The jungle was already torn when we arrived.
One could see into the gash for an extremely
Long way. It looked like an ancient ritual
Might look where the celebrant reached into
The chest of the victim and pulled the heart,
Still beating, from the body and held it high
For all to see.
The birds were the first to exit the cover.
Their cries were a voluble explosion,
Chatter and freakish noise that permeated
The air and then the skin, flooding the heart
With the anguish of its sounds.
The rainbows of feathers had no apparent
Order. There was only a cacophony of color.
No flocks here. Only terribly frightened birds
Swirling from the deepest parts of the jungle.
We retreated to our vehicles when the insects
Flowed from the great forest. It was too much
To absorb; the sounds, the metallic voices,
The unmistakable hum of millions upon millions
Of insects pouring through the opening and making
Tsunami as they coursed across the land. We were unable
To even see anything from our cars, so covered they were
With the seething bodies of endless tiny creatures.
They washed over us and rejoined the jungle behind us.
The greater animals followed, not concerned at all
That we were there. The sullen coughs and roars,
The screams and calling of all species filing past,
Not intending harm, just moving, moving to leave
This sorry intrusion into another world, not theirs,
We were to follow them. As they passed we started
Our engines and formed a close pack, growling and
Sliding on the boggy ground. They hadn’t seen
The last of us. We were witness to what they did.
We would return, all of us. All of us. The planet still
Whirling as if directed by some mad force intent
On telling each of us how to behave, what to do.
The crickets cutting the night in half,
The edge of Autumn sits in the oak
Wood and licks up the sunlight,
Licks up the shadow, loosens
The delta breeze as if the garment
Of a lover, making the body
Available to the touch of hands
Across the breasts, the harvest.
The musical notation of the cumulus clouds
Billowing on their invisible columns
Of air. Trees of clouds with no
Roots proclaiming the change.
I walk the edge of the garden,
Kick up small puffs of dust,
See the yellow and the orange
And the dull green and tan
That are the squashes. Listen
To the corn, stalk against stalk
Competing with the stridulation
Of the field cricket,
The snowy tree cricket.
I circle the garden three
Times and decide to fly
Above the trees, higher
Than I have ever dared
Before. The delta
Unwinds below me. I
See the languid sloughs
In their hidden weaving,
Watch the late sun tip the edge
Of the earth, call up the night.
The night touching everything with its
Most delicate of hands, lifts
The moon to an amazing height,
Taking the hours of the season
Away in intimate revelations.
Moonlight on the flat, flat river.
Shadows of the oaks turned
To lace and made to dance
Before me, ancient dances,
The steps of which all life
Has always known.
NOTES FROM A JOURNAL
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.
NOT WAKING UP
I think they have sent the jackals
To eat our goats. I can hear them,
Smell the spice of blood on the wind.
When I look up, it is possible to see
The weft of the dreaming whip around
The selvages and hear the heddles shift
Like noisy teeth and the beater bar driving
Everything into a seamless cloth that
Contains our families, our separate camps,
The bodies of dogs asleep near the fires.
But I am alone here. I have been left to work
The treadles, force the warp through the reeds,
Listen to the coughing of the jackals as they
Move closer to me, arching over the beam.
This seems to happen when the moon
Gets broken in the edges of the high
Foothills, when the nights get so cold
They feel as if the blood could break
Out of the veins and form pictures
Like those in the ancient caves.
But I am afraid. I cannot see my goats.
They are on the steep sides of the hills.
All I have are prayers and a hope
That it is not jackals. But in my heart
I know that it is. I want my family.
I can see them in the tents far below,
Working the looms, making them tell
The tales we are unable to make
Into words, the feel of a kiss upon
The lips in the middle of the night.
DICKENS AND SYLVIA
“You can’t go down there anymore, Dickens,” he said,
pushing the gate closed just before the boy reached it.
“Sylvia’s gone, Dickens. There is nothing down there
anymore. Fire got it all and what it left behind the dogs
ate. So stay out, boy. It’s no good.”
When he opened his eyes, Raleigh was still there holding
on to the gate where the path led down the ravine.
Dickens made like he didn’t see him, rushed the gate and
easily cleared the top of it. He could hear Raleigh
complaining, but it mostly sounded like turkeys carrying on.
The light in the ravine must have owed something to some-
body. It was all yellowy and looked like it had been that
way for a long time. It didn’t feel healthy.
Dickens cracked a branch off a hickory nut tree and
pushed his way down with heavy steps he could feel
through his boots.
The house was gone. all right. Nothing. The little creek
behind where the place had been looked flat like a slow-
moving lead thing. He stopped in the middle ground
where the house had been and whispered “Sylvia. Syl,
can you hear me?” But there was nothing.
It was very different here. When he was ten years old,
everything was so much better. The colors of the world
had changed by the time he turned 18. Things didn’t look
right anymore. And now, there was no Sylvia and no
house and no red chair by the door that looked out at the
creek, where he used to sit talking to her about everything
he ever knew.
“Sylvia, I can’t come down here again. It makes me think
too much and I don’t like the colors anymore. You know?
That god damn creek looks like somebody just thought it up.
There’re no frogs or fish or crickets, no lightning bugs or
nothing but that stupid gate you put there, and Raleigh
watches all the time and goes on about the words and the
field and how the horse is gone. He’s not sane, Syl. I saw
where you put the horse. You didn’t want anyone to be here.
Anyway, I was the last one here you said and now I gotta’
go. But I seen that horse, Syl. I’m going over to where
it is now. I just wanted to tell you.
THE WAY IT WORKS
I cannot play at drifting anymore.
I open up my heart and it gets sore.
I look upon the mountains to inspire,
A fault, no doubt, you’re well to call me liar.
A room filled with masks.
Outside I can hear the dogs barking.
I will strive to be as one. I may be
This one or the other. I will become
A sailor. I will tell stories to children
In Icelandic and German. I will note
Dust motes in the air. They are like
A great river. This will make me
Speak of the eternal without knowing
If there could be such a thing.
I will find my way down to the docks.
I will board the golden ship.
I will board the silver ship.
I will board the bronze ship.
I will forget why I have come here.
I will know longer know how
This day works and even what it is.
I will learn to make pictures
Using only floss that will never
Quite explain anything. I will proclaim
Song to be liquid and love to be
In any form but its black opposite.
I will sit upon the hill.
I will see Quixote ride past in the valley.
I will see Ulysses out upon the sea.
I will see them build the Alhambra.
I will listen to the radio and it will
Carry only the voices of the angels
Into the world.
I shall spend my nights in sleep,
In dreaming, and will be unable to tell
If there is waking or not dreaming.
I will exult that memory too
Is its own river. People will fish
In its depths and entertain themselves
With boating and the watering of crops.
I will consume the sun.
I will conclude in echoes.
I will understand the labyrinth
By becoming the labyrinth.
I will be at peace and know oblivion.
“See, the problem is, we can’t always know we are in
a labyrinth, even when we crack up full against its walls
or see the dogs that it keeps so we won’t notice where
“What the fuck are you talking about?” she asks,
pointing her index finger directly at his head, making a
gesture as if she were shooting him. “You’ve cracked,”
she adds, as if it were a kind of announcement.
“Shhh,” he says. “Just because you can sit there at that
desk all day and make money doesn’t mean that I’m
wrong. If I left the room, you wouldn’t know where
I went. It’s a labyrinth. Give me five minutes and you
couldn’t find me for a week. That’s how it works.
One minute you’re here and the next minute you are
just electricity existing only as an email or a digital blip
on a surveillance camera. Somebody looking into your
bedroom, somebody with an idea they can frame you,
blackmail you in some way. Know what I mean?”
“No," she answers. “You’re floating off again,
dreaming, Bill, dreaming. This is a real world. You
just don’t want to live in it, do you? You just make up
shit and hope it makes sense.”
“Well, you don’t make much sense,” he says, pulling
a rather large bird from his jacket pocket and stepping
to the window to release it into the gray afternoon. “If
you could be that bird, you could see the labyrinth. You
could see where they have placed the mirrors to confuse
you. Forget it.”
She crosses to the window to watch the bird flying
away. “Every time we come to Venice, you get this way.
I don’t like to bring you here. I think all those islands
and all that water fucks up the way you think. I want to
go back to Paris. It’s easier to work there.”
“There is a labyrinth right in the floor of Notre Dame,”
“Will you shut up about that labyrinth,” she says,
looking directly at him.
“Yeah,” he says. “I will,” and walks across the room
and out of the room. “Now you can’t see me. Try to
follow me.” He is shouting loudly.
“You wish,” she mumbles to herself and sits down
to resume typing. “You wish.”
Darkness personified itself and stood, slightly opaque
waving a paper in front of my face. I reached for it but
my footing was gone. The gravel rolled under my feet
and I rushed toward darkness and lost my balance,
darkness yawning ahead of me, a scum of words
blistering from its mouth. I felt for the smallest moment
I would never move again. The airport lights in the
distance, I reached the overhang and jumped into its
mouth. It smiled, whispered my name, showed me its
dimples, told me it loved me.
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's poems and pix as he explores the sights and sounds of his new home in Locke.