nature of the night. They shuttered
As if they had souls. They made marks in the air
Describing the space between the stars.
They seemed inexhaustible in their gesticulations.
They said it was because we had eyes and could
See eternity. But no, we were sitting in a field,
Eating black bread and discussing swords and geometry,
Maps and the animals seen by Kenneth Patchen.
We loved things too much and we were ever ready
To think the clouds might be correct about
The night. But we were eating grapes
And drinking water and you were telling
How you had put your tongue on the moon
One night in April and would always remember
It fondly. The clouds could not break their bad habits.
Their minds were always slipping and changing.
The night could hide behind them and still they would
Always settle for less and always begged for an ancient
Language, one that would forget any personal
I stood up and looked at them boiling and tossing.
“Quiet yourselves, dear clouds,” I said.
“You will have to settle for these words today.
It is all we have. Forget our names and tell
Us something about Edinburg or Prague or
Even Buenos Aires. Join us for lunch.
We will not ask for explanations.”
Found it on a steep bank of the creek.
It seemed to have been there for quite awhile.
There was a fine green moss covering most of it
Except for some parts that still
Looked away from the world.
I hadn’t realized it was gone
Until Taylor’s rescue dog began
Behaving strangely in a poem.
It kept moving close then away,
Whining and whining to get attention.
It took hours to get it up off the ground
And back to where it should be.
The night glistened like wet souls
When it saw it in place again.
The moon looking at us as if this
Was some kind of cosmic game.
WHICH IS NORTH
Memories, the blisters of dreams
Well up on whatever we call skin
In our sleeping.
You claim there are flights of stairs
That, despite their solution to travel,
Wander in and out of labyrinths,
Claiming, echoes like victories,
That time is singular. I pause
To think and am covered with roses.
The time I have here, made of gold,
Made of letters and of flashes of light,
Has allowed the white of the purest white
To pass though our very flesh. We no longer
Have kings, our faces might be anyone's face.
It becomes more and more possible that yesterday
Belonged to the moon, that we were not there,
That the story we wanted to tell is in its death throes,
Days and nights confused on our hands. "Which
Ring shall we wear this evening? Which is North?"
We find a chance to let ourselves back into
Streets we know and are able to find our way
Through, back to see our homes disintegrating
Before us, dissolving on the tongue like communion
Wafers. "This is my body." We are called by familiar
Voices. Before long we will remember who it is
We are, why we have come this way, where
Our center is, why our skin plays over us
As if it were a cloth of pure images, memories.
AN INSIDE LOOK
When I looked down
At the table I could see
The poem with a train
Inside of it, steam locomotive,
Blowing steam, highballing
Through the night, stars
Streaming across the sky.
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner, and reminding you that when Anne Rudin was Mayor, she proclaimed October 26 Sacramento Poetry Day. Happy Poetry Day!