shows more than the morning clarities
of sun through leaves than through these windows.
Each thing is imbued by others. And staring
at the convex glass, I see the falls
in the one picture that held me enthralled
while you walked on through the gallery.
Even back then I must have felt
the photograph’s stark black and white
trapping the glow off tons of water
in its whole minute of exposure
one hundred years before we were born
as weirdly relevant: how barns
and long gone houses’ clapboard sides
above where shadowed cliff-face slid
vertiginously toward the falls
reflected all my naïve bewilderment
seeing what I’d thought permanent
turn so starkly half unreal.
But this morning, watching sunlight steal
across this table’s lacquered pine,
I still sense, through the smallest glints,
your presence still fusing all I see with you.
Blue irises from this vase’s blue.
She used to love the darkness, how it brought
Closer the presence of flesh, the white arms and breast
Of a stranger in a railway carriage a dim glow—
Or the time when the bus drew up at a woodland corner
And a young black man jumped off, and a shade
Moved among shades to embrace him under the leaves—
Every frame of a lit window, the secrets bared—
Books packed warm on a wall—each blank shining blind,
Each folded hush of shutters without a glimmer,
Even the sucked-sweet tones of neon reflected in rain
In insomniac towns, boulevards where the odd light step
Was a man walking alone: they would all be kept,
Those promises, for people not yet in sight:
Wellsprings she still kept searching for after the night
When every wall turned yellow. Questing she roamed
After the windows she loved, and again they showed
The back rooms of bakeries, the clean engine-rooms and all
The floodlit open yards where a van idled by a wall,
A wall as long as life, as long as work.
Shuttered doors in the wall are too many to scan—
As many as the horses in the royal stable, as the lighted
Candles in the grand procession? Who can explain
Why the wasps are asleep in the dark in their numbered holes
And the lights shine all night in the hospital corridors?
I have learned
that life goes on,
That days are measured out
in tiny increments
as a woman in a kitchen
of cinnamon, vanilla,
or half a cup of sugar
into a bowl.
I have learned
that moments are as precious as nutmeg,
and it has occurred to me
that busy interruptions
are like tiny grain moths,
They nibble, pee, and poop,
or make their little worms and webs
until you have to throw out the good stuff
with the bad.
It took two deaths
and coming close myself
for me to learn
that there is not an infinite supply
of good things in the pantry.
Not for their ice-pick eyes,
their weeping willow hair,
and their clenched fists beating at heaven.
Not for their warnings, predictions
of doom. But what they promised.
I don’t care if their beards
are mildewed, and the ladders
are broken. Let them go on
picking the wormy fruit. Let the one
with the yoke around his neck
climb out of the cistern.
Let them come down from the heights
in their radiant despair
like the Sankei Juko dancers descending
on ropes, down from these hills
to the earth of their first existence.
Let them follow the track
we’ve cut on the sides of mountains
into the desert, and stumble again
through the great rift, littered
with bones and the walls of cities.
Let them sift through the ashes
with their burned hands. Let them
tell us what will come after.
For some semitropical reason
when the rains fall
relentlessly they fall
into swimming pools, these otherwise
bright and scary
arachnids. They can swim
a little, but not for long
and they can’t climb the ladder out.
They usually drown—but
if you want their favor,
if you believe there is justice,
a reward for not loving
the death of ugly
and even dangerous (the eel, hog snake,
rats) creatures, if
you believe these things, then
you would leave a lifebuoy
or two in your swimming pool at night.
And in the morning
you would haul ashore
the huddled, hairy survivors
and escort them
back to the bush, and know,
be assured that at least these saved,
as individuals, would not turn up
in your hat, drawer,
or the tangled underworld
of your socks, and that even—
when your belief in justice
merges with your belief in dreams—
they may tell the others
in a sign language
four times as subtle
and complicated as man’s
that you are good,
that you love them,
that you would save them again.
Courtesy of E.K.
Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of
I who don’t know the
the line. They
(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can’t find,
and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,
assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
most of all.
Leaves fall, slanting sun lights the river
that rolls its gentle ripples
on and on for a thousand miles.
On the bridge, an acid wind strikes my eyes,
I stand a long while
watching the twilight,
the lamp-lit town.
In my old house, under the cold window,
I hear countless leaves
flutter and fall from the parasol tree by the well.
I’ve no love for this lonely quilt, get up again and again.
Who knows that
it’s for her sake
I cover this sheet with words?
Courtesy of AJM