Before the shadows got too soft
There was a man who traded
In visions. He was a surgeon
Of sorts who barely left a mark
When he excised a perfect golden
Octopus that could sing ancient
Greek boating songs or slice
A Valentine of brightly colored
Birds into a strange collection
Of coins much desired by the
Herdsmen of the upper terrace.
He worked from dusk until dark
During the long Summer days
And during storms of any kind.
His voice was very musical.
Cats would be charmed by his
Soft whistles and his conjuring
Of small winged animals seen
Nowhere else in any moment.
Hs disappeared into the throat of
Spring when the child weavers
From the dark villages were
Bargaining with him over the souls
Horses had left with them. That
And the lovely skins of animals
Found by the children at the bottom
Of the cliffs near the great waterfalls.
There are those who claim to know
Where he has gone, but whenever
A particular wash of golden light
Passes through this place, one
Can hear his tinkling laugh and
For a moment be unable to think.
Smoke rises from the ends of our
Fingers. We are able to dazzle you
With words, the color of which
Is able to hook into our imagination
So completely we forget we have
The power of speech, and find
Ourselves lost in the pure magic
Only seen in the best twilight markets.
The herds of horses were heading for the shore.
They would surely move through the canyon,
Through the wilderness, the waltz of souls.
No one had forgotten the luminescence
Their abandonment had invoked the last time
This had happened. The breaking the full moon
Did that evening without our asking. The mathematics
Of the invisible, koto-like in its own cathedral.
Yoshi was down on his knees, looking though
The legs of his cow herd. The Seven Pilgrims
Were walking in a single file. At the crossroads
Everything became visible. He looked to us
For a moment only and was gone. The cows
milled around for a few minutes, then moved on.
The sea ghosts. While the horses were in the surf
We could see the empty bodies of the dead wearing
The white triangle keeping the spirits away from them.
The horses began to change before our eyes.
WIND IN BAMBOO
The high course
Where we are arrested
By the winds and drive
Them from the high masts
Bowing before the rain.
Forced to listen to
Their howling songs
As they tear through
The bamboo for no
Reason other than to make
A fearsome sound and drive
The cats sleeping on the bed
Farther into the covers,
Away from the wild lash.
Tonight I serve them.
Look out across the gardens
As they writhe and moan
Before the night, mad
With rain. I pull my collar
Close and lean into the wind’s
Mouth. It fills me with words.
ABOVE THE COAST
The way the stars
Have mouths to help
Us sing the song
We are able to sing.
I am unable to hold
Your hand but I know
Every word you attempt to sing.
I will offer you
A magnificent vista
That dances above the breath
At the Green Gulch Farm
As the road opens to the coast.
Tell me when you arrive
At this moment. I will not be
A part of these words
At all, but will fly to meet you.
I am only your fool
For a few minutes.
I am able t see
The crows pull above us
While you dance
That dance you’ve chosen
To make us believe
You really understand
The pulse of this river.
I don’t believe you.
There are clowns in your party
That attempt to explain
Things to us.
We are fixated on the high wire
Where those who dream hold
Our hands and confirm
Our beliefs that all things
Are possible. Even these
Words are possible.
You can lift your head
Above these words and see
The most incredible events
I will reach out for you
From this place and catch
You by the wrists as you fly
Above an unbelieving audience.
There I will testify to your performance.
I DREAMED I WAS A TREE
I dreamed I was a great tree
Along the edge of the community gardens
And that it was Winter and I had
Birds would come to me all
The day and into the night
And owls and hawks and
The small breath of the hummingbird
Was upon me as loud as the vultures
With their feathered collars
And bald heads.
I had been there for many years
And now the stories of these birds and also
The animals who walked
The gardens, the deer, the
Raccoon, the opossum, the
Flighty squirrel and the
Hundreds upon hundreds
Of mice and rats
And moles, skunks as well
As dogs and cats.
I too saw the people who
Make the gardens there for food.
I am full with my own life
And know many stories of
What the years have brought
To me as gifts.
And I was complete in this
Life and wanted nothing
More than this.
I had the sun and the moon,
The canopy of stars, the
Gifts of wind and rain,
The seasons in my roots
And the perfection
Of my thousands of leaves
It was Winter upon me
As I dreamed. I was
A tree as long as I lived.
I wished all could one time
Be a tree and know my
Bodhisattva vow worked
Just fine for all things
And that I was once a poet.
THIS BOOK WAS LEFT OPEN
The floor littered with weapons,
Ancient weapons with edges that
Speak to the teeth of dogs, even tigers,
It is impossible that they should be there.
This book has no descriptions.
Remarkable that these weapons should glitter
So. Sons kill fathers in these books, but it seems
A little thing. The edges of these objects are
The real dialogue. It is a very old interaction.
Language is a rigid system. It allows nouns
Free reign and we must move among embedded
Verbs, stumbling and staggering from the edges
Of these weapons. We will never know them as other.
These are your brothers and sisters, your family,
The uncle from Argentina who was never seen
After 1942, but was famous in obscure newspapers.
These provide colorless roads and we thread them together.
Finding the book open in the morning, on the floor
Next to the couch where I fell asleep, I close it.
All of its dancing is now within me, still glittering.
It spills from me, like salt on dark ground, mysterious,
Full of reflections in mirrors we may never encounter again.
We're going to get drenched in this storm, I said.
We had better take off our clothing.
But it was already much too late.
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for his fine poems and visuals this morning!
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