Music, all its squawks
& squeaks. Heart-beat
music, misery music:
I once believed nothing
was more singular
for a human than to turn
twists of the belly
into song. I have to make
an adjustment. I have
to revise: man’s invention
is romance & without that,
he has jack. I apologize
for the oversight, but
as I sit, cave of flesh
where I once had a heart,
sounds seem less important.
Only half as harmonious
as before, sounds lapsed
in the vocal fold. But I can
still see shapes. More often
than not, I remember
the names of things.
What if the 5:30 train shaking the trees at the edge of the woodlot—
What if the yellow flowers blooming in the swamp—
What if I can’t find what I’m looking for?
Then thank you. Thank you water and pen, bell and candle.
Thank you rope, your coarse length lowers me
Into the mineshaft. Cobalt and copper and diamond.
Thanks for the hammer. And the canary.
The bird is grateful for the opportunity to sing,
Its yellow feathers fluffed at the neck.
Its song a bituminous flame, like a match
Struck deep in a cavern. Is that water ahead?
Is that a ladder? Thank you for the cross-hatched
Sky and the days I was able to
Lie down under it with the man I loved.
What if it’s summer and the clouds are gondolas?
What if I’m led beside still waters and cannot rest?
My head on his chest, looking up at the sky
While he combs the bangs off my forehead.
The sky is a handpainted clock.
Sometimes sun, sometimes moon.
The cross-hatching is accomplished by the terminal
Ends of branches. It’s the library lawn.
It’s the town square of a small southwestern city.
Two old men playing checkers in the gradual dark.
Speaking Spanish across the courtyard: rampido rampido.
Who will translate? We are done with traveling.
We are hot and the last time we bathed was two states ago,
A creek just after sunrise. We are so thirsty.
And nothing is better than this water, this canteen.
It swoops gray-winged across the obliterated hills,
And the startled lake seems to run before it:
From the wood comes a clamor of leaves,
Tugging at the twigs,
Pouring from the branches,
And suddenly the birds are silent.
Thunder crumples the sky,
Lightning tears at it.
And now the rain—
The rain, thudding, implacable;
The wind, revelling in the confusion of great pines!
And a silver sifting of light,
A sense of summer anger passing,
Of summer gentleness creeping nearer—
Now that we are sending you to The End
That great god
That we who follow you invented forgiveness
And forgive nothing
I write as though you could understand
And I could say it
One must always pretend something
Among the dying
When you have left the seas nodding on their stalks
Empty of you
Tell him that we were made
On another day
The bewilderment will diminish like an echo
Winding along your inner mountains
Unheard by us
And find its way out
Leaving behind it the future
When you will not see again
The whale calves trying the light
Consider what you will find in the black garden
And its court
The sea cows the Great Auks the gorillas
The irreplaceable hosts ranged countless
And fore-ordaining as stars
Join your word to theirs
That it is we who are important
The young composer, working that summer at an artist’s colony, had watched her for a week. She was Japanese, a painter, almost sixty, and he thought he was in love with her. He loved her work, and her work was like the way she moved her body, used her hands, looked at him directly when she made amused and considered answers to his questions. One night, walking back from a concert, they came to her door and she turned to him and said, “I think you would like to have me. I would like that too, but I must tell you that I have had a double mastectomy,” and when he didn’t understand, “I’ve lost both my breasts.” The radiance that he had carried around in his belly and chest cavity–like music–withered very quickly, and he made himself look at her when he said, “I’m sorry. I don’t think I could.” He walked back to his own cabin through the pines, and in the morning he found a small blue bowl on the porch outside his door. It looked to be full of rose petals, but he found when he picked it up that the rose petals were on top; the rest of the bowl–she must have swept them from the corners of her studio–was full of dead bees.
This old world needs propping up
When it gets this cold and windy.
The cleverly painted sets,
Oh, they’re shaking badly!
They’re about to come down.
There’ll be nothing but infinite space then.
The silence supreme. Almighty silence.
Egyptian sky. Stars like torches
Of grave robbers entering the crypts of the kings.
Even the wind pausing, waiting to see.
Better grab hold of that tree, Lucille.
Its shape crazed, terror-stricken.
I’ll hold the barn.
The chickens in it uneasy.
Smart chickens, rickety world.
After Francesco Clemente’s Indian Miniature #16
The sun-face looms over me, gigantic-hot, smelling
of iron. Its rays striated,
rasp-red and muscled as the tongues
of iguanas. They are trying to lick away
my name. But I
am not afraid. I hold in my hands
(where did I get them)
enormous blue scissors that are
just the color of sky. I bring
the blades together, like
a song. The rays fall around me
curling a bit, like dried carrot peel. A far sound
in the air—fire
or rain? And when I’ve cut
all the way to the center of the sun
flowers, flowers, flowers.