A SCURRILOUS GESTURE
...thinking of J. L. Borges
Like a mouthful of broken glass
From which blood pours between the lips
With terrible panic and suffering,
An audacious remark rises and thrives,
Alarmed at its own vacant worth and having been birthed
From aspersions filled with a personal holy water.
When the body was tossed into
The river, I was told about it and
Believed it like a student in a
Classroom eating a peach; the most
Serious of subjects was introduced
Full of the virgin and secret treasure
Stabbed into every dream that even
Recalled what had happened that night.
The anguish was terrible. There was no
Measure, as days have no measure.
I didn’t fully understand until now.
The talons of sadness are a narrow pass.
These words needed a dagger. A real
Dagger as if someone had voiced
“His time had come.” Oh please!
The dead are always wax, no matter
How much we are fascinated by them.
We continue to tell the story
But it is only a gesture. We believe
Someone has died. When we pray
All is different. The door opens.
We see who is coming. We see the hand.
The gestures are like stab wounds.
We try to hide, begging history for any
Form at all to hide the pain.
I reach for my knife, make a scurrilous gesture.
The clouds open and, for a moment,
Form a circle in the sky. One could
See angels moving within this circle.
Tall and pale, they are towers,
Leaning into each other and moving
Their giant wings slowly, as in breathing.
I dropped the car into a lower gear,
Swerving to avoid the back of a semi
As it exploded the road, caught up in a
Frenzy of delivery. The sky was all a gold,
A blue hole revealing a churning from
Heaven to Earth. Highway 80 West,
Aflame with the eccentricities of the early
Evening. An endless stream of vehicles
Up and down the interstate, a Jacob’s
Ladder where we are all angels.
The spinning of the clouds moves,
Recedes as clouds change shape
Again. I see Sacramento in the
Distance, stringing its night lights,
Claiming the horizon. There, on
The edge of the night, it becomes
A remarkable presence. I begin to
Think that perhaps the angels dwell
There, a place of sacrament. A blue
Camaro without lights on nearly clips
My pickup as it slides across three lanes.
Its license plate reads HLY GHST.
for Joseph Raffael
in the early morning.
They have voices, move
together to form a great
voice, voice, in the air
we who listen, those who
care, lifting like the spirit
departing the body wearing
six colors and forming
an attitude of giving
with the hands. All this
falling, lifting me
up from the morning coffee
wiping the sleep from my face,
listening to the frogs
and thinking they are other
voices, children moving
in their dreams, those who
don’t come back from sleep
tonight, the breath of a lover
moving in my ears, departing.
A WILD CHILL OF DREAM
The moon moving quickly
As if it was going to lose
Its children to some intention
Clouds might desire to hide its face.
Why would the road open up?
What kind of calling would
Show our steps from which
Fire could touch our skin?
It was not a healing.
It was not a charm.
It was not a memory.
It was not yet named.
She dragged the moment open
And it spilled across the floor.
Her smile was birthed of horror
And the closing of a door.
And here I stand
Before you with my hands
Upon my face.
I’ll sing songs about the lady.
Hail Mary, full of grace.
My clothes are rent by sharp knives.
My skin is rent with sores.
I remember when you loved me
But that was all before.
Now you can no longer see me.
I’ve grown old like casks of wine.
You no longer seek my mouth,
My love. You are no longer mine.
THE PERFECT BALANCE OF THE SPIRAL
I started out to tell you something,
Something of the morning, the exclamations
Birds orchestrate as marks of color
Against the insistence light makes
Upon us as we move slowly away
From sleep and into the crisp
Air of Autumn before everyone
Is awake and we can sit for a moment
As the day establishes itself in our
Minds as something substantial but untouchable.
But I got lost turning around and
Around on the lawns far from
The house, eyes open, seeing that
Small grove of trees, then the
Lane toward the house, the creek,
Its stone bridge, the two hills
With the folly upon the higher one
Trying to find a classical landscape
This close to the city, finally,
The house itself with the window
Glass looking golden and unreal
As I reeled ‘round and ‘round.
Perhaps a song would help here
But the whole thing will not stop
Turning and the earth itself knows
That and continues to throw up
Wonder upon wonder into our being
Here in early October. It has its
Own music. The birds still sing
In the nighttime and we have a piece
Of the whitest moon to take to
Our beds as we move through the
Picture galleries and the night views
Of the fountains from the second
Floor toward the garden.
We hear string music come from afar.
Closing our eyes for a moment
We find the balance once again,
The bowing to each other, the delicious
Fragility of the dance.
SOMETHING MORE PROBABLE
This poem is broken. I found
It that way, beyond words to fix it.
It was too complex to keep in the mind
Without something untold happening
Just as the words were to reveal
Atmospheres or a startling journey
From which no one could return without
Their entire meaning excluded or compromised.
Passages, contradictions, abnormalities
That were once thought to make it
Possible, now all exceptions to whatever
Reality and deep feeling the poem had.
Now it does not matter what direction
We choose to follow. The poem will
Have already been there before us
Using meaning as some kind of trick
That actually steals imagination away
From us, giving it to something more probable.
The world is full of poetry. The air is living with its spirit; and the waves dance to the music of its melodies, and sparkle in its brightness.
—James Gates Percival
—Medusa, with many thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s fine dance of poetry and visuals, including the cartoon below which he found and posted on Facebook.
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