THE GHOST IN THE CHURCH
The music was there.
The gift had been given.
The sky becomes undone
And terrorizes the rivers.
The bright tensions that cause
Fear to electrocute the finer emotions.
They appear as sudden herds
Of horses charging past, as if
On a mission that includes
Blindness as an element
Any song might contain, a rattling
In the lungs offered like prayers.
An incense of phantom lights
Slides across the night
Just above the gardens,
Lighting the pumpkins
And other squashes,
Making them candles for a
Breeze out to collect power
From anything that moves.
The drapes sigh before it.
The blinds chatter.
The bamboo curtain clicks
Its thin teeth and sways.
We turn out the light.
Sleep too has a job to do.
The ghosts in the church
Require stories best told
In the dark, best listened
To with votive candles lit.
The faces of the statues
Seem so life-like as they
Move along the walls of the church
Like the Stations of the Cross.
We are all heartily sorry
For having offended Thee.
High in the choir loft the wind
Has found the organ pipes.
It weaves through them, trying
To make a music. Perhaps it does.
We don the required vestments and feel
Our way into the sacristy,
Fingering rosaries. Pray for us.
THE BIGGER SILENCE
The room was full of horses when we entered.
No one was caring for them but birds brought
Them food and fed them as if they were newly hatched.
The birds all had translucent, rainbow-colored wings.
They could speak and change shape almost at will.
Three of the birds discussed a great bull they had seen.
It lived near a wall by a river in Berlin. Its bellowing
Caused people to weep. There was a sadness in their telling.
Listen. I am not supposed to be talking about these things.
I was to talk of the sea. How it is incessant in its history.
There were to be famous characters here: Ulysses, Dante,
Lovely Cervantes, even Sinbad and Eric the Red.
It will do you no good at all to know about those birds
Or the horses. This was to be a mysterious sonnet.
At first it seemed like a flag
Or the severed wing of an angel.
I pressed my mouth against the mirror
To stanch the blood from my split lip.
The blood ran down the glass and dripped
Over the edges of the frame, pooling on the floor.
I began to ask questions again, knowing they
Could not be answered. “Did you touch anything?
Can you untangle what these calls are saying?
Does this only happen in deep weather?
Did you imagine all those clouds in the first place?”
We live in the delta of a great river that
Slices through an even greater valley.
Fed by the buried bones of disappeared glaciers.
It is difficult for us to keep in touch out here.
We are very curious about most journeys.
They hold a weaving of weather and dreams.
This is much more than entertainment for us.
The mornings now are crowded with a fog
That rises from the ground and the sloughs
Behind our little town. On some mornings
We cannot see to the other side of the gardens.
High above we can hear the calls of migrating
Birds and sometimes we see wings or ghosts
Waving flags just above the tree tops.
There is always a calling from one thing
To another. I was looking up into this
Kind of cloth in this kind of weather
When I bumped into the tree, shaking
Water down upon my head. I had split
My lip looking to see the heavenly flight.
The throat, with great kindness
Approaches the tip of the tongue.
It is wearing words once again.
Little by little, on the edge of an idea.
"Ask," it says, more intimately than is thought
Possible. The lips begin to form around the words.
Alone for a moment, quite lost, waiting.
The words, a traveler cloaked against rain
Pauses for a moment beneath a great tree.
All words are sacred to the breath
For the breath is only the vehicle.
It searches every text for impostors.
What does the truth sound like.
Much is as empty waves crashing
Against a deserted shoreline.
Exploding into rocky sea caves,
Leaping high up the cliff face.
The making of words is a great
Gathering. Children can hear and understand
Them long before we become aware of the swells,
The cross-currents the subtle changing
Of the tides, the silences.
UNDER THE WIND
The Night has somehow developed
Its own mind and chooses to occupy
What small room I call my own here.
A second-story apartment, small
By many standards, above a former church.
Tonight I am filling it with Rachmaninov’s
Vespers, a choral work that recalls liturgy
With a chorus unaccompanied by instruments.
And now the Night wants a piece of this.
Nothing personal, I am sure.
It loops in through the open windows
This cool and autumn-fragile evening
And begins naming the nameless,
The things Night can never know well,
Morning, afternoons, worlds lost in equations
Made by weather and the soft sound crickets
Make in late September, their own kind of vespers.
A glow that has nothing to do with the moon.
Nameless, it finds its way into this room,
Moves through it, in windows, out of windows,
Never bothering to consult the wind about anything.
I will greet it. I am alone this evening.
Lost in the impermanence of all things.
Contemplating why the Night might want
To behave in this manner, quickening
My blood, causing me to go down the stairs
To the outside and stand inside its body,
Full of stars and broken clouds.
I give myself a prayer.
I will call it sunrise.
I will move to greet it.
ONCE AGAIN I WOKE UP IN THE RED ROOM
"I used to be able to remember my name," he said.
I picked up the lantern and threw it toward him.
"You are going to catch a cold if you keep talking like that," I say.
He smiles. "You think this is a dream
Or a bunch of weird photographs,
Don't you?" he says.
"Oh you impressionists, I say. You think everything is about light.