They do not allow us to come close
To these places any longer. There are demons,
Madmen with flaming mouths and an ability
To hover in the air and emulate great sadness
When nothing is at all wrong. Sand for kings.
Hands clouding the mind in a effort to keep
Things happening one after another. The
Card games are in the other room where
The young men trade their stories of bold
Adventure: walking to a corner unscathed,
Swimming across the river without getting burns
Over the body, finding partners who are not too
Infected. They are 'way beyond any kind of weapon.
They play at cards, sandbag the windows against
Any light being seen from the street. One can
Detect them by the clouds of buzzing insects
That cover the doorways to these hells.
They will not recognize us any longer if we speak
To them. Everything belongs to the kings. We
Are bound to want something, they figure.
Better to strangle the son of a bitch than ask
Him for water. Their eyes burn white and hollow.
We still can find the forests, but not much of them.
A few of us have seen live animals, and Ramon
Keeps a cat in his room just off the coast.
We have no need to see these so-called cities
Any longer. I make sure the knife blades are sharp,
Carry a couple with me at all times, speak to no one.
A CHANGING OF THE GUARD
Your heart in all its splendor.
Your soul magnifies the perfection
Given to it by the children of the angels.
Mayhem departing by train,
Bound for fire in the high mountains
Where few know its name, can identify
The curious clothes it wears on its way
To destruction, a dissolution of purgatory.
What do we eat that calls John of the Cross
Through time atop Mount Carmel? What allows
Us to speak in all these tongues and still be
Understood completely and then not at all?
A wild lament, the friction of the moon across
The starry sky assembled for the touch of your
Hand, your heart without boundaries beating
Out the spinning of the planets. A song that
Is the dawn and day and evening and then night.
Oh my love, I look into your eyes and I no longer
Know the vale of bitter tears that is this earth.
I draw my sword and spin before the gates
Of your dear heart. None shall defile such
A place as this. No evil comes to us.
I am the guard.
IN THE MINES
I don’t think about the mines much
Anymore. I’d rather think of trees,
So I do. I can keep trees in my mind
And they are quite beautiful.
There are no headlamps, no carbide
Lights. There is never the sound of
Tracks somewhere in the dark.
Tracks make sounds even when nothing
Is using them. It is a gray sound
And a serious one, so possessed.
But the trees are like gods.
They rise up and sway in the wind.
I sit for hours looking at them.
Sometimes they creak like mine
Timbers creak, but they bend
And sway and fill my heart with
A special light, a different sound.
Even at night the trees are so high.
I am not sitting in the water,
The drip, and the dark. The boss
Saying not to breathe too deeply
Because we are running out of air.
And the stillness moving on the tracks
And the disappeared trees of the men.
And the trees. I listen for the trees.
They begin speaking to me. I begin to weep.
LIGHTS IN THE DARK
The whole house was a room.
It had walls but there were never doors.
Someone was singing in Gaelic
Dan Nar Narbh with a dry stringed instrument
Walking behind the lyric, helping the words
To mean. I could see people moving inside
The place through the windows. The glass
Looked like skin that had just begun to grow
Back after a terrible injury to the body, not quite
Transparent, but enough so that one could see
The blood moving just below the surface.
Lights in the dark. When she spoke she
Sounded like the Twelfth century. No one
Spoke like that today. It sounded like
Clay and handfuls of salt except for the lament
And the Alleluia she repeated every so often.
Others mumbled it under their breath.
They were armed with decorated knives.
We had a request when we came here.
The women understood perfectly our need
For paper but the men feared we might
Bring spirits down if we made any marks
On the stuff. They would not meet our eyes.
We placed ladders straight up in an open
Field and began to climb them. The ones
Who reached the top disappeared from view
Completely. They asked if we were angels.
We were not. We explained we spoke
Using clouds and could make Duan Chroi losi,
A little song to the heart. They understood the Gaelic.
We began to ring the hand and finger bells.
The birds came to the edge of the clearing
To listen to us. The house seemed to pulse
As if it were a place one could actually live in.
We waited until it was all dark around us.
Then we rained, slowly at first, but finally
A long cold downpour that lasted for days.
By the time the sun returned, we had left
That country. It is said we can be found
In particular tales that have nothing to do
With our purpose. None have been translated
From the Gaelic, but they are often sung.
THE FAULT OF THE WORDS
Strings dance in the air. There is a blur
In the heart. It is as if the night had a skull
And eyes to see approaching ships.
A book of engravings, lost in a room,
In a great house. It carries on conversations
With the dead. We become witnesses
Without knowing why anything other
Than dreams would have such a language
Attached to it. We resolve to make dust of it.
Still, I will stop to listen to a few more birds
Caught here in this universe where strings
Twist and interlace, seemingly without purpose.
I will consider all enigma, all wandering spirits,
Without purpose except to put us on the very edge
Of some mythology that prompts us to speak
In hells such as this, looking for an intricate
Fire left to be used by nightingales.
This will be an exultation of memory,
The fault of words not used previously
By the dark, never heard by Keats—a liquid
Song, straining to be heard, then a breeze,
Then, strain as we may, nothing.
JUST BEFORE BEDTIME
Sleep has come for me quickly tonight.
It has not given me time to speak my name.
It knows that it isn’t important. It has dreams.
There are many this evening, part of its urgency.
They are no good to the dead. They are no good
To those who have no bodies. Sleep has gathered
Them. They do not last even as long as strawberries.
At least it has waited for the darkness and for the night
To be cool around the house. I open the window
To let them in. I will be asleep before I can see what
Sleep has brought. Sleep tells me I am a wind across
A plain, that I am remembered on the steppes of the North,
That tonight I will not need any language. That is all
I am able to remember before the tongues clack loudly
And the colored songs begin to snap in my ears.