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.
TOWARD THE DARK OF AUTUMN
In the sweat, in the dark,
In the hand full of sparks,
A pace poured by the heart,
Loving melody. The wind in the corn.
The moon white before dawn.
The traveller lost to all mornings.
We have seen them here,
We have, we have.
And I’ll open my hand
So as not to stop them.
In their wild lament,
As profound as the prayers
That are spoken by
And those haunted
There is blood, dear God, blood
That comes from my hands
For I cannot command
By the reins.
And the horses don’t know me
And they don’t want to show me
Any way down to good safety.
Let me rest then, when you see
Me again. I will curl myself up
‘Neath the willow. My body will glow
With the glow of green fires
And the stars they will speckle
Do not say my name
In the daylight again
And keep it inside well past dusk.
I will awaken to you
With a story so true
Your mother and father
Will come running,
To offer their arms
To gather you up
And your face it will
Change like the weather.
So silent we ride.
So silent we sleep.
So silent the birds in the high tree.
So worried they seem, for they’ve tasted
My dreams and they too fear every morning.
FOR NOW I WILL BE WINTER
For now I will be Winter. I will open my mouth
To the winds and be the blizzard that never
Forgives the heart in pearly shame, hails
The night as it makes haste to explain
The stars in pain.
We walk along the shoreline once again.
The light sheds its skin around us.
I will not be able to touch you as I am able
To do so now. I will be a season only a short time.
Here—give me your hand somehow, even
If this is a poem and touching is far
Beyond what the page can carry.
I will take you to the houses where
You will see beautiful eyes stare down,
Watching us as we dream surrounded
By death circling in a sky I still have yet
To learn about. My entire season
Crashing into the shore every second,
The seas lifting us as voices of angels
Singing to this white body of land.
Black snow on the night of the full moon.
TO THE RIVER BYRNE
When the bright river Byrne finds its way down
To the green Irrillian shore
And you catch by a chance
A furtive glance of its silver tongue
Tear ‘cross mornings door,
Your heart will leap,
Jump from its sleep
And your eyes will be
Begging for more.
For its clear singing voice leaves
A soul no choice but to join in its song,
In its tumbling swound, over rocks
And granite and scree as it leaps and it bounds
And drives the day through its morning.
I will meet you there so we both
Can stare at a river that charms
Like gold, like dance, like the tales of old
That fair take the heart for its journey.
Know you cannot not return and forever
You’ll yearn for the Byrne
And the land that enfolds her.
I have failed you. You have no idea of how
This moves through me, a cello opening
Somewhere near light, a cast of shadows
Across our feet as we find purchase in
The open voice of a phantom chorus
That wakes us from the deepest of sleeps.
What can I possibly bring to you, a basket
Filled with the charms of a descending scale
Given to the chorus that it may reach inside
Our clothing and beg us to come back
As a kind of morning we will be unable
To speak of when they break all the shells
We have learned to cherish as gifts
From the last time we were able
To stand together on this most beautiful
Of hills and gaze out across a landscape
Nearly black with igneous rock but still
Able to open our mouths in quiet song
Even as a solitary rain storm moves
Through each of our lives
Collecting all that have left of purity
Bound only by the cloak of our personal day?
Tonight the stars,
Pale in their tall choirs,
Reveal nothing. They exhale,
Forgiving themselves for
Their trespasses into our dreams.
We wear the white robes
That absolve us of thinking,
Allow us to raise totems
Brilliant as any storybook
Animal posing as a soul sliding
Onto its stage, glossing the speech
It has prepared, unable to even
Stir as if in an awkward state.
Hear, it states its name,
Its rank, its serial number.
Then in tears, the position
The enemy occupies,
The phases of the moon,
The meaning of the signals
Flashing across the heavens
As steadily as the sun reports
Its planets as constant
Reflections of light.
This is no pretense of power.
It is the very garment
Of the universe, escaped from gray,
Insane enough to believe
Its own vision… the fiery
Balls of light filling all of night
With a language it intends
To forget as soon as
The constellations are named,
And measured, classified
By brightness and allowed
Their eternity of dance
To happen as quickly as
Time allows all light to pass
Its enduing and gnawing
Throne, wider than an open
Hand placed against the
Sky to capture that perfect darkness
Behind an even greater darkness.