Reading the bones, wetting a fingertip
to trace archaic characters, I feel
a breeze of silence flow up past my wrist,
icy. Can I speak here? The bones say I must.
As the first light strikes across the lake, magpies
scream, and the cast bones say the work must come true,
it’s been true all along, we are what we do
out on our digs. Dictor and looker, all eyes,
with spade and a jeweler’s loupe I sift mud & dust
for bone, for shellcast. Spy, archeologist
of freshness, I expect sight-made-sound to reveal
fear cold at the throat of change, and loosen its grip
so that mind, riding the bloodwarm stream, wells up
as the speech that bears it and is telling.
Magpies scream. Though the tongues of birds
say Now and warn forward, free of a live past,
we seek back and forth for change, the ghostly sparkling
of our watertable under everywhere.
If I don’t speak to tap & ease it out,
I go dry & dumb & will die wicked.
On the lake of the poets a stone lamp flickers.
It casts eight moons dancing, casting doubt
on the moon that rides above the winter air.
Ice thaws in a poet’s throat; the springing
truth is fresh. It wakes taste. The taste lasts.
Language floods the mud; mind makes a cast of words;
it precipitates, mercurial, like T’ang discourse
riding the tidal constant of its source.
Burn, or speak your mind. For the oak to untruss
its passion it must explode as fire or leaves.
The delicious tongue we speak with speaks us.
A liquor of sweetness where its root cleaves
ripens fluent, as it runs for the desirous
reason, the touching sense. The infant says “I”
like earthquake and wavers as place takes voice.
Earth steadies smiling around her, in reply
to her self-finding pronoun, her focal choice.
We wait: while sun sucks earth juices up from wry
root-runs tangled under dark, while the girl
no longer vegetal, steps into view:
a moving speaker, an “I” the air whirls
toward the green exuberance of “You.”
I feel less lucky since my parents died.
Father first, then mother, have left me
out in a downpour
roofless in cold wind
no umbrella no hood no hat no warm
native place, nothing
between me and eyeless sky.
In the gritty prevailing wind
I think of times I’ve carelessly lost things:
that white-gold ring when I was eight,
a classmate named Mercedes Williams,
my passport in Gibraltar,
my maiden name.
The place of language is the place between me
and the world of presences I have lost
—complex country, not flat. Its elements free-
float, coherent for luck to come across;
its lines curve as in a mental orrery
implicit with stars in active orbit,
only their slowness or swiftness lost to sense.
The will dissolves here. It becomes the infinite
air of imagination that stirs immense
among losses and leaves me less desolate.
Breathing it I spot a sentence or a name,
a rescuer, charted for recovery,
to speak against the daily sinking flame
& the shrinking waters of the mortal sea.
She always writes poems. This summer
she’s starting a novel. It’s in trouble already.
The characters are easy—a girl
and her friend who is a girl
and the boy down the block with his first car,
an older boy, sixteen, who sometimes
these warm evenings leaves his house to go dancing
in dressy clothes though it’s still light out.
The girl has a brother who has lots of friends,
is good in math, and just plain good which
doesn’t help the story. The story
should have rescues & escapes in it
which means who’s the bad guy; he couldn’t be
the brother or the grandpa or the father either,
or even the boy down the block with his first car.
People in novels have to need something,
she thinks, that it takes about
two hundred pages to get.
She can’t imagine that. Nothing
she needs can be got; if it could
she’d go get it: the answer to nightmares;
a mother who’d be proud of her; doing things
a mother could be proud of; having hips
& knowing how to squeal at the beach laughing
when the boy down the block picked her up & carried her
& threw her in the water. If she’d laughed
squealing he might still take her swimming
& his mother wouldn’t say she’s crazy, she would
not have got her teeth into his shoulder till
well yes she bit him, and the marks
lasted & lasted, his mother said so,
but that couldn’t be in a novel.
She’ll never squeal laughing, she’d never
not bite him, she hates cute girls, she hates
boys who like them. Biting is embarrassing
and wrong & she has no intention of doing it again
but she would if he did if he dared,
and there’s no story if there’s no hope of change.
In a skiff on a sunrisen lake we are watchers.
Swimming aimlessly is luxury just as walking
loudly up a shallow stream is.
As we lean over the deep well, we whisper.
Friends at hearths are drawn to the one warm air;
strangers meet on beaches drawn to the one wet sea.
What wd it be to be water, one body of water
(what water is is another mystery) (We are
water divided.) It wd be a self without walls,
with surface tension, specific gravity a local
exchange between bedrock and cloud of falling and rising,
rising to fall, falling to rise.