I thought they were flowers,
So soft and that reaching upward,
But no. They had eyes, dark and glittering
And the petals were great wings that clustered
‘Round the morning in bursts, as if they were a greeting.
Bouquets for the day just before the sun quite knew
What to do with the whole thing. Crows, hundreds
Of them gathered on the trees, then forming into
I lie in my bed, looking through the screens
As it all unwound. The bouquets, the bursting,
The raucous voices assaying to sing, but hopeless
When it came to other than calling and scolding.
Sun finally touching the tops of the trees.
A NIGHT JOURNEY
Great skulls moving downriver.
Just south of here the river begins
To churn up the water. One can hear
The Falls in the close distance.
No one can see in this weather.
We could hear people on the shoreline.
They were making a great noise
As if they had just discovered History
To be a real place. A few of them lit torches
But it was too dark to see what was going on.
We used to have prayers. People lit candles
Inside of churches and expected something
To happen that would make sense of all this
Suffering and blood. Even a ghost would do.
The angle of the river becomes steeper.
The air loads itself with the sound of rapid water.
We settle into the thwarts and reach for the oars.
“If we head to the West, we should be okay.”
“Which is West?” a voice asks. It is too dark
To see much of anything. “Look up toward the moon.”
We begin to pull hard against the flailing water.
The moon seems like a good idea. Anything
At this moment to keep us away from the brink.
BOUND BY A DREAMING
Ramon brought the book with the outside
In it to the twilight chamber this evening.
We had not seen the book in many years.
It is kept with the night library in the cliff tower.
When it is opened, it shows the places
Around our far islands as if they were real.
The waves crash, the birds fly, smoke rises
From the villages, animals run in the streets.
The glow produced by the book fills the room
With a light so soft it seems made of the light
Sails dream-ships hold to the wind when they speak
To us in our hearts at the gates of the twilight
Beyond the woods of Ichy where we stole rods.
I began one of the old songs as we watched
The enchantment of magical places begin
To occupy our blood once again. It was a balm
That made the images seem more than alive.
“Our conversations this night must not include
Anything that will advise the others that we are here.
Tonight we are as cats in the changing of the world.”
We are bound to the book by dreaming. It is brought
That we may find our ways across unknown lands,
The wild and the hostile. We are warriors of the light.
With the book we can see the deep pools in the river.
Ramon kept us at the book for most of the night.
Then, he took a handful of pebbles and threw
Them with great force at a small bush just outside
The glow. A beautiful music came from the bush.
Then a woman in white came forth and toward us.
Ramon bowed to her and handed her the book
Which she closed, and she went ‘round the bush
Faster and faster until all was a blur.
“We know enough now to continue,” Ramon said.
We felt well-armed and guarded by an unknown
Presence when we left for the islands in the morning.
A FEAR OF SLEEPING
for d.a. levy
Thousands of lights begin to discover us.
We had been hidden for nearly a week.
These lights were of the forest, not of man.
I begged for the original silence, no space,
No time. I asked that oblivion protect us,
That all of history invent other than ourselves.
There are fireflies who remind me of particular
Persons I know. I do not speak their names.
They are as singular as silences. No longer
Confused by oblivion, they are as real as dreams
Carrying a dagger into the rooms of sleeping.
Shadows of tigers appear on the walls.
They have come for the hurricane,
To trap the horizon where we cannot see it,
That they may approach us in blue and vermillion.
They own our consciousness like nightmares.
On the other side of this, there is morning.
Even as we are discovered, it is dressing
Itself before the mirror in a shower of birdsong.
We will wait to be kissed by morning.
We will stare uselessly from within this dream.
We will hear the breathing of the tigers.
A great wind labors to push us onward.
We strive to be near nothingness,
Hoping to be senseless in the gold of illusion.
A GAME CHILDREN PLAY
They had already left the rooms
By the time we arrived.
All of the birds were dead
Except the ones so high up
In the towers they were impossible
To see. Ramon said he could hear them.
The glow in the place was like a pulsing
Fire, ruddy and swept with a smoke
That smelled of incense and blood.
Furniture was smoldering in many
Of the rooms.
Names and symbols covered the walls.
Most were in a language we had not seen
Before. The writing looked embossed.
Occasionally video images would appear
In different parts of the walls.
There was also a row of small paintings.
They were framed in gold and had
A precious look about them.
There were people doing things
In the paintings but none of us
Could determine what is was
They were doing. It seemed to involve
A game played with children
But the children looked to be telling
The larger persons some kind of secrets.
The people in the paintings were doing
Things we had never seen people do.
One of the soldiers wanted to tear them
Down from the walls, saying they were
Not right. No one could understand this.
The only thing that was obvious
Was that no one here was alive
And that no one would be coming back.
“We have to leave this place very quietly,”
Said Ramon. “The things that have happened
Here may never be spoken of again.
I want you to forget that we were here.”
We moved as many things in the rooms
As we could to their centers.
Three or four of the others began
To break the video screens with their tools.
They worked so quietly that all we noticed
Was the growing darkness.
This is the last you will hear of this place.
I cannot tell you anything more, just like
Some governments do. They know many
Things but we are not allowed to know them.
“We are soldiers,” said Ramon.
“This is none of our business.”
at the wisteria like a man
who knows how wisteria
should be looked at.”
I was washing myself with grief.
The spangles that remained
In my heart were more than tarnished
Chemistry. I no longer could imagine
What I came to tell you.
Everything got lost when the madness
Came to eat. It ate everything
And beat my body up and smashed
My possessions and cursed everything
I said and did or stood for
Or loved and my shoes filled up
With blood and it became
Difficult to walk.
That was love? I felt
More like I’d been hit by a car
And then blamed for being
In its way. I was on the sidewalk.
It was traveling at the speed of light.
A PEAL OF BELLS
The silhouettes seemed to unroll
As if dropped from the hands of angels.
The evening, unhemmed and still wrinkled,
Grinds the last of the day—flat, leaving
An off-key kind of tango between here
And the stars. Plenty of room for walking.
It was the sweetness of the whole thing
That baffled me. For a few moments I felt
I could slip the season on like a garment,
Dance toward the moon, amazed at the music
Of it all. The entire scene coupled to what
It is that burns hot in our hearts when we
Can no longer game at naming our bodies,
Touch and revel in that dusky embrace.
I will wait here on this hill above the sea.
I will lift my soul like a crown to the wind
That drives me to these blue heights
Where I think I am able to see the heart
Itself, pass through the streets in covered
Carriages, plying the ephemeral into bells
Carried through time as splendid memories.
A UNIVERSE OF WHAT
I am invisible
But I am rain.
The color of rain
Invents the air
And I am trembling
In the language here
In white wings.
In here, a heart
Enormous in its
Own universe of what?
My toys, or, we say,
Tears. No, tears.
Rain, No, tides.
No, thighs and a wrist.
Creeping, rushing, waiting
For the gate that is a hand
For sleep. Let’s have some.
Let’s have our own kingdom.
Look what flutters down
From trees that smile
Not caring about tomorrow.
We dive, naked with rain.
Touching as much as possible
On the way down.
We are as foolish as yes.
We drip from the eaves,
The edges of the world.
for Stephen Beal (1939-2010)
As this poem begins, dinner is still thirty minutes away.
You are still leaning against the door jamb looking into the kitchen.
You are still nine years old. The color of the milk in the glass
Pitcher has become extremely attractive for a moment.
Perhaps the red line painted around the top of the vessel is making it so.
It is still October. The quality of the light seems to have a mind of its own.
Ot flattens the table top precisely. It puts a tiny diamond on the spout of the pitcher.
The phone rings. Your mother still answers it.
You can hear her voice in the other room.
First, most excited, then concerned, then impatient.
There is nothing to do until Daddy comes home, any minute now.
You are still leaning against the door jamb. You think about the way the napkins
Are folded. The edges of the cloth seem delightful
For no reason other than these careful folds.
You will not recall this moment again in your life.
You had potatoes for dinner. Their color was much more
Solemn than that of the milk. You are surprised to have
Noticed this. It pleases you to have done so. It pleases
Me to have been able to see this exactly as it happened.
It is like recognizing a friend somewhere in a vast crowd,
Across a great distance, like in dreaming or watching a film.
In the world of the spirit, one does not lose what he has gained.
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s might fine poems and pix! And with apologies to Smith yesterday for putting him in Detroit instead of Cleveland, and for spelling his name Stephen instead of Steven. (This was the second time I’ve done that—you’d think I’d learn!)
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