First there were fires that scattered the villages
Far and wide. So many languages came upon
Us that it became most difficult for us to understand
One another. The fires made a night that lasted
A long time. We often walked long distances
Singing songs we invented during the night.
Recently we have been able to see the sun.
It has made us want to find all of the others.
Once we saw many ships on the great waters,
Near the horizon. We built fires to signal them
But they passed before us headed to the west.
To prepare ourselves we have created dances,
Plays and three spectacles including many animals
We have come to know and speak to as friends.
Our dances allow these animals to come into
Our bodies and speak directly to us, telling us
About our relationships to ourselves and others.
We wear masks at these times so that we may
Leave our bodies empty for their spirits to come
To us. We have found we must do this as it is
Difficult to speak to them otherwise. They are
Guides and messengers. We have learned
Many things from them. We fear this information
May be lost. The buffalo, the eagle, the deer,
The antelope: the ways we share with one another
Are many and quite complex. Even when we
Meet our brothers, we must depend on these dances.
There are many signs telling us that much will
Be lost. Even these words coming so late through
The spirit may seem quaint and unimportant
To you as you read them. Please. They are not.
Listen to one another. Try to hear this. Wear
Masks if you are able. Gather together with
Your friends. Your bodies can carry messages
Far beyond what you may imagine. You do not
Need to be more than to be in love with this world
For this to happen. Surely you are able to do
This. Surely this is why you are here now.
Look at that song.
We are singing it.
It has almost filled the room.
We feel our voices leave
Our lungs, fully formed
Around its sound.
It dances across our lips,
Blessed with melody.
We lift it with our hearts.
It acquires form.
A truly visual form. Occasionally
We can actually watch
It for briefest of moments.
We use all of our senses to do this.
Perhaps it looks like these
Words. We have no way
Of knowing, except that
Anyone who sees can move their eyes over these words,
Sounding their particular
Tessitura, their singular moments.
Perhaps this sound is like
Nothing else except melody.
Perhaps we can only
Imagine this as a song.
Perhaps this singing moves
Around us as we read,
As we play these words.
Read this again, any time.
For weeks now we have floated
In this eldrich and resplendent
Space. The small red globes
Had increased in number every day,
Until today it became almost
Impossible to move through
The space with them.
Although they weighed little
And could easily be pushed aside,
There were now so many of them,
So close together, pushing them
Was becoming more and more difficult.
When Ramon had suggested we
Find a way across this blood
Space and try to emerge near
The tops of the high cliffs
Not one of us felt it was
Possible to pass through those clouds
That hung below the glittering lights
Of what we supposed to be cities
High up in the vertical crevices
That loomed above our narrow valleys.
Now, weeks later, we were still wading
Through a thickened sea of red
Balls, slightly sticky to the touch
And capable of pulsing almost
As if they were in possession
Of some terrible consciousness
That threatened our own dreaming.
Ramon made us stop climbing
And asked us to unwind the
Elements of our tiny cookstoves.
As we did, he began to hook them
Together into primitive net-like
He tied the loose ends to our wrists.
When we had completed the task
He then asked us to turn our
Devices on at the same time.
They began to glow and to emit
Both a heat and a sorrowful sound
That reached back into our bodies,
Filling them with a profound
Sense of loss and great sorrow.
As if by magic, the red balls
Began to move away from us,
Sliding out into the space away
From the cliff face. We began
To climb once again.
Within the hour we had climbed
Past the red clouds and found
Ourselves on narrow paths
Leading into the rock crevices,
Where we could discern that
The glittering lights were indeed
Those of great vertical cities.
We began to sing the evening song
As we unwound our feeble nets.
Climbing closer and closer to the vertical
Cities we began feeling a kind of wonder
We had never experienced before.
Ramon began to teach us a new language
He said we would be required to speak
To those who dwelt there.
We were proud to see we had
Climbed so far past the place
Of red balls, and began to
Identify everything we saw using
Words of this new language.
It smelled like lilacs when spoken
And turned upon the tongue
In praise of light and curious
Shadows that could communicate
They broke the early edge of morning,
Filling the positions of the day almost
Immediately. Great platoons of moments
Forming ranks, files, minute by minute,
Hour by hour. There were so many
Ready to greet the dawn that it became
Impossible to predict what might occur
Between morning and evening. Love
Songs rose spontaneously from myriad
Places, decisions and resolutions assembled,
Sure of success. It was as if everything
That could happen on any given day
Would happen today for certain.
This went on every morning, no matter
What; Winter, Summer, Spring and Fall,
A seemingly endless parade. Surely there
Must be something to all this activity.
We stood on the hilltops watching.
We looked out from our windows.
We greeted one another and discussed
Every event as it unfolded itself. Each
Thing seemed new. We hardly noticed
How it all worked until it became
Necessary to remember where we
Were and what was happening to us.
By then our joy had moved to the children.
We continued this way for an indeterminate
Amount of time and then it was over.
At first this seemed strange. Later we
Involved ourselves in the making of it.
We became the things we observed.
Everyone connected with the event
Believes that what they observed
Was some kind of miracle, an
Unexplained manifestation of un-
Known energy. There could be
No other explanation. None.
We did not see this event, not
A one of us. We heard about it,
Read about it, watched endless
Replays of images purporting
To shed light on what happened.
To us it seemed that such a thing
Is more than possible, more than
A singular occurrence. When we
Rise in the morning, just before
The sun, we often have the feeling
That this day will exceed all of our
Expectations, that something of great
Importance has every chance of happening.
One day there was fire. One day the
Wheel. One day farming. On another
We became friends with dogs. There
Was a day when there were cities, when
We realized families, when we understood
The passage of time, the seasons, how to play.
We see no reason not to believe that our
Lives are not connected with all other life,
Now that this “proof” should suddenly
Become unquestionable, seemed inevitable.
Some of us have even conjectured
That this "conclusive miracle" was merely
A kind of exhalation of the collective
Consciousness, a catalytic conversion
Fueled by research, reflection, driven
By a universal yearning of all life.
Ask yourself if you believe that such
An occurrence, such an event is
So out of the ordinary as to demand
This notoriety? Only the fact that
Everyone on the planet realized it
At the same moment is unusual. This
Has, however, happened before.
Love works in mysterious ways.
The silences began to have particular shapes.
I thought some of them resembled you but then
I hadn’t spoken to you in a couple of months
And any silence could have had the same effect
The sirens had upon Ulysses, a particular madness
That one might never recover from. This one was shaped
Like a large cat moving through a bamboo glade.
I reached for the door knob but it came off in my hand.
I could hear the click of heels going down the stairs.
Reason had obviously left me far behind. I poured
A cup of coffee and sat at a low table listening for anything
Else. I found myself on my knees begging for music.
Now, while it is not twilight quite yet, the day has
Already bought its tickets for the flight out of here.
Duke Ellington’s Prelude in C Sharp Minor slides
Up against the window, the whole horn section
Bending into the the window glass. Shadows
Start explaining particular parts of the gardens.
We make our own labyrinths out of every day.
I have collected everything I could and the room
Only looks cluttered with bits of paper and electrical
Connections filling baskets like snakes.
If dreams come true, these same silences will
Rise to fill my heart with a great peace. I will
Listen for the breeze to lift from the river and
Touch my skin as if it were my lover. I continue
To reel in the shapes and watch a man walking
Through the garden followed by six cats.
(for Stephen Beal, 1939-2010)
As this poem begins, dinner is still thirty minutes away.
You are still leaning against the door jamb looking into the kitchen.
You are still nine years old. The color of the milk in the glass
Pitcher has become extremely attractive for a moment.
Perhaps the red line painted around the top of the vessel is making it so.
It is still October. The quality of the light seems to have a mind of its own.
It flattens the table top precisely. It puts a tiny diamond on the spout
Of the pitcher.
The phone rings. Your mother still answers it.
You can hear her voice in the other room.
First most excited, then concerned, then impatient.
There is nothing to do until Daddy comes home, any minute now.
You are still leaning against the door jamb. You think about the way the napkins
Are folded. The edges of the cloth seem delightful
For no reason other than these careful folds.
You will not recall this moment again in your life.
You had potatoes for dinner. Their color was much more
Solemn than that of the milk. You are surprised to have
Noticed this. It pleases you to have done so. It pleases
Me to have been able to see this exactly as it happened.
It is like recognizing a friend somewhere in a vast crowd,
Across a great distance like in dreaming or watching a film.
In a forest
In the night
About the other.