There’s a crack in this glass so fine we can’t see it,
and in the blue eye of the candleflame’s needle
there’s a dark fleck, a speck of imperfection
that could contain, like a microchip, an epic
treatise on beauty, except it’s in the eye of the beheld.
And at the base of our glass there’s nothing
so big as a tiny puddle, but an ooze, a viscous
patina like liquefied tarnish. It’s like a text
so short it consists only of the author’s signature,
which has to stand, like the future, for what might
have been: a novel, let’s say, thick with ambiguous life.
Its hero forgets his goal as he nears it, so that it’s
like rain evaporating in the very sight of parched
Saharans on the desert floor. There, by chance, he meets
a thirsty and beautiful woman. What a small world!
you lay on the floor of your room
you bite your fingers until they bleed
you feel something motionless at the base of your head
in the morning you can’t feel your arms
nothing to write about, not really
you take drugs alone
and stumble around your house
you think think they want you, sometimes
they tell you that your body is proportioned well
they think you will make them better, somehow
you can feel anything for a few minutes
you identify with people who criticize you
nothing leads to improvement
at night you think about loving things only a little bit
in the morning, you read about global warming
or the economic collapse
the edges of things seem abruptly hard to define
you park your car under a tree in the dark
become startled and drive somewhere else
When we pause at the near edge
of memory or invention and elect
not to venture further, we fail
to consider that invisible journeys, too,
leave dried mud and grass on our shoes;
that one can dream of waltzing with
a stranger, following every
subtle lead, and wake up happy
or be consoled by a fragrant loaf
mentioned briefly in a poem.
The vast bowl of the desert once held
an ocean we can borrow any time
we cup our minds around it like hands
around spinning clay. Once, I halted
on a winter street when I noticed the turquoise
stone had slipped from the center of my ring.
I reversed my steps and searched for hours,
peering downward for a bit of sky,
seeing every crevice in the dark pavement
for the first time, every sodden leaf
and twig. I fingered the empty bezel, sky
filling my mind. Luminous. Parachute of blue.
Groping back to bed after a piss
I part thick curtains, and am startled by
The rapid clouds, the moon’s cleanliness.
Four o’clock: wedge-shadowed gardens lie
Under a cavernous, a wind-picked sky.
There’s something laughable about this,
The way the moon dashes through clouds that blow
Loosely as cannon-smoke to stand apart
(Stone-coloured light sharpening the roofs below)
High and preposterous and separate—
Lozenge of love! Medallion of art!
O wolves of memory! Immensements! No,
One shivers slightly, looking up there.
The hardness and the brightness and the plain
Far-reaching singleness of that wide stare
Is a reminder of the strength and pain
Of being young; that it can’t come again,
But is for others undiminished somewhere.
Here, an olive votive keeps the sunset lit,
the Korean twenty-somethings talk about hyphens,
graduate school and good pot. A group of four at a window
table in Carpinteria discuss the quality of wines in Napa Valley versus Lodi.
Here, in my California, the streets remember the Chicano
poet whose songs still bank off Fresno’s beer soaked gutters
and almond trees in partial blossom. Here, in my California
we fish out long noodles from the pho with such accuracy
you’d know we’d done this before. In Fresno, the bullets
tire of themselves and begin to pray five times a day.
In Fresno, we hope for less of the police state and more of a state of grace.
In my California, you can watch the sun go down
like in your California, on the ledge of the pregnant
twenty-second century, the one with a bounty of peaches and grapes,
red onions and the good salsa, wine and chapchae.
Here, in my California, paperbacks are free,
farmer’s markets are twenty four hours a day and
always packed, the trees and water have no nails in them,
the priests eat well, the homeless eat well.
Here, in my California, everywhere is Chinatown,
everywhere is K-Town, everywhere is Armeniatown,
everywhere a Little Italy. Less confederacy.
No internment in the Valley.
Better history texts for the juniors.
In my California, free sounds and free touch.
Free questions, free answers.
Free songs from parents and poets, those hopeful bodies of light.
To the night I offered a flower
and the dark sky accepted it
like earth, bedding
To the desert I offered an apple
and the dunes received it
like a mouth, speaking
To the installation I offered a tree
and the museum planted it
like a man, viewing
To the ocean I offered a seed
and its body dissolved it
like time, composing
translated by carolyne wright, syed manzoorul islam, & the author
Golden-green light has made lacework patterns in the room,
this room where you stay, I stay, and someone else stays.
In the circumambient blue air, blue climbing vines
make filigree designs upon the house all day.
Like an architect with quick restraint, this structure’s centerpoint
stays fixed on slow burning light, love and grand tears.
As if the bewildered roses lit up a thousand moons’ radiance
all at once and kept the house aglow,
in the harsh mid-day, the kingfisher unfolds its turquoise-brown light
and inlays the universe of the house
with the lightning-streaked gems of sorrow.
Your hands and mine keep very busy playing the household games,
and someone else’s engrossed hands play inside all these.
Like restless fish, tempestuous love some nights
shakes the house with sobbing to the quiet, pure,
golden core of its foundations.
Then taking the hand of brilliant steam rising from a teacup,
the lover’s wounded feelings walk off towards evening
with slow steps to the sea.
In this room, twenty-eight unreasonable years have passed;
twenty-eight years could have passed
even more dreadfully without reason.
If we’re pained, or fail like the destitute,
what does it matter to the rose branch? What counter-movement
jars the circulating blood of the crimson insect living on the rose?
When a raw cry tears from the throat like a ball of fire,
have you ever gone under the foliage’s sari-end to hide that lament?—
Wearing a patient, unperturbed smile on her face
and waving her sari-end
Nature has withdrawn from distance to absolute distances.
The bloodshed that prompts each separate rose
to go away with wounded feelings
from the hands of trees, from Nature’s flower vases,
those wounded feelings, in ever-slowing motion in this blue room
create a golden line which appears a hard sculpture
rising in the illusions of evening.
Red light and blue air begin to play on the circumference;
the silver chisel, hammer and wedge begin to dance;
waves of rose-pink laughter fill the air of the house
with an OM sound like the rumbling of clouds.
Golden-green light sweeps the room clean,
this room where you stay, I stay and someone else stays.