a warm fire, it is like dear sleep, it is like a great anthem; yet
there is a stillness all about it, a stillness full of lights.”
We watched them from our towers
and they sparkled like a first morning,
their hands held perfumes of deepest
rose and their eyes were full of
the sound of birds in jasmine.
Extending their cool hands to ourselves
they bade us "come in, come in."
Crossing the room he saw three flowers
dangling from a broken vase. Someone
had left them for him to see, he was
sure. It was morning outside and he
looked past the flowers, the disordered room,
and there were small animals playing in the snow.
They tore at each other with tiny teeth and
became red on the snow. Whispering.
The game was too old. He reloaded his gun
and sat down. Eventually they would come and he
would be ready for them. It had been many years.
The sun set.
“You are like a maiden who is sleeping.” The
voices walked 'round him and the night wore its
long coat and walked quietly on the hills.
“You are like a wanderer from Kyfouth and your
shoes show the desert in a perfection of sand."
The guns came up and spilt their terrible seed
upon him. He moved and the dream went deeper.
There were paths filled with things he did not know,
like Christmas. He became himself and the snow
showed a small group of men with hands like dogs
running in tight file across a field. Even then
he didn’t stir or wipe the redness from his eyes.
A fine lady with night wound in her hair
bent close to him and said words in his ear.
”What is that way?" he said, half-rising.
“The changing of the seasons,” someone answered.
“I am moving then?”
Outside, the small animals had slowly moved away,
crying softly and licking their soft bodies.
(first pub. in D.R. Wagner's The Dimensions of the Morning
by T.L. Kryss, Black Rabbit Press, San Francisco, CA 1969.
In 2009 the book was reprinted in a facsimile edition as
DRIVING IN THE RAIN
I was standing out in the yard.
The lights from the windows were dim.
I could have helped myself out
But I just didn't want to come in.
Sometimes the rain feels so good
On my skin I could cry
And sometimes the rain
Makes much better sense than goodbye.
I walked up to Main Street.
The shops were all closed up
Except for the bar.
I didn’t want whiskey,
I just need the keys to my car
And I’ll open the night up
And drive but I don’t know how far.
There are times when I can’t
Find the words to explain
All the things I am doing,
All of them push me too close to insane.
I know that it will pass,
That the sun will come out big and bright,
But I’m lost in a heartache and all
I can see is the night.
I‘ll drive up to Auburn, stop by
At the house of a friend;
Maybe he’s not asleep
Maybe he’ll know I've got to come in.
If we talk for awhile I’m sure things
Will turn out all right,
I’ll find where I smile before
I want to turn out the lights.
I start humming a song
But the words, they don’t make any sense,
Just noise in my head too hard to explain,
Too hurt, too intense.
So I roll down the window, let the rain
Get all over my face. If there are teardrops
Mixed in, their tracks will be too hard to trace.
In the basement with its special darks
My grandfather would bank the furnace
With blue coal, anthracite from Pennsylvania.
Ir was beautiful stuff, hard and black.
It would not leave coal dust
On your hands when it was handled.
It burned slowly with great warmth,
Little ash and with a low mysterious flame.
It was Winter in Western New York.
The world was white. The small
Patches and copses of woods along
Niagara Falls Boulevard had
Snow all down one side of the trees
Because of the prevailing winds.
The roads were icy, sometimes
With ice as black as that coal.
It could take a vehicle and set
It spinning out of control,
Across traffic lanes and it didn’t
Matter what you did as a driver.
The vehicle would spin until
It could no longer do so,
Hitting a ditch or a snowbank.
Winter was in control here.
But not in the basement,
Not in the cast iron firebox
Of the furnace below the stairs.
It was our servant and we were
Its servant; at least twice a day
The fire called.
In tectonic plates, in places where
The pressure was most intense,
The anthracite was born.
It was of the forests before time
Was required to mark the
Swirling of the planet.
These forests had become thick and black,
Become the glittering of ancient
Circumstances. The black hat
Of the darkness. The black
Voice of the stars became a low
Warming glow as it burned memory
From behind doors so tall
They could not be filled with emptiness
As in dreams.
THE FROZEN LAKE
The door was much higher than imagined.
Green and bound 'round with carved decorations
Made of finest alabaster tipped with gold,
It was as close to the heart as it was possible to come.
I stood like a wasp waiting on a wall, fascinated by a fan
That was the wind across the water. It climbed across
The waves, naming them. There are so many dead.
I remember being born and the lake in November,
Gray-green and stark with all the waters of the Great Lakes.
What will disappear? One breath moves toward another.
The minutes tremble and cower until it is their time.
Then they are bright with promise or torn apart with deep
Sorrow. We allow them to slide over our selves if we are able.
If we are not, a great noise rises through the ice and the world
Is learned, sun, moon, stars, rain. “Wish by spirit and if by yes.”
The chains come in, not standing still. The mind moves,
The ice breaks apart and the water begins its insistence.
Desire seems a reason to get anything done at all.
The Buddha desired to become enlightened and when
The lake froze over, there was a stillness upon everything
That we can hear and we can see and we can feel
Even if we never touch it, made of finest alabaster
Tipped with gold. As close to the heart as a door might be.
OAKUM AND KEROSENE
If this dream had an axle I’d put a wheel on it
But it doesn’t. It just screams as it tries to move
Ahead to do its dream stuff. It gets caught on
A bit of railroad track, tearing a hole in its story.
A school of bright fish swim out and flip around
On the ground. They begin to blink on and off like
Lights in a store sign. The dream says open.
I come to realize there is little I can do anymore
About the way I understand these kinds of things.
I could be getting a call from an old friend when
Leaves begin to tumble from the phone and pile
Up around my legs. I reach into a cupboard for
A box of cereal and suddenly I am holding you
Very close, we are kissing. You pull me toward
The bed. The gangplank is pulled up. I hear the
Wind catch the sails. My hands smell like oakum
And kerosene. I am helping an old man through
A door hatch. He holds my arm tightly and stares
Into my face. “You have lived with animals,” he says
“Be careful what you touch. These people have no
Idea of unstable seas or that the jungle is not chaos.”
I turn and find the inscription on the stone
Almost impossible to read. It talks about circular
Time, how much a sword weighs, why particular
Clouds look the way they do. There is a room
Quite near here that leads to an affirmation that time
Will make to us, right after we enjoy this lunch
We are having, fish and chips. You begin
To tell me a story I think I have heard before.
I close my eyes and listen to your voice.
I begin to recall what a gift Paul Verlaine
Was, what places Kenneth Patchen could
Bring to us with only a knowledge of heaven,
The light at sunset, the clanging of trolley bells.
CUTTING THE CORD
Spun out into the evening, rain doing most
Of the talking, I try to tell myself I’m only along
For the ride. The wind holds a fine mist between
Showers and I’m covered in moisture before
I even get to the car. I pretend that it is a message
Somehow lost in the night that I have walked into
By mistake. My specialty is wandering far away
From the body and finding its forms in a kind of sleeping
That makes the moon sing, unlocks desires that come
Of pressing my forehead to that moon, taking the skin
Off of stars to show what they are really about.
I’ve seen the hearts of these stars, felt their flesh
As a child feels its mother’s flesh against its mouth.
Here I am free to speak to you, illimitable in my
Understanding but not graced with a language
Stable enough to touch with my hands. I must
Hold you close to my body, feel your breath
Upon this same evening, trace my fingers
Across your breasts, up your thighs, touch
Your lips and still I will find myself lost in ink.
I will cry and I will laugh and I shall steer
My fragile boat into the unkindest reef
Only that you may spare me this moment
Where we might stand together watching
The whirling of the universe, going to where
No bird can sing, where you can breathe for me.
And there, with their gables lifting into the sunlight above deep hedgerows beautiful with spring, he saw the cottages of earthly men. Past them he walked while the beauty of evening grew, with songs of birds, and scents wandering from flowers, and odours that deepened, and evening decked herself to receive the Evening Star.