Water washing up small creeks from the river
Carrying the news about the fish dying.
Unable to breathe, we are assured that
The world has always been like this,
The problem won’t last.
Communication is endangered. Soon
We will not be able to understand
Body language or the words that
Poets use to tell us about our poor selves.
The forests of the world are breaking apart.
It seems the trees are disappearing.
How could this be? They were there
Yesterday, today they are gone away.
The surrounding area is full of animals.
Those are not the stars you are gazing
At tonight. There are fires throughout
The universe. We are spinning through
Space trying to encounter another life
Form. What we are seeing are all other
Sites of intelligence burning down.
GETTING IN EACH OTHER'S WAY
The moon is damaged. It hides
Behind a thick layer of clouds,
Barely showing us any of its
Light through the fog. The stars
Have no interest in this at all.
I sit on the terraces outside
The room looking at my ruins.
I cannot tell what I am feeling.
There is a trail of blood right
Up to the blanket covering
My shoulders. It seems I have
Been loving things. Things
Do not know they are things.
They have no sense they are loved.
I am looking at myself as I would
Look at a stranger. I could not call
This anything more than mysterious.
All the shapes keep shifting. This
Has something to do with our lives.
The light watches us as we watch
The light. The mirrors that might
Help us are broken and still
The walls of the labyrinth pulse
With what could only be called breathing.
I should be able to explain this better.
I keep thinking I am about to hold you.
The terraces remain cold. The blood
Seems to be pooling. We keep getting
In each other's way. Tell me if you can
See from where I am bleeding. I know
I know your name. I have forgotten it
For a moment. Were we once in love?
THE HEART ABANDONED AT THE EDGE OF THE SEA
I’ve seen ‘em in the running. They had legs.
Came down the hill faster than the wolves.
The bears stopped to watch them alive at the bottom
Of the hill, where the big sea reached into the heart
Demonstrating in various ways scenarios, the way
The heart might be abandoned, tossed aside,
Made to be seen bleeding in the cold night
At the beginning of Winter. “It must be Winter.
It is too cold and the cats cluster together
At the edge of the sidewalk in front of the church.”
I had followed her to the hotel. It was based
On an inability to hide my emotions.
They had given me a handgun, an older model
I didn’t know how to use. All I wanted was to breathe
The air she breathed, hold her close to my body
So I could feel us pulsate like the international
Space station. I just wanted her in bed to feel
All the long barriers to communication fall,
If only for a moment. I cared about my hands
On her face, moving over her mouth,
Begging her to speak. I never wanted that feeling
To stop. I was sure she would tell me something
So important I would not be able to look away from the light.
For awhile we would make love every night.
It didn’t matter where we were. I kissed her lips
As she looked at the ceiling. The fantasy must have
Been mostly mine. I fell below zero, thought I was
Running my hands over the body of Aphrodite.
Surely a goodness would come of this. My machinery
Required too much of my imagination. I found myself
Touching her clothing, smelling the fabric, unable to discern
My nostalgia speeding me back to my body, recognizing
The poison that was flowing through this body, poisoning
Every breath I took, making me believe you were real.
The hotel lights blinking off and on, off and on.
THE BAMBOO BOWS BEFORE THE WIND
The dreams have found their way past the seal.
They now own the theatre. They will take skin
And parts of bodies in payment for entrance.
Sleep on something wrong and they will drag
It on to the stage where it can call forth birds,
Ancient seas, old lovers, the bright edge of a sword.
The bamboo bows before the wind.
There is little hope we can find our way
Back to the railroad tracks. We can hear
Their engines calling across the California night.
They have a lot of moons and can show them
To us as they please. Which would you like to see?
On a rainy night a traveller makes his way down
From the hills, into the theatre, and takes the stage.
Dreams will not prevent this from happening.
They encourage beings like this. They too seem
Made of the same salt. We find it often in the bones
When we are required to move the dead to other
Resting places. They comb their hair and curry them
To luminous perfection that we may pay close attention
To their stories. “I had a dream last night. A tiger leapt
To grab an eagle from the air and our old friend
From childhood was caught in its mouth when he
Came down from his leap. He rushed for the jungle.
We hurried after him, afraid that we would miss something
And not understand what happened.” I had been
Sleeping with my arm underneath my body. When I awoke
The dream was still in my arm. It was tingling. It was asleep.
I saw the seal give way, the tiger running through
The nighttime streets as I looked out the window
Rubbing my arm fiercely and hoping not to be awake.
THE BLACK WATCH
I felt like I’d been holding my breath
A long time. Glaciers sigh against
The mountain sides, ease their milky
Tears down the gullies and dark
Canyons to where there is some
Kind of silence, some understanding.
Red ants deliver their promises
To the earth. They too are radiant
Beings even as the golden lion is radiant.
The heavens are always near enough
To touch, even below the earth.
Their red songs, the red dirt, their
Own idea of dark not so different
From our own. Oh but that they could
Speak to us in words we understood.
The Angelus rings across the fields.
Let us hurry toward the fence.
We will want to be there as sun
Does its performance of the end of day.
Dreams won’t do you any good here.
Be it done unto me according to thy word.
DO YOU KNOW THE BREATH?
The ease of a May morning tripping
Across the lawns, full of the mouth
of Spring, breathing flowers.
Morning dismisses night, realizing
That scene by scene the sky
Has gotten lighter and lighter.
The trees segue to the next frame.
We are gathered 'round the bedside
Listening to the words whispered
To the room. It is as if we can hear
Eternity on the other side of the breath.
In the arroyo the green owls glide
Through the dusk. We can hear their
Breathing. How is this possible?
The Santos are pulled down the streets.
We can hear the labored breath
Of those pulling the carts as the breath
Is sucked from their lungs. Singing.
We walk across the earth, through
Cemeteries and battlefields, through
Factories and burnt-out villages.
Everywhere, Do you know the breath?...
And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.
—Rainer Maria Rilke