TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING
I was once given a language.
I could come to create a music.
It burned in my body and could
Light up the most intimate night.
Now my own blood abandons me.
I feel it through my lungs, robbing
Me of understanding. I have forgotten
What it was Virgil once said to me.
I no longer know who the dead are.
If you come stand with me
Perhaps you can see fires on the plains
Stretching off into a great distance.
These places are littered with flowers
That no longer accommodate the jungles
That moved through the voices of the verbs.
Give me another language.
Lend me the songs of birds. I am
Unformed except to know
Their vowels and pale rhythms.
I will bring you the moon
And you will no longer recognize it.
I do not like this poem.
I do not want to be writing it.
It has memories I must bear
As if I have bitten by a snake.
It deceives me and takes my voice
As its own. It closes in on me
As if I agree to be consumed.
I cannot look at these words.
They are mirrors that deceive.
They call me their brother.
They feed me food I do not
Want to eat. I have never
Lived here. I smell the death
Of it caught in every word.
I remind myself of a song.
This poem says I will never sing.
It offers me a kingdom full of lies.
I trust I will never remember
Any of this when the words end.
A forlorn glance rests for a minute
On a constellation never before seen
From the earth. It has a skeleton
Dreamed about by a conquerer
Who lived before Alexander the Great.
It tells of myth still played on the oud.
A curious universe of music riddled
By time so that we might never have understood
It were it not for the migrations of sea turtles
To a small island in the middle of the South Pacific.
I dream those who have drunk from my cup.
They are multitudes, all without name or tribe.
I have stood in their battlefields and watched
Them eat while gazing at the stars.
I am in possession of a rare engraving showing
This constellation, but it appears to be seen under
A different sun, in another house, one whose
Blood pulls us toward itself, seeking a pure heart.
We live in such a large house. We may not
Know many of the rooms. Sometimes they appear
Only as ships plying dark seas, not knowing where
It is the tides may take us. I ask you to look up.
A DULL MORNING
The day skitters away
Under a gray sun.
It is laced with fog,
A bleached-out engraving.
Hardly a city at all
To be seen from the window.
A silence but not quite a silence.
The conversations of the dead.
Some would call it a breeze
But barely a breeze. The fog
Does not move. It too is cold,
Dons a mask and is primitive,
Barely a sun at all.
I was told it was a charm
Of sorts, a talisman, a clouded
Opal, close to being lost from sight.
My footsteps are taken from my ears.
I begin to forget myself.
Not quite dying, a dull bell
More felt than heard. Found
Wandering the streets without purpose.
END OF DAY
The day collapsed
Into the arms of the evening.
A singular tower remains
But it is lost. No light escapes it.
I am asked to push the knife
Into the throat of the hours.
They will not return, I am assured.
I feel the fabric of its fine clothing
Under my fingers and I am not
So sure that this is true.
I decide to wait.
Change into my night clothing,
Soft flannel, gentle to my skin.
I look back into the passageway.
I see the day enter it,
Seeking its half-open door.
Forgive me for this moment.
I will record its death,
My own hand upon its throat.
The last of nothing drifts by.
All of space is now occupied.
We are now ready to receive
The Holy Spirit. It does not
Come as tongues of flame,
But occupies the cells of the body
Like crowded subway cars at night,
Full of dozing riders and people
Reading books as if their life depended on it.
We cross the tracks carefully.
We are unable to recognize anyone
We pass. Balloons of vision lift
From the clouds of people, rise up,
Are lost in a reaching of hands to grasp
The colorful strings dangling from them.
The gift of tongues is ours once more.
Touch our hand and you shall be healed.
No one believes this to be true. We buy food,
Giving away bars of chocolate and plastic
Wrapped sandwiches. Some shed tears,
Thanking us as we move forward.
Times like this will come again.
The seas lash the shores. Tornadoes
Sweep the kingdom. Fire consumes
All that is left. We suffer fools
With their predictions and admonitions.
This is indeed Pentecost. We cannot name it other.
Illuminated display boards at the exits flash
Our names and show grainy images of what
We are supposed to look like. We lose
Ourselves in the crowd, the buzz of understood
Conversations in every language of the world.
THE SHIP BREAKING
Finally, there is nothing except the music.
It replaces the language and
Crushes all attempts at speech.
We all are acquainted with eternity. We were
Required to be there before consciousness allowed
Time to become the enduring problem that it is.
From the future it pours into us. We are the banks
The river requires to truly be a river.
All things endure forever. The will and the stars
Are one. There is no alone.
“Eternity is the style of desire.”
I KEEP THINKING
I keep thinking
I don’t know anything.
So far I’ve been right
—Medusa, with gratitude to D.R. Wagner for yet another tasty Saturday brunch! His poem, “Pentecost”, was the title poem in a chapbook published by Green Panda Press, Cleveland, Ohio, in 2012.
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