—Visuals provided by D.R. Wagner
IN THE TIME BEFORE THE MOON
In the time before the moon
There were men who are now
Not men as we know them.
They could walk beneath the sea
And they had fangs in the palms
Of their hands that could retract
Or rise to pierce the flesh of others.
Water too was different then
And came apart so easily
That breathing was possible
Anywhere one walked
On land or in water.
The great ship that carried night
From place to place every night
Did so with men who held poles
Topped with stars of fire at their ends.
They would thrust them upward
Through the water from below
The ship, where they would blaze
With colored fires and spin
High above the greatest
Of the ocean waves.
There was no doubt about anything.
All things tasted of grapes and honey.
This place had rooms for eternity
To occupy as it needed them.
This did not seem exceptional
To anyone until we found the moon
In one of eternity’s rooms.
It was involved with time.
They touched one another.
Suddenly we knew the precise weight
Of the moon and everything changed.
All of water thickened and no longer
Could men walk below the seas.
We found sleep inside yet another room.
The night abandoned its beautiful ship
To surround the moon in the sky.
All we have left are these storms,
The huge memories of stars still exclaiming.
Most devoted is this wind,
Unhurried but persistent
In its naming of the land.
“What country is this?”
These soft animals of childhood walking
In the last of the twilight.
“Is this where the seasons come from?”
“Look—there is death. Even his horses
Are beautiful.” He has such multitudes
Accompanying him, he barely notices.
To death it is all music.
We can see eternity getting dressed.
It is wearing purple this morning.
It washes its hands in blood
As if it were a secret.
The power of the wind never lessens.
It carves our faces even as we
Stand still gazing at the battlefields.
We used to walk along the edge of the park in the late evenings of Summer. The light was, so it seemed, always perfect. The best show was forever the sky flying by with its dream cloth spreading toward the night. On good nights we could see the evening itself seated at a picnic table looking at the flights of birds criss-crossing the colored air. On the best evenings he would wave toward us and we would be filled with a child joy at just being there at that time. In the rain evenings of Winter, in our coats, we could see that time also was dressed in gray gloves and heavy boots, bundled against the cold. Everything seemed to turn on these events. They did not seem a fiction, but on our age they confer a glow that is beyond words yet full of description. We can watch so many others from this ridge of the season. We talk about it this evening as we walk together in this same place.
There was a line of red lights on the western
Horizon. It looked as if a great communications
Tower had fallen to the earth, lights still blazing.
I was trying to understand what I was feeling.
Long ropes made a kind of jungle around me.
I touched some of them. They felt like your skin.
I tried to use them to descend but the floor remained
Too solid and I fell to it, weeping as if my heart
Were broken. I looked toward the horizon once again.
The lights began to flash, one after another, a kind of code
My body could understand but which I was unable to.
I prayed the night would become darker and that
All lights would disappear. I wanted so to be
With John of the Cross, but when I saw his body
It was in ecstasy. It glowed pornographically.
Stigmata appeared upon it. I felt my eyes
Burn away until there was only the red light,
The fallen tower, the legions of angels climbing
Higher and higher, beckoning me upward.
My legs flailing to find my body, my mouth filled
With blood. I thought I was kissing you.
I got shellshocked in the middle of the night.
I was glowing like blue quartz.
I stood up for the fight.
I unloaded the gun.
The one with the pearl handle.
That you had gifted to your son.
You reminded me that this would happen
But I couldn’t hear you out.
I was spitting teeth into the street.
The ghosts began to shout.
“Don’t touch a thing within this room.
They don’t mean a thing they say.”
I jumped into the blue coupe.
I warned you that you’d pay.
I could feel the bat escape my hand
As I struggled to my feet.
Do not come one step closer,
Keep your hands off of the meat.
No one really means it now.
It’s just a room without a door.
It’s just the way the pitch
Sounds this time around.
Now get up off the floor.
LATE AT NIGHT IN THE BIG JUNGLE
The child, he go speaking to the angel.
Only the dog understand him.
He makes three different sounds
With his voice. He says IT IS LATE AT NIGHT.
The grasses beneath the moon chortle.
They make rustling and call the fox in.
The fox can only come for a little while.
Somebody waking the bear up. He was
Sleeping from all the berries and now
This damn fox is yapping and making
The voles and the little mice go chasing
Moths and night crickets all around the place.
Somebody better tell him about the tall
People who look like sticks. How they come
Down spilling on the ground, all the tings
De are. We hear them. We can make
Dem sounds. Listen up, child.
When the angel come to this and the dog
Go running around making his big barking
Sound, don’t go being afraid. Pull up the
Grasses around you. Make a loincloth
With them bright moon grasses.
We all will come to make the dance
With you. Not a worry. We will all come.
WHICH IS NORTH
Memories, the blisters of dreams
Well up on whatever we call skin
In our sleeping.
You claim there are flights of stairs
That, despite their solution to travel,
Wander in and out of labyrinths,
Claiming, echoes like victories,
That time is singular. I pause
To think and am covered with roses.
The time I have here, made of gold,
Made of letters and of flashes of light,
Has allowed the white of the purest white
To pass though our very flesh. We no longer
Have kings, our faces might be anyone’s face.
It becomes more and more possible that yesterday
Belonged to the moon, that we were not there,
That the story we wanted to tell is in its death throes,
Days and nights confused on our hands. “Which
Ring shall we wear this evening? Which is North?”
We find a chance to let ourselves back into
Streets we know and are able to find our way
Through, back to see our homes disintegrating
Before us, dissolving on the tongue like communion
Wafers. “This is my body.” We are called by familiar
Voices. Before long we will remember who it is
We are, why we have come this way, where
Our center is, why our skin plays over us
As if it were a cloth of pure images, memories.
Burned the face clear off the bones.
Left the city just to be alone.
Leans on the doorbell a little too long.
Then asks what we think of the song.
I keep blinking and stare at his face,
I say a Hail Mary and remark at his grace.
He fires a match for his cigarette.
The whole place explodes. I’ll never forget.
I’ve been commanded to stand near the door.
I’ll ask you to leave. You’ll ask me for more.
The ice caps are melting. They push tides higher.
He says while he’s drowning that I’m always the liar.
Come on over here and play the big bass.
There’s no right way to do this and still leave a trace.
They will break all our fingers, load us onto the train.
Oh please, please forgive me, I think I’m going insane.
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for this morning’s fine poetic repast!
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