Sunday, January 04, 2015

The Sadder We Are, The Better We Sing

The Old Guitarist
—Painting by Pablo Picasso, 1903-4

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento
It is how I see
the eyes of things.
The eyes of the child
opposite the eyes of the bird.
The twig of the tree
and the caterpillar
and the singing leaves
and the soft brown wind
in the mind
telling them things.
It is how I know
where the vision lies
in the eyeless things.
In the dark word,
in the spoken and unspoken miracles
of the waiting animals.
(Tomorrow I have heard them
in the town
where the answers coil like snakes
in the pathways of the questions.)

What is the least word
you will recognize
when you cannot find
the target
or the wound.
What will you say
to cancel the smallest dying.
Poems that have come out of love
or out of the mouths of children
are not to be broken.
They are the only things
that can forgive us.
What have I heard
that I know in the quietest hour
when the in-between of me
is held like a floating petal
in the pool
of some decision.

You smell like roses
so I hold you nearer—
gifts in a lost place
that we have found together—
gifts that I take
and put in water
so they can live
a happy while longer.
All over the world
there are men with sad guitars
in their hands.
There is not enough love for them
so they sing its sorrows
in their eyes.
When they look at me
I can never tell them
how to more patiently measure.

Oh man with sad guitar,
one part of world,
come sit beside me
and play me the song I love.
I will be silent
so you can know I thank you.
Let your eyes forget the tears
that burn in your haggard singing.

In the dissonance of hands
love is held,
singing and crying
and moving over seven strings.
Only six of them
are made of music.
And the unborn child
who is looking into the eyes
of the bird
will hear
and learn his first dark lesson.

Even after the handless people
have forgotten how to hold,
the touch will remember.
It will come to them
when they are seriously lonely,
listening for the sound
their fingers made
in angry strings—
just when they vowed
never to weep again.

After the silence
comes whatever is beyond silence—
it is how I see
the eyes of things.
The people who look through at each other
look through each other.
The strangers
who lie in each other’s arms.
The broken wings
in the hand of the child,
and the dreadful innocence of his power.
In the mouth of the blonde man
are marvelous words.
He puts them in a book,
and in the middle of our lives
who hear him tell us what he knows.
He is young.
And we are young, though we are old.
The perfect listeners
become so wise
they nod and smile in the room of friends.
Tomorrow we will be gone
and the room will find
its new people are not as reverent
as we who have told
our many stories to the dawn.
Oh, poor poor room,
so coldly rented,
we have left you
our warmest gift of being.

We are as old as everyone.
We are late and hungry
as any longing.
When we quarrel it is with laughter.
We need to envelop each other.
We have a certain destruction of words
that we use
like love’s last weapon.
Oh where have you all gone!
The bird and the child.
The hour of the hands.
The guitar who suffered the man.
Where have you gone,
oh bathtub full of flowers,
oh empty bottles,
and wrinkled paper on the floor
Where have you gone,
oh me and you,
and the rest of us,
and the sleep we did not sleep
because there was love to know.
Oh where have you gone!

We have learned nothing, then
the sadder we are
the better we sing.
It is a day for hymns,
but we have hung our other crosses
to the walls.
We have not come for any
usual religion.
We have seen a place that had
sharded glass that twisted upward
into a halo of thorn design.
is how we knew
it was Sunday.)

The lady with the lovely legs
is learning to drink as well as we.
She is laughing and holding
her salted glass over the poem.
She is going to read to us.
She is going to offer herself
if we will ever listen.
       *              *           *       
Nellie.  We remember.
And Harold and Stella,
and Vince and Bob,
and everyone else who came to us.
We have taken you home with us.
Open your eyes.
Do you wonder where you are?
You are here with us,
and it is only Monday.