There was crying coming from under
The rug, or so it seemed like it
Was coming from under the rug,
Or someplace that had that muffled
Quality something that’s under
A rug would have if one had
To weep from such a place.
It was a forlorn sound that
Carried memories in it like pine
Trees carry their pine cones.
Every once in awhile some of it
Would break off and roll toward
The door. After awhile there
Was quite a pile of these sounds
And they began to disturb our
Conversation. When we opened
The door these sounds escaped
But we could still hear the crying.
Now it wasn’t coming from under
The rug any longer. Now it
Was us crying, confused that we
Were unable to understand
How this room had become
This way when we were in it
For such a short period of time.
THE CHILD VANISHING
The languages were very ancient.
Those who spoke them carried
Small cloth bags filled with teeth
Which they scattered before they spoke.
They had heard the last bird.
They had somehow misunderstood
What it had sung, and came into our cities
Upon black bulls, the color of night.
At the time, we lived in houses
Without roofs, as we were responsible
For the stars. Few knew us.
It was better that way. We
Traded in crystals which we fused
Together, brought into the darkness,
Delighting in the coolness there,
The inability of those who sleep
To know more than quick glimpses.
The arrow piercing the cloud,
Let alone the expanse of space
And time. We made fires.
On the most colorful of evenings
The child would appear in our midst,
Touching our languages, shattering
Our bodies, scattering the
Approaching ships we had gathered
To place in the rooms as talismans
Against the masks of their dreams.
The child would careen this way and that,
Messing up all our work, mixing it with destiny.
"Not trustworthy," we were told.
He was pursued through the concentric
Heavens as if he were a nightingale
Possessed of magic song.
The last thing we heard
Was that the Lion had come to the plains.
People had gone out to see him.
He had given them bread and wine
And a kind of courage that allowed
Them to question us.
We left as soon as possible.
We did not want to know any more.
BOXES OF DREAMS
He used to get his dreams in packages.
They came in the mail, tightly taped,
Wound round with yellow twine,
The color of which would come off
On his hands when he carried the packages.
“It is the easiest way to get them,” he said.
“You still don’t get a choice, but they are guaranteed.”
Apparently they were very well packed.
He said it sometimes took him hours
To prepare the brown boxes with the red labels.
“They will get away if you don’t wrap ‘em good,” he said.
Some nights the upper rooms in his house would glow.
We would stand on the sidewalk looking up
At his windows. Often there were quick shadows and flashes
Of many colors, and then sometimes just a dull gray
That hung around the neighborhood for days.
When he died, we were asked to clear out those rooms.
There were hundreds of those boxes. Not one of them
Had ever been opened. We burned them all, sight
I appeared before a Centurion
In the second century A.D.
And I asked him if he knew me
And he fell down upon one knee.
He drew his sword before him
And placed it down upon the ground.
He gasped but spoke no sound
But bowed his head. He doffed his cloak.
He cleared his throat and frowned.
"Why have you to visit me? he said
Are you a ghost of someone drowned?
Your face is white. You don’t look dead—
Or has my mind unwound?"
I waited till he’d found his wits.
"Are you some kind of joke, pray tell,
Come from heaven or from hell
To spin this world to bits?"
"I’m just a man like you," I said.
"I’ve come to you to tell
That magic lives within us all
Within each bone and cell.
"You stand before one hundred men.
You lead them off to battle."
"Close your mouth and stop your prattle."
"I’ve only come to bring you glee.
That’s something you can ken.
"You’ve found your way into a poem
Made two thousand years from now;
You may tell your men you've seen a vision.
You’ve seen something that you can’t explain
Except to say a man today appeared
Before your eyes who has said that magic
Still abounds, that it roves far and wide.
That they should keep their mind clear
And let it take them for a ride."
He sheathed his sword. I disappeared.
I’ll not try that again. I didn’t think it could
Be done. And yes it can… but you know
Something? Stuff like this can really mess
With your mind. So don’t waste time doing it.
THE BACK SIDE OF DEATH
I put my fingers on it.
It was cool to the touch.
I had been speaking
With a painter when I saw
Death. I was tired.
I raised my hand to greet him,
But he did not notice me.
The air between us
Began to break up.
I could hear the crows.
He was still far across the fields.
For awhile he disappeared
In the smoke from the rice stubble fires.
Then he was beside me.
He knew my name.
“Strange that you should be here,” he said.
“And you,” I answered, touching his back.
I recall he had a red shadow.
“Do not use any of the doors
Into the night tonight.
Proceed by the plain.
I have to work at the doors.”
He pressed his back against
My hand as if asking for me
To continue to touch him.
“Your hand feels good,” he said.
“I came for the painter. He has
A bad heart. Nice man too.
I was surprised that you would
Be visiting him on this day.”
I moved my hands to his shoulders.
He shrugged and let me work my thumbs
Into the bony structure there.
“Go home and get some work done,” he said.
“I’ll be with your friend for awhile. He has
To get used to me. Thank you for touching me,"
He added. "So few know me that well, and you
Were kind to notice me.”
“You are welcome,” I said
I walked back toward town.
I could hear the whippoorwill calling.
I thought to myself that this had been
A close call, but then again, perhaps not.
Who knows anything at all anyway?
A MOMENT ON THE LAKE
I hold a burnt gold in my hands.
My heart excuses me from from sleep.
It says “Go be with your poems. Tend
Your birds and demons and those bright
Smiles of the weather you seem to love
So much. Sleep is no longer the paradise
It was to you as a child. You have other
Blood in your body now. Tell us how hands
Touch you in the private places of your eyes.
Tell us what we so long to see as we step
To the edge of the world, not dreaming at all,
But wandering in twilight woods, immaculate
With bird song and a filtered light through trellises,
Through the branches of the lilac opening
Upon a Spring so fortunate to have splayed across
Your life with its handfuls of color and frenzies
Of splendor, calling to all who love words.”
My heart, grant me grace that I may
Speak in this way and not fear the tiger,
The sudden movement of a hand fumbling
The tops of the wheat, the strange and curious
Song that rises from me now.
I look at myself sleeping far below
Or walking through the garden labyrinth,
Aware only that I am shadow wherever
I may go, both the ending and the beginning.
If you're going to be up Georgetown way today, stop in at the Arts in Nature Festival from 9am-4pm at the Georgetown Nature Area, with music, art, poetry and dance for all ages: poetry with Craig Steiger at 11:50am and with Michael Paul at 1:30pm; the Youth Art Gallery, the Jam and Slam at 10am; Native American music, storytelling and dancing all day; workshops on nature journaling with Jo Chandler; yoga; crafts and food booths and lots more! Check out the schedule (and the new location, due to rain) at georgetownnaturearea.org
We don't create a fantasy world to escape reality. We create it to be able to stay.