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.
A hole is nothing
but what remains around it.
My brother stood
in the refrigerator light
drinking milk that poured
out of his head
through thick black curls
down his back into a puddle
growing larger around him.
My body stood between the
living room and kitchen
one foot on worn carpet
one on cold linoleum.
He couldn’t hear his name
clouding from my mouth
settling in the fluorescent air.
I wanted to put my finger
into the hole
feel the smooth channel
he escaped through
stop the milk
so he could swallow it
but my body held
as if driven into place.
The milk on the floor
reflected the light
then became it.
Floated upward and outward
filling every shadow
blowing the dark open.
The amazing thing is not
that geese can get sucked
into an Airbus engine
and cause it to conk out
or that a pilot can tell air
traffic control, “There’s only
one thing I can do,”
then take a deep breath
and do it—ditch
in the Hudson with a buck
and whine, then walk
the aisle as the plane fills
with water to make sure
everyone’s gotten out—
but that afterwards
many who weren’t hurt
in a lifelong way, only
shaken, scratched, no doubt
in shock, had nothing else
to do, finally, except take a bus
back to LaGuardia and
catch another plane home.
Amazing too how
before long people stop
talking about it, they move on
and eventually need
an extra beat to recognize
that camera-shy pilot
when he appears—retired
now, somehow smaller
now, no longer shy—
as an air travel expert
just shouldn’t be
carried on”) on the nightly
news and connect
his name to what he did
that day, probably—
let’s face it—because
no one died.
Though most stories
like that. In Shanxi
Province, the BBC told me
late last night when
I should’ve been asleep
instead of sitting in the dark,
all men, they said, and some
much older than
I would’ve imagined—
in a mile-deep mineshaft
deemed too dangerous now
for a rescue, though
apparently it was safe
enough to work in. Shovel
clang and gravel rumble
turned to echoing
the company execs
sent down a slender
silver robot with tank
treads, tiny pincer hands,
a camera for a face,
but all it found—how long
it looked, they didn’t
say—was a single miner’s
and dusty, its frail light