It was a clarity that had
Nowhere to go, the perfect
Word held on the lips
Just a moment too long,
So that its meaning was changed.
A second or third definition
Would be implied as the word
Was spoken. I had no objection
To this. In fact, I treasured
This when it happened.
It was, as Stevens said.
“Beyond the genius of the sea”
And I would unwind myself
From any logical thought
I may have had and allow
Myself to understand the world
In an entirely new way.
I would lean out into the meaning
Not knowing what I was going
To say next and I’d feel really
Good about it as if I were on
A journey to a spectacular canyon land
Where there was a natural bridge
Reaching over my head, forming
The perfect frame for a stunning
View of a valley filled with
Red columns of red rocks
And a slip of a river reflecting
Just at the edge of sight.
"I wonder what that means?"
I would think, but by then
There was a wind, or a bird coasting
On the high current,
Or the advent of yet another
Question lodged in my breath,
Trying to make me understand
What all of language truly meant.
“I FELT AS IF I WERE LIVING ALONE
IN AN EXTREMELY WELL-CARED-FOR RUIN.”
I was not, of course.
It was the world, to be sure.
I could feel my childhood
Within it in a most unusual manner.
It had its own stage, nearly
Drained of color, like living,
Before the War II, in a field
Across from factory smoke.
The sound of a rag man
Pushing a cart through the streets,
Barely asphalted and gently sloped.
At night one could see
The factory fires through the
Thin woods. Whose woods
These were, I thought I knew,
But they did not live here any longer.
They simply drained the feeling
From me as if formed
By an artisan using porcelain
Careful against mistakes,
Shaping and un-shaping with his hands—
Consciousness that only the furnace
Fires in the distance were red,
Red-orange and sometimes blue.
The slag wagons at night stumbled
Right through open fields,
Looking like stars moving over ground.
They were too far away to make a sound
That could not carry any meaning
But was still significant,
Like knowing how to breathe using
Yet never entering the sea.
The edges of this place were crisp
But details were impossible
To focus on, as when one
No longer has pain, yet can recollect it.
The body no longer uses the nerves
To describe sensation, or like opening
One’s hand to find a glowing coal
In its palm; a cartoon
Bit of video, mostly there,
But incapable of causing
Anything but a visual sensation.
Everything in its place,
Waiting for the rising of the sun.
Noises from a railroad yard
In the near distance.
The guns cough up their
Blue seed into our cities.
We recognize so many faces
Drifting in and out of Preta
Realms. Sometimes they
Are our children. Sometimes
They are our lovers, our priests,
Our finest dancers, column
After column of hungry faces.
We will play them sweet music
And perform before the throne.
We will tell the stories to chambers
Filled with red ghosts and glistening
Strangers who claim they want
Nothing from us. “We come
In peace,” they say.
We devour our own hearts.
We hide our hands beneath
Our lovely clothing. Still they
Come toward us. We sit upon
The ground and begin these stories.
We hear the guns snapping
Like twigs in a storm made of ice.
Dressed in fetish clothing
And hearing uncomfortably clearly,
I stretch a membrane of understanding
Across my eyes.
I will have no doubt the next time
I see your face.
I will find it easy to recognize the grace
Of misunderstanding you.
It will be like a perfectly sharpened
My principles will fracture
Revealing all their petty foundations.
I will shake within the wall of language,
Waiting for a single pause where I might catch
My breath and identify my feeling
For you just this once.
There is no use.
I am smeared upon the words,
Barely able to buckle the straps
Around my body, barely able to attenuate
The vulnerable parts so they will gleam,
Terrifying, romantic in pure discourse.
It was that dreams were seamless,
A silken bag with one end open.
The possibility of birds just
On the edge of waves, long bills
And long legs, scurrying the shapes
Of each wave’s foam just as night
Undid her gowns and stepped
Into a particular set of changes.
But no, there were tears where
Things could move in and out
And big bands of riders on their
White camels and flightless birds
Could move freely on black sand,
Command the moon for an hour
Or more and change the mouth
Of a bag into a door.
I woke holding ravens in both
My hands. They had yellow eyes
And were perfectly calm.
I could feel their hearts beating
Even as I opened my hands
To watch them turn violet,
Then red, across the sky.
There were still millions of lights.
"So many of them," I thought,
"This could be lucid dreaming."
Now is the time for that.
Stand close beside me.
We will watch all the seams
Disappear once more.
We will see with our entire bodies.
The slow high step of the cranes
May seem of little consequence.
This is the beautiful. It lives
In the simplest of things.
We are listening to love songs.
They fill the mouths of birds.
They fit our ears perfectly.
The river gets very wide east of here,
Doesn’t seem like a river at all.
Eventually it isn’t. It becomes the
Great Lake that it is and finds
Its way through a thousand islands,
Rapids and gains intent to find the sea.
Here no one seems to notice. It’s a
Difficult place to live. Things like
Those cranes are a fine dessert that
Is too seldom found. Still we
Wait here watching. We are listening
To their love songs. They fit our ears perfectly.
JUST LIKE A LIGHTHOUSE
Just like a lighthouse, he thought.
First his clothes caught fire
Then the rest of him.
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's poems and pix!