door. The cat strolled through the door on its hind legs.
Held tightly in its paws was a small revolver, hammer
pulled back, safety off.
“Hello sucker,” said the cat. “I’m here to take you out
of this life. The angel of death, as it were, and this gun
will do it. Will do it quick, will do it clean.”
I was surprised. How could I tell my friends about this one?
Certainly a hallucination of some kind. A cat with a gun.
“But why and who? and why a cat?”
“Why not a cat,” he said, leaning back against the wall.
“Life is like that. You never know what’s going to happen
next. One minute just sitting there typing and then WHAM!
in I stroll and the whole book changes. Simple stuff, man.
So simple you forget it.”
“Who sent you?"
“Uh uh, no reasons. You know better than that. Things
just happen. No reasons. You think up the reasons later.
It makes the time go together better, that’s all.”
“Would you like a bowl of milk, cat?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said. “Sure, I’d like a
bowl of milk.”
He walked on all fours over to the milk and began drinking.
I quickly picked up the gun and put it high on a shelf.
“Were you really going to kill me?" I asked the cat.
The cat lapped its milk. The late afternoon sun did a dance
across its long fur. He looked up at me and squinted, made
a cat noise.
Some days, I said to myself, some days it gets so real.
Cats with guns and poems with people inside of them.
What next, I said, and the room was very, very quiet.
“It is difficult to draw away from the face of God—
it is like 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 the 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 snowing 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. Whimpering.
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 a maiden who is sleeping. The
voices walked 'round him and then right 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 filed with things he did not know,
like Christmas. He became himself and the snow
showed a small group of men with heads 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 into 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.
There used to be a house right here
Where I am standing. Now there is just
Your body and my hands are surgeons.
I lift your organs and remove the part that breaks
Whenever you see me standing in the rain.
What language did we speak then?
What were those words you said?
I cannot recall them now. It seems
They were put-together places
Smelling of bleak hotel rooms,
Small tears in the imagination,
Impossible to put together once
The runs began to race toward
Your thighs, spreading the fabric
Greater and greater distances,
Until I can once more see the moon
High above whatever city we were in.
The lions still move at the bottom of the stairs,
Snakes winding about the columns.
They know we are here. They don’t have
To look for us. They know the picture
Is theirs and they will ask us, “What do you
Want more than anything?”
To fall asleep, not knowing my name.
Not knowing your name. Not having
Any name at all and to be touching
Your body with all that I am, hearing the first
Word. It is coming from your mouth.
TINGSHA: TIBETAN CYMBALS
This could stop any second.
This is hanging in the air.
It has all of my breath in it.
As I recall, I was holding you
In my arms. The afternoon
Sun slid across your stomach,
Lighting up the perfect fine hairs,
Glowing under my fingers.
I couldn’t remember anything. There
Were, of course, all the stars above.
They had homes on your lips then.
I visited them as often as possible.
Now, when I sit, I hear the tingsha
vibrate against eternity, I feel
Your body against mine and believe
The sound of the divine winds
Are moving through me and that we
Are talking to each other intensely.
There comes a shot to the head.
I hear the stillness in the echoes.
I feel your fingers upon a harp
I once knew as my own flesh.
I can drive cars into my imagination.
They have no brakes. They have
Lots of lights.
A separate rain. The burns across
The palms of my hands. I read
With my eyes closed. The night
Air fills with huge sparks.
I choose to live like this.
I can hear stars chanting.
“Shut up. People will think
You’ve caused something.”
A morning filled with old clocks.
An algebra of regrets filled with eagles.
All of this dust was once armies.
All of poetry, a concordance of possibilities.
Shadows of invisible monuments.
Decisions made by flowing water.
Fish begging for a greater understanding
Of fireflies and the history of night.
The radiant trappings draped upon the heart.
What echo says to each precious moment.
You’ll have a better idea of this
When everything is perfect.
Help me lift these words in tribute
To eternity. Eternity will remember you
For this. It will kiss you on the lips.
The tides mimic our emotions.
Long ago I walked with lions.
Just get into the boat quickly.
We will not want to miss the sunrise.
Writing a prose poem is a bit like trying to catch a fly in a dark room. The fly probably isn’t even there, the fly is inside your head; still you keep tripping over and bumping into things while in hot pursuit. The prose poem is a burst of language following a collision with a large piece of furniture.
—Charles Simic, from his essay, "The Poetry of Village Idiots" in his book of essays, The Life of Images
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner and to Beth Chapel for their fine contributions to our morning!