Here it is always just about
Going to be Winter. They have
Already taken it out of the box,
Started the pilot holes and are
Just sorting out the long sheet
Rock screws they are going to use
To hold the damn thing together.
They know that they shouldn’t
Use sheet rock screws but there
Were a lot of different lengths of them,
They were cheap and they had the best
Color for the season.
They chose the screws like they were
Fine wines or good bourbon, carefully.
Looking at the Phillips slot head to make
Sure it was deep enough and had good edges,
Testing the pointed end, checking that it was sharp
And would take a good bite to hold the season
In place for the next three months without weakening.
By the time the winds began and the rain
Started to really mean it, it was pretty well
Together. Anyone could tell it was Winter,
Especially if you stood back like behind a window
In an old parlor with heavy velvet curtains,
Just staring at the thing like you’d lost something
Important but just couldn’t quite remember what.
The geese were using up pretty much all of the sky
Headed South by now and it was time to put the tools
Back in the green painted wooden box until everyone
Decided to do Spring again. But living here
It was pretty much always going to be just as I’ve
Described it, except you could hear the drill
Whine and spin those screws so tight their
Heads were all just below the surface of the
Season looking like crows built on a schedule.
I enter the machine.
I enter the machine.
I enter the machine.
The machine knows I am here.
The machine uses my eyes.
The machine opens the pages.
The machine will answer your questions.
I feel the machine in my lymph system.
I hear the machine making its dancing sounds.
The machine can make a road anywhere it likes.
The machine will read out loud to huge crowds.
The machine has teeth like a doll's teeth.
There are great hornets living in the machine.
It will surprise you when it has made this poem.
We lose our skin to the machine. It weeps
For no reason at all. There is a room here
That no one has discovered yet. One can
Hear someone breathing inside of it.
I cannot tell you who that is or why they
Are there. The trees are getting angry.
They line up near the machine.
They know the name of the machine.
They can touch its name with their leaves.
I wish I could tell you more about the machine
But I am inside the machine and can only say
Things like “Gee Whiz" and “Look at That, Will Ya.”
There are too many things to say about the machine.
The lights are flickering. I can kind of see a lot of doors.
Some of them have metal plates with words attached
To them. One of the words is "shadow".
I will never be the same again.
I will hide this inside of you so it won’t
Be seen again. If I were you I would forget
That you’ve ever seen this. They know
You have been here reading these words.
Please stop now before someone knocks
On your door. They are already on your street.
A SHRUNKEN HEAD
The beautiful light that from the shrunken
Head left hanging by the study door sheds
Upon the hardwood floor opens eyes now
Sewn shut before they knew the why or wherefore
The body that once held held it could bring forth.
The streams that poured through its garden
Full of lore even stranger than what befell
The explorer of a distant roar that found
Its way down from high mountains and rushed
Across the floor of bounding stream beds.
The last thing I recall was the slipping,
A sliding of the jungle that opened up
Into a blue as quiet as love might be .
His own cupped hand pleased him
For a moment like love or a solitary
God seen leaning, against a tree
He had not noticed the beauty of, until
That very moment and it was to be his last.
A perfect cut by the best of knives.
There was not room for a single thought.
Everything eclipsed by a thought
That this witness was to be his last.
His head tumbling to the jungle floor.
Pleasing the water’s voice, the courtesy
Of this last vision, an unknown sliding
From the eternal, fragile, mysterious,
Full of the music knives contain
As they perform the only song they know.
I don’t live here because
I can tell what is real
Or what is not. I cannot.
The floor is covered with oil.
A dark, deep, black oil that
Smells of the night.
Once I built a fire of books
That I loved and lived for a year
Eating only the ashes of these books.
I learned nothing from this.
I can see people as if they were
Never going to stop existing.
I will cease to exist but they will not.
I watch them stack the bodies
Behind the drug stores.
None notices them at all.
I want to see myself running
Up the stairs. I live in a circle
Where one can always hear,
But will not understand the language.
I would like to think that someone
Is trying to show me something.
My father told me never to steal
Anything. I steal images.
A secret center full of sweetness
Days and nights. I steal from
My own dreams. I think
They might be my home but
There is no place there.
A labyrinth that finds poems.
What really has faces?
A laceration becomes morning.
I am a garden. I must deliver
Something to you. How about the moon?
I walk in the mists. We are always
Carrying loads of sticks and pots
On our heads. Perhaps we will live here.
I can see water from where I am.
We might fish.
I am dressed in red. I stand
At the top of the waterfall
Staring at a gold tiger. Many other
Precious things are hidden in the twilight.
Tonight we will all wear the red garments.
We will hold each other's hands.
There may not be another evening
Like this one.
We never would have believed they had weapons
As powerful as the ones we encountered,
Rational thought removed from incredible
Distances, the idea that history was a voice of reason,
A kind of clarity and certainty that we need go no further.
Passion offers us a seat, claiming it is turning
Us loose, that we have forgotten the easiest
Part. The pastel-colored clouds are ordered
Into position. They wait in line near the horizon.
We discuss if it is visions we are having, elevated,
Degraded, mansions we were never supposed
To occupy, let alone live in. Every age has its own
Idea of the genuine. We avoid it at all costs.
These figures keep returning. They hold out
Their hands to us. They offer us gifts that
We are unable to accept. They seem depraved,
Do not serve the good of the many. Absent love.
WE HAVE NO INFORMATION
We were unable to revive him.
No one is supposed to be that color
Expect perhaps a lobster, blue, yellow,
White, orange and black in the same body.
His skin looked like ancient Roman glass.
There was an oily sheen that reflected
Light like motor oil mixed with water.
His mouth was broken. We supposed
He had said something that did not fit in it.
It looked like he was starting to smile
But everything collapsed before it got there.
His car was still shaking. It kept it up
For about three hours but there was no wind.
And it wasn’t running. It did not make any noise.
You are not supposed to know any of this.
There was no identification on his body.
By the time the police got there, all that was left
Was the car.
If anyone asks you about this, act like you
Don’t know anything and claim that
You were just reading a poem. Everyone
Will believe you and leave you alone.
When we are not there is the only
Time it will arouse attention.
Three spinning balls larger than
Questions work themselves into
A frenzy of needing someone to see
Them, but it is never us. No matter
How hard our prayers become, there
Is no way we can see them, even looking
At mirrors does not serve us well.
I’ve been going through this dilemma
For years now, mostly after dark when
Without reason I become obsessed
With this idea as if it were a void
In my life. I try to observe the scene
To no avail. I am fervent even when
It ceases to matter. It seems as if
I could win this one without a problem.
I’ve finally made the decision in advance:
To know how beautiful they are without having
To see them spinning there, throwing off
Colors and sparks, dream-like mists,
A music never before heard. It is
Truly beautiful. I will lead my life knowing this.
Truly fine poetry must be read aloud. A good poem does not allow itself to be read in a low voice or silently. If we can read it silently, it is not a valid poem: a poem demands pronunciation. Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art. It remembers that it was first song.
—Jorge Luis Borges