I am caught in the darkness
Near light but still unable to see
Where it is I am. The blear of night
Stumbling close by my footsteps.
If I put my hand on the wall, I know
I am near light but there is no light.
The illuminated globe of the world glows
Just beyond the door, should there be a door,
And, of course, we always hope for a door.
I saw you standing at the back of the room.
We had just finished playing the song about
The dawn during the snowstorm and how
The sun had moved through the falling snow.
Everything became a kind of gold that we did not
Know how to describe, so we made the music
Within it. There was one bird, he had a damaged
Wing and flew in circles around us making a wonderful
Sound. The lyrics were based on those circles.
I found my hands upon your shoulders.
I thought I was still in the music. Golden
Lights flew along the edges of my vision
Inside my eyes, yet still high above it.
I walked all the way to the end of the road
Where the waterfall began. It was nearly
Twilight and the waterfall was a lilac and hyacinth,
The color of heartbreak or someone you love
Walking away and you, knowing you will not
Be seeing them again. I suppose there is
A music there but it is stolen by cellos and keyboards.
Given to a corner where we notice the quality
Of the light, the people crossing the room,
The way their conversation had its own agenda
And there we were, together once again, waiting
As we are now. I lean close. Listening to your breathing.
One expects the endings to collect at the door
But these look so plain together without
Their particular speech bubbles filled with a traffic
That swirls around them, locked in some kind of terrible
Dance, pulling at the curtain, sailing through it all,
Searching for a new course of something sweet,
Shall we say like butterscotch or comforting like toast.
But no, here they are, clustered around the stage door,
Wearing our clothes, using our gestures, inflecting our voices.
They demand we be their portrait, a diagram built of pipes and endings,
Smearing their flaccid discoveries on our consciousness,
Driving it to the showers to cleanse the shit of their appropriated
Lives from our actions, bowing to us as if we had granted this.
WHERE THEY LEFT THE BROKEN PARTS
We were standing as close to the edge of the waterfall
As we could get and still walk the earth. Our luck held
As long as our memory, until it became so intolerable
We could only see our situation through the eyes of a poet.
We kept using up our years gazing into the maelstrom.
Any part of sameness held contradiction, like a Summer’s
Night, cricket sounds, the voices of frogs, so near
We imagined that words were something that has been
Sent to us as impermanent as something to be desired.
We had no secrets. You must have seen us holding the branches,
The trees extended over the edge of the place, a door to another
Universe, one without heroes or the treachery of ancient legends
To carry us over the brink. We became the property of the moment.
It seemed enough, no, more than enough, like a gunman
Demanding all attention or the mouth of a lover busy with its
Ministrations and explorations, impossible to ignore.
The entire construct vanishes even as it stands in the light.
Something buys a part of the morning, a feeble objectiveness
Composed of the beginnings of conversations; the conditions
For an argument begin to torment us as we try to raise a song.
Finally, we become spectacle. A raft of fresh green and perfect
Blue. The mad rush of water capturing every color the light throws
At it. It all begins to disintegrate around us. We find images
Showing its presence in old postcards and an occasional lantern
Slide. When we research what may have happened to all of it,
A single image, an engraving, shows a horse being pulled away
From the edge of the waterfall, one man pulling feverishly
On the reins. The rest, a story in a tourist guidebook already old.
The house we lived in in the Fall was the one the guests used
in the Winter. Papa said we had to come here to get the place
ready. After all, we were to be the landlords for that season,
and by clearing the brambles away from the windows and
trapping the gophers that had made such a mess of the lawns,
we could make good use of the lull before the people from
America came here with their horrible children who always
ran around in the snow stark naked, screaming snide remarks
about how backwards we all seemed, and our failure to
understand their idioms.
We knew they were not quality people and Sammy and my
sister Dorothy who we called Dot would blush whenever they
were in their presence. Still they radiated a sense of some
great failure waiting to be uncorked.
Mama always said we must pray the rosary for these people.
Yes, they brought us money for the season, but they were snide
and those adults with their drinking, their sack-like bodies,
wearing those disgusting purple and red-violet slippers to all
the meals, always teetering on the edge of the stairs, about to
come crashing down. They would uncork five or six bottles
of wine even before the meal had begun, and would want more
before the meal was half over.
Sammy told me he wished the dogs would eat them during the
night. Then we would not be the ones who were made to feel
failure every time we turned around. "Shit animals" is what he
called them. "Eat, drink, sleep and shit is all they do," he said.
“Don’t use those expressions,” mother would chasten us. It
wasn’t that she disagreed. She just wanted us to show more
quality than these people could ever do.
Once I heard her tell Papa that they were "shit animals".
I was up in the night to go to the bathroom and I could hear
Mama and Papa talking in their room. “Sammy called them
‘shit animals’ and that is what they are, Lars. I smell them even
before they come into the room. I can’t stand to do this every
I know we had no choice. I vowed never to let them touch me,
which they always seemed to want to do. I told Sammy and
Dot never to allow them to touch them either. There was no
argument. I could hear Sammy saying "shit animals" quietly,
over and over again as we went into the kitchen for the broom.
It was his turn to sweep the stairs.
Most devoted is this wind,
Unhurried but persistent
In its naming of the land.
“What country is this?”
These soft animals of childhood walking
In the last of the twilight.
“Is this where the seasons come from?”
“Look, there is death. Even his horses
Are beautiful. He has such multitudes
Accompanying him he barely notices."
To death it is all music,
We can see eternity, getting dressed.
It is wearing purple this morning.
It washes its hands in blood
As if it were a secret.
The power of the wind never lessens.
It carves our faces even as we
Stand still gazing at the battlefields.
He said the fence came right
Up to where he was dreaming,
Slapped him in the face before
He could even wake up,
And was gone. But it made
A mistake. It withdrew too quickly.
He could see the crack it made
When it whipped itself back,
There was light getting in.
It pulled him toward it.
He could see The Battle of Hastings
Going on in that mistake.
It was as perfect as any
Instrument could be.
He could care less about the future.