This is the most ordinary of evenings.
We sit at the edge of the lawns
On yellow chairs and look up at the stars
That are a wash of color in the darkest
Sky. The air is filled with fireflies
So dense one can see the trunks
Of trees as they electrify the space.
And yet, it is an ordinary evening.
There have been many like it before.
We drink from glasses filled with ice.
Its tinkling is less than music,
But pleasant to our ears.
And yet, this is the most ordinary
Of evenings, with a comfortable
Temperature and no mosquitos
Or large flying insects that collide
With us. And we speak softly,
Laugh, and gesture. There are candles
On the table. We look like night angels.
And yet, this is a very ordinary evening.
We have no way of knowing that it was
Once the dream of a great prince who
Ruled this place with blood and iron.
It is his dream we are inhabiting tonight,
More fully than he could ever do.
And yet, this is the most ordinary of evenings.
These pools look as if the season
Has forgotten them, left them to struggling
As their dark tadpoles struggle, barely able
To cover themselves with what water remains,
Tiny, amphibian feet pushing the mud aside.
They leave no track when they dry. The cracked
Earth, the clicking of cicadas upon the best of summer.
A puff of dust pulled up from skeleton bird nests,
Finger bone left by a wind that was not supposed
To have a skeleton. It was supposed to disappear
Into the woods, only dogs would be able to track
It. But for the fires and the cold light of the stars
We would not know of this at all, thinking that
The season had fallen exactly there and the
Change to Autumn would feel like someone
Had only slipped a ring on our finger and we
Would not notice it until the temperatures dropped.
Until it was October all around us once again,
A few rain storms causing the pools to appear
Again. A willow tree insisting it knew what desire
Was all about, urging us on deeper and deeper,
Across the meadows, into the darker woods.
“This all looks so familiar,” we would think,
But we would have been changed by everything
We had seen, sit on a fallen tree trunk, listening
Carefully to the croaking of the frogs.
BORROWING THE PAST
She needed a place to live.
Somewhere beside the back yard.
A music of distances only.
The presentation of the heart.
But the body was not present.
I may have thought it was, but no.
Even your teeth begin to hurt
After awhile. Like water getting
Into your nose and burning your sinus.
Someone was walking around close to us.
They had faces that we would always remember.
Here are the shivers. You will never be sure again.
How does this sound then?
A nickel of worry for you?
Ah yes, I know and it’s a dream.
So much has been broken.
I opened up my skin.
This looks like blood.
The lights in the house click off.
She is still in the backyard.
Everything smells like alcohol and lawns.
Going back to the earth
Wearing bright cloth, wrapped all around
And pulled into a smile
As if it, by grace, were bound.
It comes so late that fear
No longer finds it necessary
To attend a single multitude.
It dresses slowly in its room,
Smokes a cigarette part-way,
Then crushes it beneath his heel
And pushes past the door toward day
Quick to have it done.
Some clods are tossed.
A prayer is said.
Hide dead flesh beneath the sun.
All words are lost.
All fear pretends as dread.
Goodnight sweet prince
Or princess as it were.
The light is done here.
All that persists are bones,
So much alike they build pyramids
And temples of them in the ossuaries
Held together by dried tears.
GIVE ME SOMETHING, Key of D
Tonight I’m just laying here and thinking about you.
Time has packed up and left town.
All the streetlights are still burning
But there ain’t no one around,
Give me something to hold on to.
Something I can believe is real.
Give me something so I know you’re coming home.
Give me something I can feel.
You went North last April.
Now it’s ‘way past July.
You said that you would be home by now.
Here the days curl up and die.
Give me something from where your heart is
Just so I can have a sign.
The big moon’s just on the horizon.
By the time it’s high, my heart is flying.
I’m breaking down here near the airport.
I can’t stand this talking to myself.
I’m looking for you in the landing lights.
I guess you’re always somewhere else.
I’m breaking down just like the Ford did
The night we were caught out in the rain.
Walking with my shoes all full of water.
Even storms go down the drain.
Give me something like that high sound
We used to hear on Summer nights.
When the crows were landing in the pine trees
That would make us feel so right.
I can’t stay here too much longer.
It’s like staring at a flame.
First it flickers, then it catches fire
Then it burns so hot things change.
Give me something, help me understand
Why you can’t find your way back here.
Just a kiss, a salutation
Something to drive back the fear.
I was talking to the postman
But he says it's not his fault.
Your letters never did get to me.
It brought the whole train to a halt.
Give me something I can relate to.
Give me strength and give me grace.
Let me get up in the morning
Looking at your sleeping face.
I can’t wait until tomorrow.
Tonight is much too much too long.
There is nothing more that I can say to you.
That is why I wrote this song.
It was never as we had expected it be.
Initially, it had appeared as the blue
The oceans had laid claim to so long ago.
So perfectly clear but with a sense of not
Being able to see at all, a miscellany of legends
Bound together to resemble fine steel but unable
To find its own way. It depended on our hands.
It was totally unaware of itself and of us.
Certainly it was to be used to take life from
Things, living things, not moon or stories
Or history for that matter, but it could change these
If it found them alone or strung out on some voice
Bound to flesh and willing to give up everything
Just to be discovered centuries later as a footnote
In a book about the sea or the defeat of, at best,
A down-at-heels empire suffering from insomnia.
When the sharp edge was introduced and could
Be forced to sink into a great death,
We had the pyramids, which were certainly not
An illusion and they were ruled by swords. Even
Islam itself and the Great Norsemen all saw
Themselves armed with the sword and always
Terribly frightened by the unknown. They wanted
Eternity but had had no lessons in it and so did
Not obey any order but their own. Campfires on
The deserts or upon the cold of blasted plains,
Drawing maps with the tips of their great blades.
But we had come here late. Few of us could speak Latin,
Read the sagas or the ancient books. We had only been
Playing at a war that started long before we discovered
Ourselves here, pulling the swords from the sand, out of the
Ice, the mud, standing in terrible rains. When the rains
Finally stopped, there were thousands of us standing
Together on an endless plain, all armed with these
Weapons, praising nightmare, building hells larger
Than any empires. We had arrived much too late.
We believed the swords to be ourselves and not other.
We live in the hollow of a dream, constantly killing
Each other, constantly weeping for losses we cannot
Understand, unable to find the words that would wake
Us, to find the curve to trouble eternity with such a single
Desire as the understanding of a single word: peace.
Because the telling is always
Going to be different and sometimes
A spell will be different.
We will think of it still
As a real thing, that it will bring
Its own magic to our lives, our mouths,
We will sing.
And here you need no breath.
There is only the rest surrounding
Everything you hear or read.
Someone has done a special deed.
They blow themselves apart and bleed
And you begin to have it as a tree.
Some kind of forest that will burn.
Surely your soul, smoke coming out the top
And I have to stop.
Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone's face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s fine poetry and visuals!
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