Tonight the paper lanterns have been lit,
Given a voice of light to the riverbank.
They utter wave forms and harmonize
With the lapping upon the shore.
There are spirits in the evening.
They rove upon the land,
Sit on hillsides watching
The paper lanterns flicker.
The close glow of their quiet flame
Agrees with the loneliness and the sorrow of age,
Unravels where the mind once played
And gives gifts of muted color
To those holding hands and gazing
At the display before them.
Song releases its legions of dancers.
They whirl beneath the paper lanterns.
They trail memory out behind them
Like toys forgotten in some child’s room
Seen through a slightly open door.
The owl is silent as it passes
The paper lanterns. Nothing like this
Will ever happen again. There is no
Way to know the dimensions of the evening.
VISION FROM THE DOOR
We had just passed the door
When someone asked for time.
Was it something you heard
Or something that will keep you away?
She said: “You’ve seen birds, haven’t you?
Can you tell me what kind?”
It must have been an owl. It was night.
“What flies at night?” “That was time.”
A thousand crows lifted from the trees
Just beyond the meadows. We thought
They were the leaves of the tree.
A murder of crows all but blocking
Out whatever moon we had.
Years have gone by. They refuse to relent,
And form dense piles, like paper
Written on and confined to a single room.
There is no sense in thinking about it.
Almost anything one can create will
Be able to assume any shape, use
Any language, make signs with its
Hands, if it has hands, or become
Any person at all, even one that
Is loved very much but has remained
Trapped in an object for a long time.
A sister was a sofa for years, then a teapot.
The dogs became undone and settled
Into becoming two chairs and a kitchen
Table that was left over from
A flock of birds she had once seen
But could no longer recall where.
There was still the shore, but now
It was night and the waves collapsed
In a stutter a friend had suffered
With long ago, in the fourth grade.
Anything but this place. Help get
These things out of line and into
Something that could fill one
With a deep sleep.
Waking high above the sea in a villa,
Full of sun, near Naples, on Capri.
Hearing someone humming a song, sliding
Plates over each other, the smell of coffee,
Silverware tinkling as if it could help.
Perhaps it was a prayer. It could have
Been a prayer rising up through
The room and then the body.
Someone was there holding her hand.
It might be her sister or it might
Be someone never before seen.
“Don’t open your eyes,” says a voice.
“Just go back to when we found
All those lovely shells.”
That could have been anywhere.
There is a fever in my hands.
It is higher than that red mountain.
It keeps me from moving my feet.
I can hear that singing
I told you about when I was young.
Do you remember the words?
I look to the western horizon.
It makes my face hurt to remember.
These are tears, aren’t they?
I’m going to close my eyes.
Pretend that I am dreaming.
Perhaps I will wake as a child again.
SOMETHING LIKE A SONG
There were little fires in all the books.
I was trying to explain something
About the night, but I was choking.
The room began to fill with with pain.
I was dreaming like I was made of fire.
“No, she said. You’re made of books.
Try something like a song. You may have
It was her April.
Full of swallows
In the evening.
Hanging above the river
A blue-gold serpent
Uncoils in her mouth.
Two hours before sunrise
The temperature drops nearly
The climate of her soul.
She wishes us a fine sleep.
No dreams at all. Ever.
She kisses us on the cheek.
TRYING TO EXPLAIN
We never left the mountain.
The light across our bare feet.
We must have been lost all
Our lives. Someone was calling.
It seems they have made a night
Only for us. A drift of precious
Animals gazing upon a marvelous
Throne. There were children
Weeping in a pale blue room.
Why is it things are able to be
Exactly like this?
I’ve seen a hand
Open and pearls as beautiful
As the world pour out across
The shore. Here even is the moon
I told you about when we left
The meadow this morning.
Everything dressed in birdsong.
What was it moving behind the trees?
It made a mist as it moved.
Our skin became damp of a sudden.
Mother brought some blankets
To the yard, spread them for us.
Crows came down and landed
Next to us.
“What makes the stars, my children?”
“We do not know, Mother,” we answered.
“Music, she said. Pure music.
Sing for me, my children.”
We sang. The sky filled with stars.
She spent time at the window
Using its soft gold coin to tease
A cat waiting patiently for a train.
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s fine poems and pix!
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