Wanderer

eisberg fr felt mod 3

Nis nu cwicra nan
þe ic him modsefan
minne durre
sweotule asecgan.

you’re seeing

something out there
springing up: a waterspout
its listing shimmy far away
from windows deeply shuttered
like the ones you hid behind
when storms came or trouble
you always knew that things
that can’t be seen are only sound

places you go into with nothing much
in mind, so necessary to have
nothing in mind, to have a mind
with nothing in it when lightning comes
the hardest thing to do

pushed first this way then that
this boat is going over

the pleasure of
things without words
water running over a rock
or that day you stepped out
into that rigid cold
and shrugged in your clothes
something like a skin you
could move around in, some
shape you entered into then
discovered as your own

the first time you heard
the baby laugh, the only thing
in the world always like
the first time

you never imagined you’d die
the way you did
it teased you first
knocked you around a bit or a lot
let you sleep it off while it
cooled off in a close café
or in another hemisphere
got on a bus headed your way
no matter where you were

in the end, it would invite you
into a little room
not as cramped as a
confessional, not as luxe as the
ladies’ room you peeked into
in that hotel in Havana
warmth coming from somewhere
inside those marble surfaces
the stuffed tight couch and chairs
the deep mirror where
women leaned into their own
reflections, that look in the eye to eye
like someone distracted by
a thought not enough
to hang onto

watching them

feeling the things you felt

you stepped out for, say
a pack of smokes or idly
followed something that swayed
you were already falling
when it came, one small
searing point inside you
suddenly big as the world

even if you could have made a sound
even if you could have screamed
like a tornado,
you could not have matched
its everything, it had no other side

my friend, this is as far as I can go
from this world that’s not
the one you’re in, the one
where you arrived when you
were on your way to someplace else
with your tired luggage
happy, sad, trying
to find a place where
someone would be glad to see you

if hope can have an object
in the past, I hope that in the end
you weren’t alone, that some hand
touched you with kindness, hope
that if you had yearned for someone
it never crossed your mind
hope you didn’t think you’d lost
the things you couldn’t have
hope you knew you always had
all the things you had to leave behind

epigraph from the Old English poem “The Wanderer”
modified image; original at U of Washington Freshwater and Marine Image Bank http://content.lib.washington.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/fishimages&CISOPTR=53714&CISOBOX=1&REC=14

Levee

noaa ms fld 1927 levee breach comprsd flpd

between you and
things you don’t want
to know
a monument
places you won’t go
losses
you don’t hope
to recover, people
you love who can
never return, people
who won’t love you or
you can’t love them
unless until
what’s broken
reconvenes
it won’t
nonetheless
you tend
the possibilities
with miraculous feats
and vanquishings
and other such
imagined scrims
it’s the same
no matter how you
line it up
best not move
as if anyway
you could oh
errant satellite
from up here
down there looks
static as if
that silver river
never moves it’s
still a planet of
postponed
collisions
not forgetting
harder than
remembering till
cuts and pinches
rocks and words
recall self to self
when you’re so
occupied there’s
only being
there’s still
a little place
to store yourself
like other creatures
artifacts of living
you can wait it out

_________________________
image: Mississippi River Flood 1927, NOAA, National Weather Service Collection:http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/wea00733.htm

The After

warbeth 1903 crp smoke 6

This is the part where you’ve climbed as high as you can go and you can see the city, what’s left of it, spread out below like some enormous outcropping of otherworldly rock, its tarnished spires and black-hole monoliths, clouds above it moving so slowly they don’t seem to be moving, just hanging there like comic book clouds, like objects pasted onto the sky.

Somebody made that place, you say. And unmade it.

A lot of somebodies, he says.

If there are somebodies down there, you can’t see them from here, though you doubt there are any somebodies left alive there and you haven’t seen any somebodies apart from your somebody in all these days you’ve been trudging along looking for higher ground, carrying with you that hasty survival kit composed of sundry canned foods that could exist only in a world that never imagined an apocalypse–you finally ate the pink peppercorns in brine last night, unable to envision what sort of dish they might have been a condiment for.  Why you grabbed and haven’t yet ditched your costume jewelry and a bag of miscellaneous nails and furniture tacks and S-hooks, or why out of all the tools you could’ve grabbed from the toolbox you selected the hex wrenches and a miniscule Phillips head screwdriver, well, you’ll never know.  A few days out he said, Useless. You always save the most useless junk.

Here you stand, mesmerized, a condition humans cannot tolerate for very long unless they themselves have chemically induced it, so both of you have followed your minds down into the city. One of you imagines the fires are out and the animals have moved on, leaving behind a grimy sort of urban emptiness, the kind represented in movies by empty streets through which newspapers or grocery bags fly about and little dust devils pass through, no humans in sight. The other of you imagines a long ago time when you wandered that place together, slept in a bed at night, sat on grass in the sun. We don’t know who imagines what, though in truth there’s little imagining involved–the world as you knew it has ended, and you don’t even have any personal memories of it, all that’s left in your mind are filmic tropes.

I’m going back, he says.

You say, What do you mean you’re going back?

He says, I mean I’m going back.

You say, Are you serious? We’ve been walking for over a month to get up here and survey the territory, as you say, and now you want to go back?

I’m going back, he says.

You say, Why? There’s nothing left there but coyotes and trash and broken things, there aren’t even people down there.

He says, we don’t know that.

But we do know that, you say. We searched on our way out. Every damn building and park. We even searched that damn artificial cave at the zoo. I can’t believe I let you talk me into that. Going back to what? It’s just one big grave. Fires. No water.

The city’s big, he says, we didn’t look everywhere.

Like most conversations of this sort, this goes on too long, punctuated too often by silences that don’t seem like silences any more. With only minor variations in its subject matter, it’s like almost every conversation longer than three minutes that you’ve had with him for the past twenty years. Even now you’re talking without looking at each other, gazing out at a scene of desolation to which he wants to return. You are the peacemaker between how you imagine him and how you imagine he imagines you, so you elicit from him a promise that he will sleep on it.  You make camp, which amounts to lying down in the blankets and quilts you wear during the day and drinking a little water, down to strict rationing now, and sharing a can of julienned beets, you’ve only three cans left but you keep forgetting what they are, though that’s in addition to the two tins of Spam, which you’ve agreed to save for last, whenever last comes.

Lying here looking up at a sky weirdly clear and full of stars, you are thinking that in a couple of days you’ll see the ocean, not that there’s much of a plan there, it’s just the next destination fixed in your mind, first the lake on the outskirts of town, then the nearest hill, then a hill here and there after that, that stand of trees, that thing that looked like a stream but turned out to be a flock of black garbage bags, this promontory where you are now.

You don’t know when in this journey through no place toward no place in particular you started thinking only in terms of place, having abandoned thoughts of food, of warmth, of the company of other people, indulging in the thought that at least you are together, and now the thing that you’ve been repeating to yourself without really being aware of it is rolling through your mind like a tank: at least we have each other.

Superimposed on the sky now: scrolling images of people interviewed after tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, explosions, inner city warfare—Thank god we still have each other, they say, at least we have each other, we’re just happy that we have each other. What does it mean to have each other, what does that mean, is it just some mutual way of saying we’re glad we’re not alone?  You dream you are a shiny silver aircraft of some kind, unmanned, dropping plasma bombs.

In the morning, he’s gone. He’s left you a liter of water and a can of okra and tomatoes. Heights make you dizzy, so you get down on your belly in the dirt and wiggle over to the edge of the cliff to look down to see if you can see him, but the morning haze has set in and you can’t really see anything except this little piece of earth you’re on. You just lie there awhile even though you know you need to pack up and start looking for some shade.

You’re thinking he never said why he wanted to go back, and you’re thinking that he had a plan but you weren’t in it, he didn’t say let’s go back, come with me, I’m going back, but you dodge that thought by wondering idly, as if you are thinking about some fictive character, precisely how long he had been thinking it over, when he made up his mind, whether he was thinking about it even before the first EMP, why he decided to tell you at that particular moment. What was he thinking, you think. That there are all kinds of somebodies left he’d rather be with, that there’s some tribe of sturdy survivors with attractive stores of food the looters hadn’t gotten to and loose women just waiting for him to arrive? That he’d rather be alone in a dangerous place than nowhere with you? That anywhere is better than here wherever here is?

A bit less idly, you start thinking about why even now you are wasting time thinking about what he may be thinking, reflecting that whenever you’ve actually known what he was thinking it was usually something that didn’t make any sense or something you didn’t really want to know, some thinking, usually of an elaborate and repetitious kind, merely being a way of not knowing.

You wish you had a door to slam. You wish you had a wall and something breakable to throw at it. You wish you wished those things in a more heartfelt way. But you don’t.

Before you pack up, you take out the things you’ve kept so well hidden you’ve almost forgotten about them and lay them out on the ground—a rather too complex Swiss army knife, a roll of cash, a fistful of silver dollars that you’d been hanging onto as some kind of novelty, some gold jewelry your auntie left you, a flashlight, a sizeable stash of batteries of various types, several yards of nylon clothesline, silk underwear, useful if it ever got cold again, a water purification kit, a bottle of heavy-duty sunscreen, salt tablets, a small but nonetheless substantial first aid kit, a sewing kit you’d snagged for no reason from a hotel in the distant past, some glow sticks, but the kid’s party kind, not the emergency kind, strike anywhere matches in a waterproof box, a bottle of aspirin, several packets of some kind of vitamin and mineral thing to mix in water, you’d be needing a source of water in a couple of days, a snack-sized baggie containing some weed and rolling papers, a couple of space blankets, three tiny bottles of tequila, pens and paper, a compass, a rosary, a camera.

You take a photograph of this stuff, these riches. You’re laughing now. You’re thinking that you crossed some kind of line when the two of you could have used things from this stash but you kept it to yourself, like several nights ago when the last of the batteries you were using for his flashlight gave out, or on one of the first days of this trek when he cut his hand wrestling with a can of fancy beans and could have used some things from your first aid kit. You’re thinking that you had really crossed the line before that when you packed these things and then forgot about them, forgot about them so long that you couldn’t imagine the circumstances in which you could have produced them without feeling guilty. It’s like some other part of you has been looking out for you. You don’t doubt for a second that if he’d known about your stash he would have helped himself before sneaking away that morning without even saying goodbye, good luck, fuck you.

By the time you’ve packed up, the haze has started to dissipate, you can see a bit of the city, you’re feeling kind of exhilarated to be looking at it for the last time, to be on your own without feeling bad about feeling alone. Before turning around and heading out for wherever it is you’re going, you say it out loud: Not even. Not even if you were the last man on earth.

Fold

There are things between them that are things
on their minds—somewhere a beach, somewhere
a frozen pond. There are things they say,
they say to themselves things they don’t say,
there where the folded things are between
them, where there are things in the folds they’ve
put out of mind, things that have their own
lives there, groceries and lovers, sleep,
work, and lots nonetheless of wondering
why what occupies them occupies,
what else there might be past the fold where
there is only knowing things unknown,
where the gods that make are wooly mad,
they say, to give to take, to tick time
so, to wake us only when it’s gone.

Doll Dreaming 14

in the doll’s house
the doll’s dolls are dreaming
they’re awake
so little difference
nightmare and day

climb the stairs
you’re in the basement
pick up a phone
you’re gripping a knife

farther in takes you
farther out
no telling which till
there’s no going back

when the doll’s got you
looking out or looking in
stage light is
the only light you see

the demon isn’t dreaming
he won’t leave without the girl
he’s working the closet locks
cursing them like a mortal man
as if words could do and undo

sudden light
the girl’s awake
an open door

and all kinds of places
where the doll
cannot go

 

 

 

 

Doll Dreaming 13

woman little men schembart carnival 1590 public domain rev - strtch mod

Dolly Dum-Dum

the doll has men
a bird-man
a yes-man
a hench-man
a made man
a man with a mighty big
something for beating

she counts on them
when she doesn’t want
dirt to show on her
little dolly dress

the doll’s men
think they owe her
when she owns them
they think they
think the thoughts
she thinks for them
think they’re aiming
when she aims them
where she wants them to go

if they get out of line
she has the kind of whip
they can’t see coming
but mostly they stay
wherever she pleases:
long chain, short leash

when she’s got her
spook on hard like now
they’re her special forces
they’re her posse
pony up, boys
it’s time
to ride somebody down

the doll’s men are dreaming
they’re stand-up men

the doll is measuring
how far their ambition
lets her knock them down

_____________________________
image: Public Domain Review: http://publicdomainreview.org/2013/04/11/radical-fashion-from-the-schembart-carnival-1590/

Doll Dreaming 12

12. In the Doll’s House

the guy is bored
he’s slow
and alone
can’t move in that
shiny sharp
hardware
he wanted so much
and where’s
the damn doll

the doll has been busy
refurbishing the racks
reforging chains
sharpening anything
with an edge

and spooling out
extravagant wordage
about her busy
whereabouts
about how busy
her busy self is
where she’s busy
being busy now
where she’ll be
being busy next

the doll is not
into information
her creatures know
her notifications
are threats

she moved the girl
into a supply closet
a few days back
there the girl now
searches in the dark
through dirty rags
and dusty stuff
no longer
whatever it is

no key
but a dress
and a gun
things
without agency
she thinks
her only hope

the dress fits better
than the sack
but the gun
might as well be
a safety pin
and no
she doesn’t know
about the demon
yet

the demon is asleep
in the green room
dreaming the girl
isn’t there

the house dreams
it’s a peony
its walls frilling
in the air

…………………………………………..

Doll Dreaming 11

11. Door Dreams

the door is dreaming
it has no side
what goes in goes out
or rather there is
no way out
the doll’s confabulations
are the only real thing

trying to escape
one enters distances
where familiar things
limn one’s demise
a chair becomes a whole
country of torturers
a kitchen knife a
killer’s blade a sink
a place for drowning
a place to sleep
a smothering bed

many ways
to the same end
still the doll would
rather wrecks
invasions
conflagrations
quagmires
of distinct proportions
like texting mobs of
easily pissed off men
to make people
stay
where
she
puts
them
so inch by inch
they are nothing
and she is
everything

the demon is dreaming
not of capture
but of things set free
novel concept for
a sworn snare
he even weeps to know
what waits when the door
shakes from its hinges
a battered gate
an endless chain

to long for freedom
then to fear it
containment
being everything

…………………………………………..

…………………………………………..

Doll Dreaming 10

10. The Room Is Dreaming

the room is dreaming
outside itself
it cannot contain
or rescind
locked inside too long
there’s no more outside
no matter
how much room
the room has or
what room you’re in

the doll can make you
think the room is everything
can make it so tight
even the body has
no space left inside
can make it so large
that being dissipates
nothing in here
nothing out there

but something
always escapes
her needling
her hacks
turn on her
in her dreams

the doll demands
impossible recompense
from creatures who have
never done her harm
demands the last
rib bone and pin
she gets on
like a ratcheted clamp
to get her off
you have to
lose some skin

the doll is dreaming
she is looking out
but her mask is always
looking in
sizing her up
cutting her
down to size
no room large
or small enough
in the end

…………………………………………..

…………………………………………..

Doll Dreaming 09

09. Doll Parts

the doll’s favorite part
is when you think you’ll get away
she knows you won’t
you know you will
there’s nothing else
to know

the doll rules
the doll’s house
but the doll knows
only what she’s made
marble, rubble
dreamer, doll
the doll herself
a dangerous thing

you are dreaming
you are the girl
the girl is dreaming
dreaming, dreaming
the demon is away
a threaded needle
an unexpected blade

the doll is standing
out in the rain

who is standing
behind the doll

…………………………………………..

Doll Dreaming 08

08. The Demon Is Dreaming

the demon is dreaming
the roof’s off the house
he’s up in the sky looking down
the house is breathing
floors rise and fall
walls shudder doors fly shut
the audience gasps
it’s alive

the doll’s dolls are milling about
in ragged clusters
waiting for the faces
that will please the doll today
the guy is wrapped in barbed wire
lots of loud asking
if the wire can be electrified
or even just heated up in
some skin-searing way

the doll
smug malice
nailing her puppet
to a rickety balustrade
idly wondering
burn now or burn later
with the girl

busy busy been recruiting
friends of the girl to assist
in the girl’s undoing
just thinking about it makes
her hinges buzz and vibrate
she’s hungry for the girl’s face
when the girl knows
people she thought she knew
are not there to help
but to watch
and take turns

the girl’s been in the green room
the past three weeks years lifetimes
when she sleeps the demon
watches over her
what is he thinking

the doll thinks she’s trapped the demon
thinks he’s on ice for leisurely
amusement later on
but his big sleek self
is ranging all over the place
seeking even minor opportunities
to mess with the knock-knock
mind of the doll
the self-made queen
of this backwater fiefdom
where he’s been posted
for five centuries
apparently forgotten
when pieces of hell
were outsourced
to industrious amateurs
like the doll

the doll’s in a writhing dream
what a thrill
nobody is the boss of the doll

the demon is dreaming
the girl will be the only creature
ever in the universe
glad to see him

how shocking
he’s feeling
something he imagines
must be tenderness
may be love

…………………………………………..
09 Doll Parts

…………………………………………..
01 The Doll Is Dreaming …..02 The Dress Is Dreaming ….. 03 The Girl Is Dreaming ….. 04 The House Is Dreaming ….. 05 The Guy, Dreaming …..06 The Gun Is Dreaming ……07 Dolly Doll Doll Dreams…..