Almost

A shovel and an axe
she says–one to kill and
one to bury. A flower,
a bow–one to shoot,
the other to remember
I forget, you protest:
a garden, a forest,
my heart, your dress?
Never mind all that
she says. We’ll wear
bearskins in summer
and go naked for all
dire occasions. Or we’ll
wear the latest shroud
you say. So there she says
take that, we’re dead and
laughing like always on
the wrong side of the joke.
You are thinking: now we
are sliding only half out
from under the stitching
over what tries to get out
to get in again until there’s
nothing to grab onto.
Metonymy you say. Hell
she says is all mirrors—
nothing is reflected
if everything is. It’s
the absence of things
we take as proof they
exist. Oh you say merely
call it a ghost and it
once lived almost still lives.
Yes like words she says like
love like illumination–
wherever it’s dark
it once was.

My Father’s Heart

heart

the last heart
in a faint box
incised with vines
how that heart
younger than the heart it was
labored to rescue
the old man
how the guardians of it—tender
but disregarding the rest
could not disperse
the demons
at the foot of the bed

         that heart was the thing
we counted on
when all we could do was count
we were made small
by things we couldn’t track
mere signals from the gate
and outposts you’d already
left behind
the quiz of it
the previous empire of
ice chips then
looking like the high life
from this side of the
breathing machine

that boat in the distance
you rowed on
marveling at a sky
we could not see
and turned to us to say
and we weren’t there
but we were

the swing of the statistic
and its fold
your oxygen wave
or just our waving
hoping you’d wave back
none of it
is all right with me now

the long hour already done
no longer an hour
no more time, just place
someplace where
there’s no obverse
converse
traverse
just strangers passing by

         it was what we heard
at the end of the world

so call on it, call it out
bring your house with you
but come soon

all our prayers
cannot pace the plea of it
the way your voice could
if we could only hear it

Haunted Life

evening sky may 2014 rszd
They come back to you not in dreams but
at the end of day–suddenly
in the garden, your grandmother,
casual wonder on her face, your view
of power lines and trains and hazy hills,
this worn out frontier, but at your feet,
lilies of the valley like the ones
she grew in red dirt. Knowing now
fewer living than dead, you have your
wonder too. The others come along,
a voiceless chorus, there and not there,
most of them not here for you. If they
could tell you things, they’d only be
the world, but then perhaps they’d say
the real wound comes between this and next.
These invisible others before whom
you live your invisible life behind
the apparition of you the living see.

 

 

 

 

For Miz E–Reading Locke, and Other Things

Good lord but you did hard time in the library.
Strolling through once, I saw you holding
An Essay Concerning Human
Understanding
at arm’s length, looking at it
as if it had arrived early for dinner
just to tell you it didn’t love you, had
never loved you, and twenty years later
you’re still standing there with a naked face
and a spoon in your hand.

Where were we in our Pynchon seminar–
Maxwell’s Demon, concatenation,
coprophagia?–when you dreamily said,
“What was that song my father sang
in the bathtub when I was a girl?” to which
Professor P replied as if you’d said
knock-knock, “Mrs. E, I don’t know what
song your father sang in the bathtub.”
When you I thought when you were
a girl, when you were.

Oh all the heady things I knew then
that look now like distant hills or army
tanks in some damp country where I
don’t have a map and don’t have a tongue,
now that I know what I don’t know.

But I get you now, now I know
nothing ever stands between you and
the look of things when you’re flying past fifty
and nobody knows you and you don’t know
who you are. When everywhere you are
some kind of traffic cop is looking at you
sideways as if to say you dumbass, why
didn’t you just gun it through the light?

In the middle of some night, your father’s
singing wakes you like Billie Holiday
inside your brain: do nothing till you hear
from me
. How we obeyed, how we
never heard from any me.

Wet

Ito mer compr

A woman washes up on a lonely stretch of beach. The sun is barely up. Three men are passing by on their way to do some surf casting. She asks them what town they’re in, they look at her and quickly look away, she asks them for a drink of water and, of all things, a cigarette, they’ve got no time for female foolishness, they ignore her and walk on, their minds have gone on ahead to where they’re going.

Although the don’t-look-and-it-won’t-exist method of managing reality does sometimes work, in general, it’s just not good not to assist drowned women regardless of where they are or what they ask you for. If no kindness meets them on land, they are stuck there for years and years living again as ordinary women. More or less.

Give them wine, give them something to dry off with, be a friend, and they can go back to the water and you can go back to your life. But some men see a shitload of trouble when a woman suddenly rises up out of the sea. They don’t know what trouble is. Continue reading

Future Past

There’s always something from the past–
perhaps unnoticed then, perhaps not even
from a past in which you were alive–
there it is: lurking in a nearby future,
waiting with its duct tape and its cable ties,
its boat idling in an unmapped cove,
a lashed-palm lean-to on the deck where
the weary torturer takes off his plastic shoes
to take his naps. If later comes, you will recall
you knew they had you when you knew
you’d seen it all before—the implements
and makeshift generators, the manager’s
motto taped on the wall to motivate
your captors, those who do and
those who merely watch: be the cross.

Lines

cave painting horses BW light
a mark, a line, a here, a there
here and not there, there but not here
other lines–shaman’s lines–
for the unseen elsewhere
the neither here nor there
lines for things that move
through time and space–
food that must be chased and
other animals to do the chasing on
red lines for women and men and
our hands or visitors from other tribes
with impressive headgear
things we ran to or ran from
multiplied to put them inside time
lines for things remembered while we
waited for better weather
lines to call things to us, to worship
to cast spells, lines to hinge hopes on
to plan for crops or battles
lines we drew to plant a future in a past
dirt with gold in it or deep bruise blue
horses limned so precisely in motion
they’d break your heart to ride

image: http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/september-2011/article/prehistoric-cave-paintings-of-horses-were-spot-on-say-scientists

Nothing Like

med whale mistaken for island brit mu ill crop 2 wo txt mod

Nothing like cloth
for heft and hand,
nothing like a mob
to substitute command,
a bucket, a boat
a shoreline, land.

image: a whale mistaken for an island, 13th cent. British Library: http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/TourBestiaryEnglish.asp

mosquito man mosquito man

mosquito man mosquito man
in your mosquito truck
known only by your power
to fortify the neighborhood
with the magic of low-lying weather
a fog of DDT intoxicating as
mimosa flower as tasty as
vinegar on crowder peas
irresistible to kids on tricycles
of one mind and all alone
pedaling like crazy into
utter discombobulation
better than whirling round and
falling better even than the fair
was it forbidden–probably, or not
kids’ ears attuned to the truck’s low
hiss moving slowly enough for a
four year-old to catch up to
the smoke bomb of another
reality, forever conflated with
the clouds and mystifications of
Sunday school heaven
a place you could go into
where there was nothing else

 

 

 

 

Where do you live where

where do you live where you look
your desert from a satellite or
what heat hides inside itself
how easy malice circumnavigates
all additions to the convex you
and your nimble earthquake lights
independent of your gravity
a great wind blew & they dispersed
the squandered armada like that
other one we await the return on
mile-high rockets or lost shoes
frankly we’re so tired we’re ramified
meandering tourists after lift-off
miscellaneous numinous weapons
they break into your heart your
dark room and poisonous ring
the mystery to parse and pace