Far better than the dingy deep to which
the flesh resigns are upright traps
or boards where feet pace out
the private woes the world designs.
At least in clothes or closets we may dream
or simply breathe or merely be the subjects
of desire. But where we go beds are so tight
and neat, to say we sleep there is a lie.
It’s no small feat to live inside a tomb
three days or, locked a lifetime in this case,
to love, to dance and sing, and still to die.
Tending the body of the beloved, you see
something mortal there that love cannot cure,
as if you cannot think the body tended still
has arms to hold you, as if already
this one you love belongs to some other
estate where we only ever go alone,
as if pausing at the edge of a wood
one says let’s turn back now and the other
says I think I’ll linger here awhile,
go on without me, I’ll catch up.
Before it happens, she’s wrapped in her sheets, books
disarrayed in the cabinet behind where
she leans toward the book on her knee, looking
perhaps for some line half forgotten or
searching for a spell to make him love her till
she can’t stop shaking, or perhaps some recipe
to make this sudden nimbus go away or
to undo the volumes she’s swaddled in. And
here’s the angel fumbling with the door, his skirts
so heavy he’s squat, he’s going to tie her up
with that banner of words, he’s going to make her
sorry she ever left her bed for that book.
You discover that space is flat
but you prefer a surface more like
an interface, or something that if turned
on its side would go straight to the bottom.
You want to turn your face to the sun,
you want gravity. Everybody else
will sit around eating and joking
all the way up to the end.
Names and other things have curves
where secrets hide or can be planted
to blow things up later. Unlike the
rolling boundaries of the things
you care about.
So you track it down.
There’s an improved experiment.
Before there was nothing there wasn’t
something. Your last refuge not to
beg the attribution.
The brute–it was all underwater but
like sadness it wasn’t an even thing–
more like a cryptic note or rather
a partial note. Acquiesce, it said.
a mean overseer with a whip.
Did it say “depth” or “death”?
Another way of saying it’s not true,
probably not true that you’ll be anxious
now in any scene set on a spacecraft
with the short guy in the tight coat.
That blowback from the future is such
an absolute affliction you wonder
how it is that something that’s
over hasn’t surfaced yet.
The god who lives in a shack always
leans a chair up against the nearest
outside wall to sit in the sun.
Everything he says is so crafted it’s
like clothing. Each day we wait to hear
from you. Are you there?
Our first maps are just abstract things:
we center what we know while nether regions
fall off edges, or countries of imagination,
blown out of all proportion, squat
invitingly unlimned, cramped in blank corners
populated with cities of monsters or mothers.
Later but still early on
uncharted territories occupy our minds
while we are caught in well-known grids
merely travelling on a dirty cross-town bus
or maybe driving late at night, alone,
not going anywhere, just not going home.
And later still, when ordinary life
has permanently locked its lock,
our dreams are full of fascinating
trips through stygian regions
where other people like the ones we know
are crucified or slowly roasted on the shores
of heaving rivers while we glide cautiously past
in makeshift boats paddled by guides who say,
“Don’t look now, Dreamer:
that will never happen to you.”
Then we discover it has already happened to us
in heartbreaking in and outside ways.
Finally we find ourselves pointblank
living lives we thought we’d never live
and where we really are is where we’re lost
as if another had mapped our lives instead of us.
Usurped by this strange self, we try hard to believe
that what we really are is unsurveyed.
the sky thick with crows and then
trees ripe with them—not a day
for beginnings or endings or
brushing up against your heart’s
fleshy O-ring and plans for flight
mulberries thick on the ground
a spindly persimmon tree–fruit
mostly seeds, flesh best when
on the verge of putrefaction
how things were ready when they fell
that was how you learned
the meaning of time passing
someone might recall every color
and heartbeat in a distant day
as if recollection were true, as if
something numinous could emerge
from a paste of surmised details,
feelings dressed up as solid things
the locular all locked up, as if
one could get past glassy surfaces
reflecting only everything
that cannot get inside
you slip away from living so much
you forget how the day has
its different times and moods
how the mere sound of a human voice
conjures things words only leave spaces for
Reluctant happiness is
not to bear, is not
that spirit scrimmage.
Wind from nowhere,
open the door.
The cut that tears,
the trap of momentary
The universe so in
the head’s voice-over:
despite its fix,
They have been many days in the forest walking and not getting anywhere, always in the same gloom, a shifting curtain of shadows sometimes shot through with arrows of golden buzzing light revealing spots of dappled green ahead of them like stained copper, above them, the dark closed green of the high heads of tall pines.
They walk always in the same direction even when they turn around. They’ve been here so long they no longer know how many they are–one or two, so long they no longer know if they are thinking or speaking aloud the things they think, so long that when one of them says something, they don’t know which one of them is saying it or if they have already said it a moment ago or a week ago or a month or yesterday.
Suddenly the forest opens up. They are not looking for a temple, but they find one, though it has been mostly gutted by the latest round of haphazard malice, wrecked but not destroyed. Past the relief of finally just arriving somewhere, one is astonished then relieved to be in a holy place that like most holy places seems always to have been there, awaiting finding and supplication or gratitude. Even here among the cracked columns and crushed idols, one is seized with the wonder of belief.
The sacred pool, mostly dry and muddy now, embellished with the empty bottles and candy wrappers and condoms of the wrecking crew–he is standing at the far edge of it, looking out over the valley that shades off into the city in the distance. He turns to you and says, every time we get to this part, I think the same thing and say the same thing, but I never can remember what it is. Oh, you say, I remember–you say, ah, the end of empire, documentation and storage and then just victims and middens from here on out.
O hear what remains of
our utterance, this our proud
device. In this wasteland,
we clamor for amore, then
for more, our stately echo
proceeds to rock your naked
foundations, that ridged affair
you thought to fool us with.
True, our installments
explain away our voice,
but our concrete love
catches your heart off guard,
and while our mountains
cluster on the verge,
our sunny messenger
outruns our faun.
image: Athanasius Kircher http://standrewsrarebooks.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/52-weeks-of-inspiring-illustrations-week-42-athanasius-kirchers-beautiful-musurgia-universalis-1650/
No news here since the last famished
liberation, I’ve settled in silence
and the odd letter, embroidery
no one can see. When all you wanted
was bright bonnets and quaint skirts,
you got a skint knee and rue
prim as trimmed whiskers
to pass on to me along with
the magic of wash-and-wear.
Now we know you were the brave one,
now we know what that cost.
I’ve not forgotten how you sewed
my clothes–a velveteen collar on
a little coat, a flowery button on
a sleeve–or how your mother
made a quilt from what was left
of all you’d made for me. If only
you’d taught me gratitude and
how to scry unspoken expectation,
I’d not be so sorry now for all
the things that then I didn’t know.
A day longer than a day—
water under a piling,
plying sand and silt away
till everything is water
and sky—heat lightning,
How off the track the wheel
of other lines, the little you
the big one orbits round,
the last lost creature
In the spirit jail.
it can’t run. When
sidewise dreams infiltrate
things we know, they
never are the things
we know again. If in
this makeshift paradise
time passing merely
imitates time past, the
dreamer never knows.
Something in us insists,
something else lets go.
Everything here that’s
flat invites a fold,
anything that can linger
is already gone.