(from the photosynthesis photography
of Jerry Uelsmann)
here in the room of gray water—
here where the boat rocks
gently on the floor
and the clouds float softly
on the ceiling
and someone you love
is walking away—
or maybe it is yourself
and you look to see
and the sky turns to night
and the walls move closer
and the boat with its one oar
is unseaworthy and abandoned
and you must swim for your life
before the room fills
with the tide of morning
CITY CURIOSITY: ABANDONED TRACKS
But for the tempting green woods edging
these tracks one might long to follow the
woodsy sunlit opening where something
pulls with an old ardor
what stirrings here—what twinge of satis-
faction for the curious to mull. Old scattered
gravel, tracks broken off and turning into
dead ends before shutting down completely.
The old tracks gleam through their rust. Re-
verberations seem to linger. The trees close
in and chill. The day darkens. A moan in the
changing air sounds like a faint and far away
My eyes glaze
away from meanings, though
a word rewinds itself
on the fathomless page,
where a new poetry distracts:
leaf shadows quake in aspen motion,
sun filters through pale lemonade,
shimmering ice mosaics
over stilled sentences.
Time becomes caught
on summer afternoon. I hover
upon the mood,
my daydream’s mural, a studious ant
finds the abandoned poem. Lines
move for him, and he —pauses
before the undecipherable word.
You’ve hung there for years.
You have become my favorite design,
the way you drape across the corner,
like an awning;
the way your spider has abandoned you.
Too much elegance for this room,
this bedroom of stuffed closet
this room with its
piles of clothes
and a blanket that drags
one corner of the floor.
How often I have watched you
at just the right angle
when I lean my head back
against the wall.
You are like a shadow drawn
as an interesting detail
in a painting.
I wonder why no moth has found you.
A moth is beating at the screen where a poem hangs,
trying to get out; the moth wants in—knows the light
is his—wants to read the poem, which is backwards.
The moth is desperate. Behind it, the evening trees
diffuse as the moth’s world begins to obliterate. The
moth would save itself. The poem—which is about
the moth—is an old, abandoned one, left there by
someone as a sermon. I watch the moth from inside
the screen. I feel its flailings as I feel my own.
Around me, the room begins to obliterate. Behind
me, the excited mirror echoes the dance of the moth.
Perhaps the moth only wants to fly into the mirror.
POVERTY’S BRIDE: HER FIRST COMMUNION
(from “The Family of Children”—SPAIN: W. Eugene Smith)
…when she is a real bride, she will leave this
squalor, but for now she pretends, learns the joy of
white communion dress, stands with careful waiting
in a path of weak light in the dusty yard…
In a background of shadow, a man hangs a
notice upon a public door. No, he is raising a hand
to knock upon a private door. No, he is measuring
an abandoned door for a wooden coffin. He is only
a background man in a background of shadow.
…her new white shoes are a sign of her shining
future…her dainty white purse of loved possessions
hangs from her wrist…she holds her hands delicately
together and practices lowering her eyes…
The dark house adjusts its eyes and releases its
shadowy children. One of them comes right out of the
stone wall. One of them slips under the bottom of the
door. Another comes through the edge-light at the cor-
ner of the dark building.
…and her veil—oh, her breeze-lifted veil, with
its wreath of white flowers so carefully placed upon
her dark hair as she feigns a pose…
The man is very deliberately nailing the door
shut. He does not want the door to let in the dark of
his childhood. He does not want to let his childhood
out. But, no, the man is tearing the rusted nails of his
rusted life right off the door.
…and the other children fade back until only she
is shining there, standing so still in the dust, in her
polished white shoes, in the path of weak light—a
pretend bride—like an offering…
“ . . . how sweetly flows
the liquefaction of her clothes?”
When I look at her, shrouded in white,
writhing, not dancing,
I ache to know her,
help her pray,
help her say to herself
what she needs to say,
wearing a mask of light,
forming her movements
without memory of them.
What is that cloth
that she makes shine,
falling and falling in folds
with such exquisite agony?
How does she make this equate
to what belongs to life?
She is the emulation—
the abandoned—the found—
not knowing what to do but surrender
and find exhaustion as relief.
A YEARN OF STAYING
When she looks down the long trail of the world
—or only of this place, and the road dwindles,
and she feel abandoned—when did she hesi-
tate? And where is better than here? And
why must decision fail, or seem to fail?
The road is a test, as staying is a test.
But she has such a yearning, for all
things wondered, for answers
without question. What traps
her now in this pose of rest-
less wondering: The road
she is on is the road she
was always on, but it
narrows now into a
tiny horizon, as if
it ends there.