A PLACE OF HORSES
The smallest of delirium broke off and floated
Away like music.
In the dark of the moon I took leave
Of my senses and left for a primitive oblivion.
No one had ridden this far into the
Barrancas for many years. It was said
That the stars themselves often became
Lost out here. Mysterious fires
Would flare up very intensely, but briefly,
Then unravel at various times of the year.
No one knew their cause and no burned earth
Was found. There was no singular, no plural.
It was impossible to have a destination
Out here. This was a place
Where the ends of stories went to
Escape. Where, it was said, tears could generate
Flash floods. They rushed through
Arroyos like ghosts from the mind of God,
Wandering waters with no beginning
And no end.
I have seen the people who lived here.
They are furtive and very spiritual.
It has been said that when they open their mouths
To speak at night, fires come from
Deep within them and spark the night.
They have never been seen in the villages.
They are an imagined history.
They are hidden springs like those found
Deep within the soul.
If one can read the birds,
One can understand that time has
No dominion here.
A blanket on the ground
Like pictures of saints on old prayer cards.
The conversations of coyotes about
The pronouncements of the moon.
A crackling moves through this place
As if lightning were walking through.
Still we ride here. It is
A place of wild horses who can be heard,
But are seldom seen. Perhaps they are the same
As the people, perhaps they are a shared soul.
An overhearing of the special conversations
Of the dead, a quick cord
Tied to a weighing of souls, a collision
Sharpened by forgetting what we thought
We knew, driven by this reverberation
At a masque devised by nightmare.
"THE LONELINESS THAT TIME CONTINUES LEAVING"
I had been given my own island.
Mostly dust with a couple of good
Pastures that rose upward to sea
Cliffs looking at the western sky.
As good a place for anyone to sit
Of an evening and listen to the day
Unload its promises into the night air.
None of them really true at all.
There was never enough to call out
What country this might be.
The vessels that came here had flags I could
Not recognize. They seldom stopped
For more than water and to buy a few
Sheep and some cheese.
I began entertaining as a dream is
Entertaining. I knew parables
And had the ability to speak
Any language as soon as I heard it spoken.
I awoke one night deep inside a dream
I recognized as belonging to a captain
Who had asked me years ago if I
Knew anything about how long men
Had lived in this place. I recall
Being completely unable to answer him.
I recall saying something about the horses
Who had lived here long before I came here.
I questioned my wakefulness, but
Everything contained one of his secrets,
A sleep full of his dreams and me,
Knowing this. I found myself climbing into a small
Skiff with curious blue sails
And rowing out to a candle-lit
Galleon. The night was perfectly still.
When I awoke in the morning I was
At the edge of the meadow, a light
Misty rain was beginning to fall.
The sheep were walking slowly toward me.
Somehow I felt they were happy to
Find me there watching them.
THE VANISHED MAGICIANS
I am still waiting. I gaze from the window
Past the mirrored room, over the terraced roofs,
Looking to the columns of thick dust that rise
In long streamers far away near the river bed.
The water is almost gone now. Most of the people
Have left on their own odyssey, taking their cattle
With them. They are looking for an everlasting name,
An infinite domain. We used to think of them as
Magicians, but today they have become fools.
All knowledge of them scraped into a few
Lines of poetry populated with unicorns,
Twisted pieces of iron and an almost imperceptible
Clearing of shadows that is neither
Exaggerated or completely powerless, but which
Exhibits all the marks left by time
On the night sky. They will not be back.
And so we remain here with our over-inventive
Dreams penned up in abandoned corrals
Awaiting a new star, an insistence that details
Have changed, that there will be enough to eat.
We wish for good fortune to accommodate us
Here on the extremes of music,
Prayer and a crumbling spoken language.
I reach out as far as possible.
I am able to touch the soft fabric of the moon.
A SMALL DRAWING OF A WEST WIND
This becoming. This time without sound.
Not a place ever mentioned, not
In books or pointed to on a chart
Clear as can be, describing depths,
The location of sea mounts
Where schools of silver fish
Have been noted by people
Long dead who fished here
And heard the voices of babies,
Children even, with no land in sight.
And drew measured arcs across
The notations of the currents.
This one drew a picture of what
He hoped would show a generally
Following West wind, but with eyes
too sad to account for such a thing.
I cannot remember how we came
To these places. And now, back again
To the exact spot we were before
But with the total lack of sound, a lack of doors.
I had been having problems with my skin.
It was getting red and shiny with plaque.
Recently I had noticed words appearing
In the plaque. At first they were words
In languages I could not read, but as
The disease progressed, more and more
Words began appearing all over my body.
They were not sentences, just words.
Most were verbs and adjectives but
Nouns began to creep into the sites
That appeared on my hands. By the end
Of the month I was covered in words.
Whenever I said anything, it would appear
On my body within a few hours. Sometimes
Languages, Braille bumps and International
Sign Language hand signs appeared.
I began to speak in gibberish and slang
More and more often. Eventually I became
A book. A book that walked but a book nonetheless
Covered with shiny words that might appear
At any time, anywhere on my body.
My physicians tried a panoply of medications
On me. After six months the words began
To fade quickly. My doctors told me that
I would never be cured but that I must become
A poet to deal with the disease. I have done
So. Now all I have is a bad case of psoriasis.
What are you looking at? she said.
Zero, I said.
Just zero? she said.
I caught one of them in the garden
Tonight. It was pretty. It had four
Wings and made a musical tinkling
When I held it by the wings.
What did you do with it? I asked.
I bit it in half to see what it
Tasted like, she replied.
It was better than a frog but I
Don’t think I’ll do it again.
They are too pretty.
Did you know your mouth has
A glow about it. It looks like
There is light inside your mouth.
Your lips are a gold light.
Don’t eat the fairies, I said.
I’m sorry, she said. I really am.
We don’t have them near our
Homes and I thought they were
You have too much owl in you.
I said I was sorry.
You’ll begin to talk like them
Within a fortnight, I announced.
I can already see you look
Different, she replied.
It’s my wings, I said. They have
Finally grown back but won’t
Be of any real use for a month or so.
Are you one of them now? she asked.
No love, you are. Don’t touch
Your body except when you
Want to feel the fairy stuff.
No one will believe you anyway.
And it’s hard enough to go out
At night alone because you
Will begin to glow all the time.
No. I won’t.
You are glowing now, I replied.
Do you know any of their songs?
Yes, I do, I replied.
Sing me one.
They go like this.
Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.
―Jorge Luis Borges, from Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s fine poems and visuals!
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