To Restore a Dead Child
The Abstract Man Encounters the Adjutant
By Sea Stone
After the Letter
Letter from New Hampshire
An Art of Summer
Starting the Hostilities
Dialogue in the Sleeping House
Passes for Nicanor Parra
The Painter in the Mountain
For His Mother Flying Into Her Seventy-Seventh
Stumbling Out of the Prado
Rilke's White Horse
Sweeping the Room
Three Moments for George Sullivan
To Restore a Dead Child
1 1925 Sometimes while I sleep I hear the single cry and tire screek that never end. My blond and foolish brown-eyed brother lugging his fretful love shambles after me as the cunning Mack truck lurching out of nowhere cuts him down. He's a long dead almost-three. I'm a long lived five just turned sixty-one still running in a dead heat with the rolling cab that swooped him up heading for the vanished hospital. It's then on waking I feel the snot of infant faces leak into my mouth. 2 Hearing it wake, we feel the windy calling to each other of the kindred sleep and death in the morning opening of the eyes of country horses, the odor of earth's dampness in the crystal tree light, and the touch of rough bark on fingertips. Seeing it, we feel again the worn heart welcoming the slow envelopment of dark, the falling off of sight in the old gray house, when sun's heat passes and the first breeze lifts a faint dust along the hedges. Remembering, again we see the embers crumbling in the grate, the fire flaring up again, the pause before the turning shadow spans the polished floor and drifts into the open world, a street that wanders endless as a silent grief that will never know itself. 3 We walked out of time into the woods of pain and never seemed the same again. We tilted with the hope of finding ourself in another skin, and bent on recovering, turned with open eyes to find welcome in the arms of a dead brother -- sleeping his dream of being, a dream so long unfulfilled there was no time even to begin to live it, till in his own hope we lived what we believed may have been reserved for him. 4 Watching the immense self scattering ocean ruffle out before us, our wonder stirred and time became an intricately formal mating, night on day on night, a repeated wave flash signaling the act and its abating, and the last long rolling into shore turned into a fresh aspiring of newborn creatures to join the greater mating sky and ocean, and the creatures reeling beyond our wonder mingled with the lifetimes of our aged parents, each one apart, our cheerful sister's pregnant daughter, also apart, and this briefly sunlit reawakening stung alive the still unanswered black and blueness we never would be clear of -- though no longer cherishing the old bruised core, no longer poised against the battering disablements, we simply gazed again and let our wonder live again, and die. 5 For everyone the call of light, seeing figures of the creatures from the mountain and the sea: an eagle flying and a snake whipping past the chicken coop, a horse neighing in a flash of meadow, with wayward water there to slake the thirst a moment. As light descends, following the slow shapes bulking briefly in their place, it makes as if to stop and give them way and cause, as if to stroke and praise their substance fully before each creature passes into its own remove with rapid smile print (as on your face and mine appears held there by heads soon to be no longer yours or mine) till it lets the shadow quicken, overtake the bobbing bulks, and rise immensely over like a mercy to devour them. 6 As we would have it, it would be nothing simple or profound, nothing easily attained, long worked for or perfected. It would be of a wholeness, full and large and figured in its substance. It would be all engrossing to itself and others -- like the playing of a mindless tune between a richer music and a silence: a peaked and dribbling sound, a sound wavering in descent but kept in measure, and in that measure letting all know how deeply it could love the silence following. 7 Not to be listening yet to be heard in the huge inconsequences of the heart, where having conveyed the full measure of our hate as a gesture of belief in something worse than ourself is barely to have escaped self murder, the intended sacrifice become the bound body of love in a younger self -- wearing a brother's features still scored through the dead boy's memory -- forever jammed between the tonnage of his death and self hate's last convulsions, like the lost deserter fixed in an ice cake some intruder yells up early one spring. 8 As the light descended the night was pierced a moment and there was seen in the vagueness of a shadow a form more his than our idea of him, and the shadow wobbled into a figure merging with the hope of his lost being come to be again, as we tried swiftly to put on the dark loose patches fallen from him in the light -- trying to fill and fill all that was left of his living clothes before his body vanished 9 No longer would he have to run each time we left him before our mindless going struck him as needing to be answered, and the need make him fly to us and press his body on us briefly. For now, if again we left without a smile or hand wave, he would no longer need to fret or wonder how to weight the meaning since as last reminder he had left his body printed on us.
The Abstract Man Encounters the Adjutant
1 Echoing the fierce belief that time serves only as a part-time adjutant, he lost each battle he ever deigned to fight, construing every language but the adjutant's outspokenness. So it came to pass he had no prospects, no supports, except for those he chose to think would be revealed when needed, as if he'd summoned them. His secret hope was that the adjutant, who lived for others and for none, would one day touch his eyes so he could read the real language things were written in. 2 In his ordinary world past and future did not exist except if he decided they should appear peopled with events, with casual births and deaths, minute misfortunes of any kind, but where his own hopes and desires played no part. As long as he directed it, this play assigned the present to the adjutant miming his way through muffed contingencies, the arch reflector of everything flowing past his eyes. And so he stood reflecting as if to ask, how could one who chose to focus on the landscape of the livid moment, observing life so keenly, be said to have no heart, or worse, not to be alive? 3 The isolated house he sometimes visited had the virtue of facing ocean from every door and window. No sign of people anywhere. A few gulls here and there, and other birds he had no wish to name. Occasionally a ship appeared to fill the sky -- but diminished if he stared, shrank further if he glanced away, then vanished utterly. He discovered that since things appear to disappear so swiftly, they had no need for names. Suppose he asked, What's that? and he replied, Possibly a crab -- it would seem he'd thrown a loose stocking over it, making the whole thing wrinkle right away. Better to answer silence with silence. Each thing moving apart, no thing needed his speech. This gave him a certain satisfaction. 4 In winter when the sun shone, winds sometimes descended in a ritual drumming up of clouds, which in fact filed by, peered quickly down and crossed the sky, to be devoured by whatever lay in wait past the horizon. Meanwhile in town a mother cat had a litter and out of spite or hunger ate the kittens one by one as soon as they emerged from her mysterious dark hole. 5 There would be large cuttings of flowers where he walked, left at intervals in heavy piles, as though the same rough hand that cut the stems must soon return to gather everything in one huge wicker basket centered in a noiseless cart. Conveyed into the house beyond to gaze from cut-glass bowls and pots of blue majolica, the flowers would at last appear expertly propped, consummately transformed. But the adjutant delayed or never came, the flowers wilted, hailstones clattered angrily, and every door leading to the house kept banging in the wind. 6 Suddenly out of the hedge a rabbit leaps clear, scampers past the bread crumbs laid out for the mourning dove, and almost transparently disappears through an opening to the rocks below. The dawn is pondering how to put out the sheerest sickle moon as a flock of geese makes a quick signature across the brimming cold waters. Day with its swift demands will soon leach light out of every object in its defiant shapeliness and crystal visibility. It is precisely then the adjutant begins to tell. 7 The grave thumps and the upward thought leaps to uncover ground where the last idea of the downborne man was sunk. See how pure the man reborn of inklings now appears with his new umbilicus forged link by link from relatives of happiness crying Jubilee of jubilees, I was, therefore I think.
I did not die in that war or in any war quite though I died in the first and all the wars since -- at first all at once then with practice a bit at a time While I'm alive I'm ready to die any day in a war -- the value of dying is in daring to come back If I die in the next as I did in the first you who survive might understand it was good for something though not wanting necessarily to applaud me -- and I wouldn't blame you much as I'd envy your being alive So I'd have to come back because you'd forget no matter how many times you'd read it all in the papers -- he's so good at dying he died in the Punics War II the Crusades poor bastard can't stop he's at it again
By Sea Stone
1 Blackening ebbtide sings dumbly by you whipped by a wind swirl weed hair drips over stone bodies huddled in monkish communion making low song of unshaken risings and dim withdrawals of long breathing waters 2 These stones if they spoke could tell what lives -- one doubled flowing an outgone returning of timed open sea conveying a smallness like breath in the air drawn out and in of a hugeness -- ends as a slippage of stone upon stone on a packed sea shelf 3 Nothing much left to stop your breathing, you still swim out and the waves topple you arriving back. All those green eyes littering the beach -- the glinting lovers and their surviving wives, no longer lovers, of dead friends -- stare past you at routs of winter starlings overhead, disregarding trophies. Mozart hums the distance out to sea and back. Poised and never waiting, the red sun pricks your eyelids -- take heart take heart . . . You love your heart even when it falls and is not dead. 4 Can you remember beginning to shape your solitude? Was it clarity or fog that started it? Maybe the eye caught by a rose tore on a thorn, and the moon, peculiarly close, hung bleeding till you could almost bear it. To be flesh of the thing that felt the pangs of its beginning is only to know you must trace the end inside of you. Now and then you hear a window frozen in its frame creaking as if the moon was back. 5 All the nights the house slept through are dead: at dawn in bed the same white ship spanning the horizon, and every word the heart denied sopped up with the daily bread. The house still waits where shore lights winked against the bay suggesting, like old friends, more than they said. Night again, and time for stars to stir the shadows on the roof but no star is in the sky. Time for a late birdnote or two to clear the windowpanes but none comes through as yet. Still the house keeps beckoning, bone white and dry inside: some body should lie down in it. 6 Conrad saw behind the wheel the unappeasable horizon where heroes with maddened eyeballs mounted the ageless waters on sinful stumps. Who else could execute, against his heart, such livid sentences? The blooded words they whispered kept thickening into Justice until the blindfold lifted and a gunshot blanked them out. The shot emptied his feelings, and the ship he manned sails on.
Bark of a tree. Solo. In the rain. How it is always is. Changes: outside is seen inside. Outside changes inside. Inside looks faster, changing less. Outside waits till inside goes away. Outside more slowly always is only now about to be seen. In the rain. Solo. Bark of a tree.
2. Poems 1976-1980
Let me tell you again where I must go back to the farm without you without them without you or them I must go without wife without sons and live on the farm alone feed every animal draw all the milk myself I must hear myself breathe so the song will come of the wheat I grow and the power to work and master the ground To bury the past in darkness and wake every day in the smell of the cold off the hay and the smart burn of the wood stove fire Home will be bearing the tale of the farm I work without you without them while sun smashes down and rain bears away my life
After the Letter
1 If you happen through again, don't call, just come by. The afternoon you do we speak of the trees' never-returning leaves, the power of gradual fulfillment meaning nothing in nature but almost everything in our quick lives, the body's hard-nosed climb to make it, and deep down the consciousness of rot all the while one pleasures. We're on our fifth martini, the day winking through the leaves, and we swearing never to let each other go, when a blue Mercedes slips up the drive to claim you. I lunge, surrounding you against its purr. Your tongue fishes in my mouth, your rose-lipped body tightening into mine: It's so easy to love you! On that lie I let go. 2 You're drowning in the waves, I'm standing on a raft ready for the plunge. Never never will I rescue you. Going down, I grapple with a slippery leg, but already you've reached bottom, wrapped in a coat of algae. My heart sniffs out where you sank, a boulder rippling in the sand a century or more. Still as slime I watch your smile say I know you love me. I crawl on all fours to feel around you, then float over like a dirty handkerchief. Love, love me! Quiet as an eye I hear the cry before the cry began. To become stone I stop my lungs, I close my ears, my pores, my mind. And now to lift you!
Tonight I hear it all spoken, see it spelled out again from the window-seat cushion where the children you never saw turned up today this old V-letter adorned with your name. It's the War speaking through me writing you, my apple-cheeked young wife (dead these six years past): I'll be home soon again, dear -- my brain half pickled hope, half jealous fury. Look how torn up I manage to be with words spilling over the folds as I sit writing madly in Paris, in London, in whory Antwerp, three, four letters a day, while hornily plotting the women I can slip into and leave curled up behind until I come on You darling! Faithless evening hardens round you, snows your absence into light.
He had need of a way to be himself without being himself. He had so little need of those who said they had need of him, He wanted never to see any of them again, though he wouldn't say so. For once in his life he was satisfied simply to be. To be nobody, nobody but himself, himself without himself. He felt empty and full -- not one or the other but both at once. He felt chafed like a child full of flouting wishes, floating elations. But drained of hankerings like a glass of water a thirsty man just drank. He considered someone odd though familiar may have come to live inside of him. Maybe it meant he was sheltering someone who needed a home. He himself had no home, flitting from friend to cousin to stranger, As the occasion demanded, or urged by the heart, which he often misread. He lived everywhere but at home, where sometimes he stayed overnight. Anywhere he slept he was at home, if he didn't overstay. The city he wished most to live in was nearby but quite far away. Near enough to visit or be visited by old friends and children, Far enough off to forget them all in a week or a year. He wanted to live alone in a den-like apartment, working nights on his thoughts, Or in a big rambling house without tenants and close to the hub of the city. He would like also not to live there but still to call it his home Where he could drop in, surprising himself hard at work in his study Or, having been called away, finding the place shrieking his absence. He'd like to live there and in the country as well, unknown except for The gas-meter reader who'd fade in and fade out bimonthly. He once wrote a letter he thought he'd only half written himself which ended limply, "How many empties like me are there left to pick up before I die?" Now he believed the letter was written completely by somebody else. Of course he was wrong -- but what if he was completely somebody else?
Letter from New Hampshire
now it would be then that walking down a snowy road in the afternoon under a gray sky in winter after it had snowed and would snow but not yet when the fir trees by the roadside with week-old snow clumps lying iced and heavy down along the branches and the twigs of bright green needles clipped by passing plows detached and crazy littering the too smoothed icy ground it would be then just coming into view of a cottage bouncing up and down but soon set straight against the powdered mountain banked up on a dense horizon it would be then my dear when thinking started up to tell me how I missed you now that suddenly the sky ran thin with speckled afterlight almost promising it would not snow today tonight it would be then at first starting of my thinking of you that there should negligently fall into my head the thought of this grave heavy handsome useless world not needing me for needing you for needing me in boots that leave their stippled prints in snow and eyes that take this crystal quiet in so quick and slow and all this with me or without should not mean a thing not anything at all and when I thought this then the sky took back its worried look grew solid gray no different than before except that now that then the first few flakes stirred light along my sleeve like afterthoughts of easy living easy dying that would later be a heavy fall it was then my dear I missed you most it was then that now seemed lost the most it was forever then
An Art of Summer
1 Saying a thing is, often makes it -- so the Bible says Jehovah spoke the world. If I would leap, the mind says, I would follow! shouts the faithful body. Word-sperming something into being works as spirit splitting stone -- or metaphor beclouds till all evaporates. What time of morning is it? Six o'clock. And morning's a semaphore of clock hands locked in a ring of digits. Entering by chance, the day becomes you writing in this room as ant and fly crawl by outside the window squares against the big leaf-heavy summer trees. A music you hear accompanying your breathing, Schubert's last sonata, sifts through this time placing you on earth with the fellow-feeling body Schubert knew, not knowing, writing it at thirty, he'd die next year, in 1828. This will-lessness preceding knowing is what we share receiving body from body, body into body: each preformed shape performs its give and take. Goodbye, Schubert, dead-alive since then, vale this morning of the crawling ant, the newly dying birdsong you hear closing this line -- the longest day of 1974. 2 The first leaf shriveling shrivels all belief. Climbing a giant mossy oak, rose vines like a passion curling higher twine belly, arms and spine till interflowing red and green reverse the eye as in a dream. Another tree grows roots like jugular veins snaking through boulders that impact the trunk. A sword of lightning smashing the aspen stand that blocked out sunlight lets in crawling fungi that chew up most the roots. One branch escapes, grows new, a crazy crooked nearly leafless arm upthrust in sunlight, the rest choking in a tangle of devoured wood. Torn-off leaves that cry adorn adorn are still unconscious of their separateness. Adornment is the form severed things take on in their bewilderment -- the doom awaiting those that lie apart. Parting the meadows, gardens gone astray -- the red and palpitating coquelicots, claws of yellow honeysuckle, pistils shivering, the wolfly lycopods and couch grass, sweet mignonettes, the green and gray plebians, stonecrop fleshy, corymbs of pungent yarrow, wild chervil's umbellets, rose-colored commack and the milk-white crosswort -- grow dreaming someone calls them each by name. The first leaf shriveling shrivels all belief. 3 Waking next day you walk, half sleeping, out, as cawings, squeaks and casual chirps turn off, to see through glued-up flowers an eagle, landed from nowhere, at the crossroad facing you, gigantic as the truth of feeling, a cause more than a feeling, an eagle so big it must portend something startling. You stand with the day curved around you and only the eagle to answer the questions what brought him? what keeps him? inferred by his ambling toward you, then off, as though giving you time to escape. Was it laid out for eagle and man to meet? Was it intended because one was human one might go on doing this and that, meet so and so, go around there again only to miss meeting such and such, maybe cave in to end in a place where only one could now end up? With your first head-turn he ruffles his feathers from talons to beak, and trundling out to a wider clearing takes off in a slow air-banging cyclone, leaving you pinned to the tip of his vortex, his rising surrounding the sky. Was it a sleep or was it to end in a sleep -- so someone, no doubt related, might now awaken to see enough, not wanting or actually knowing enough, to pick up the thread? Was the eagle at last a sign of it all or witness -- summoned or summoner? And now as he floats, a speck in the eye of the sky, are there words to waken the sleeping dreamer asking and answering himself in the eagle? -- Eagle, what is it you do descending to the norm then climbing beyond my eyes? --In the mothering of matter learning to survive the fathering of form.
Starting the Hostilities
We've cleared the wires where the hostages hung all night. Feeling is up, horses kick at the barn doors, youngsters in town round up the old pistols, some test improvised bombs, wives quietly clean rifles. This is no child's tourney, there'll be other casualties. The veterans are growling We'll tear out their hearts . . .
We grew the miraculous flower: five corpse-white spokes sunk in pubic hair with that radial penumbra just hovering over the flimsy purple core -- and sat there gloating, ah, the triumph after such care! How long did it last? till a painter sat down and put it all into a sketch before it could wilt from view. Then from his painting came so many feasts for we can't count how many eyes. But no trace at all of our passionate growth. A bush of dark mint, too vigorous, bunches up there, assailing the air, and now in that corner where two fences met flaps the painter's folding chair.
gray lips this hour's hourless light turns not yet rising opening gray lips morning labors wet mouthed on pig iron gates a woman who cannot rise there lies impaled
I Need You
What the two windows want: the bridge and the cycle and the tree cut down. What the whitewash wants: the cold milky ground, the tombstone missing a name. What the cracked roof wants: the lovers in bed long dead unmaking the child already grown to a man groping past loving, past light, roped to the end of his life.
After the Separation
Back to your room after my weekend visit, you play underseas war using the closet &windowseat bay for submarine lairs, your mouth devising flesh &gun disintegrations coughing fast-flashing sallies up out of mind I see your dark pupils figure the damage -- Is it worth shoveling up just to get on with now? There's a blind man under the bed wanting to show you where to hide when the homework stacked like tank-flattened GIs gets punishingly high. "Daddy, I'm frightened -- or maybe just bored," you want to cry as my car miles off turns screeching back. I pound & pound on the big front door.
The house killed by your word withstood much deeper wounds before it let go. Those were years we lived wrangling inside without daring to ask should we patch it or part. Those absentee summers neighbors by moonlight were statues climbing the trees, training their mirrors of air at the windows, were we dead or merely asleep? Night snowfalls in winter imprisoned bulls charged beeches and pines hunched in the driveway till eased off by ploughs next morning, the bright air a diamond. Those were years the lawn thickened and spread, having no care as the weathers ran wild, small vandal gangs assaulting and dying, child by child. Dogging all-night refusals day-calms and word-gusts pretended relief. At breakfast some mornings we sat like vacationers facing the bay already polluted. Now a goldfisted flagpole thrust from the lawn against vengeance and vandals that crept up regardless stands flagless, detached from the house. Last summer new lights riddled the waters, night planes hurtling through air cleared the heat of neighbors still churring and scorching the grasses. Exclude, exclude, echoes the house. Dead rattan rockers nod in a desert of sunlight as we leave, separate, and the new owner's eyes smilingly rise from the lawn.
The sight of me finished and lost till another one comes but not yet and who knows how soon The sight of me gone and done for over the fence and nothing but tracks in the woods The sight of me never again to crack open an eye and murder your sleep at two a. m. The sight of me landing all over with kisses I gave you holes in the belly and thighs The sight of me lurking at table drymouthed with it without it in sunlight in fog The sight of me slipping away sliding off all the mirrors down all the drains You can wake now without me the nightmare of me is over try breathing again and dream up the day when the big advertised monster out of your mind gropes at the windows and doors to crawl over you the shadow wished home tonight
Dialogue in the Sleeping House
The lacquered brown wall reddens like our own wishes we are carved out of air touched by the afternoon sun the part of us feeding a wish empowers then lives past it warming and worming its way while the wish exists it lives apart from the empowering part deep through the windows because to exist a wish needs detachment from what feeds it as if to engrave its light the possibility to continue detached is probably almost infinite in the sleeping house forever
Without love the gift grows real -- a pebble slipped from an unclenched palm dazzles the broken ground.
Passes for Nicanor Parra
Think of an oId friend who died Now turn in your chair and he's there filling the doorway smiling Rise and he walks straight towards you Leave the room and he sits in your chair waiting for you to enter smiling
Almost at ease with your wife and children you sail out to an island together At the helm you know the boat is sinking You tell them They try bailing out Too late You leap overboard Gasping you turn The boat sails by and they are cheering
Evidence piles up day by day we do not live where we are living We refurbish Add a wing Rearrange the bed And houses eat us as we sleep
Who sits so close when you try to rise If only he'd move or stand up by himself you'd spring to your feet in a flash You make a last effort but it's no use You turn at him to glare He is weeping inconsolably
Somewhere I am, low-lying, I cannot come to rest -- on the mountain the river underneath me almost sleeping. Somewhere I was, tide rising, l heard a gliding up the beach of heavy wings near me and I just waking. Somewhere I'll be, riding home, lights let me round an old darkness to the children sleeping in the house my coming rouses.
The Painter in the Mountain
"Can I love if I have such pain inside? The piano playing in the mountain tells me where I am, filling sound with color. This summer afternoon could be an open desert where two lovers meet: Melissa leans into the grand piano making music, making love. Arthur singing what he wants her playing stands behind; listening, she drops her fingers. Outside trees pour sunlight and the mountain hurls it back again. In the air trying to fill a space, my hard pain asks the mountain: love my paper, touch my brushes, press color into them, until my painting fills what is no longer missing."
For His Mother Flying into Her Seventy-Seventh
If there were ploughs in heaven you'd break ground with one -- not for casting seed but to open new earth there as if to say See, it can be done and done by me alone. If there were a place to burn in deeper suffering you'd ride a razor wind there, outsped only by special grace of your falling body's thinking it the first to feed that fire. May pardon come for your forever nursing a grousing mother into her final silence there in that house so you alone might come alive to make her bed and lie in it.
Stumbling out of the Prado
time lives through eyes and faces bulging to see who we are the sweet music hardening parades of victims stammering storm troopers and Goya deaf to questions burning in his own man-eaten freedom
Rilke's White Horse
I remember a day in spring, at evening, in Russia. A white horse, his hobbled fetlock wrenching his stride, gallops down the village lane, his black mane whipping his neck until he bursts into the empty moonlit meadow, rearing to a standstill. The night he whinnies at a moment is ponderously still, heedless of his blood beating a music that becomes, louder than his heavy breathing, his whole being, his heart waiting to be heard and understood. Now may this fable be his song forever.
Climbing the scrawny women, the plastic virgins, I came on a field laid out for planting, bones in piles along the wire fences and a spindly scarecrow overlooking it. In the salt marsh a mile away the neighbor's chimney was barely smoking, and the sky overcast as usual hinted of the bitter cold that was on its way. The field glittered in remembered sunlight. A wind knifed through me, turning the scarecrow this way and that. As I began to dance the women hunched behind me laughed and laughed.
Beyond her in the red house glow the crystal flowers, the green lake furled for winter, and the idea of fruitfulness next year. For she is aware of the seed who runs the furrowed earth, and in her head are all the generations waiting in the ground. ln her the seed will bear the whole of summer next and after next, already giving off the flavor of ripening and decay. Now all around her waits the grave red house with knives and dishes set, till at the door the fainting fathers come.
The boat lights pass, the window smarts, wakening to the night the dim island floating like a string of whales, the sky a sunken eye the sea devours. It comes to this: the leached-out world has masked the hidden boulders like an oyster in a broken shell. What cries for light in the sucking shore?
Sweeping the Room
We give birth to ourselves on the brink of dying. Others stand there sorrowing, pitying, not yet born, shudder and ogle this negligible dying. How do we tell them they too will burst with last eyesight breaking, sweeping the room of the husks of children not knowing who dies is coming alive to them yet unborn?
You are asleep at my center, a recently emptied volcano, with ashes still sifting through air, and I, remembering the old heat in it, remember you as I almost land without touching the innocent hills and valleys, till nowhere becomes a drifting, a new withdrawing and build-up of all my wasted forces.
G. W. M.
My neighbor is dead. His hands are held by a weight no longer his own. They have shut down his stare and we steer through the close of his eyes. Don't say his death is your death is my death. He died alone. We who have lived as he lived this dog of a life part on that note. Now each to his bone.
Under reason and steel grows the final poem of your death in the city where you were the house of your breath, smoked out, ransacked, squandered in shreds, as under the stones precise on the heights you guessed they had buried the rags of slaves. As under the seal of wax there clacked in the general's beak the white-tongued admiral, giving the acid word of steel in the guts to your guarded brightness, life, with its shadow invisibly wearing away the heaviest stone. In your light blatant or hidden forever under the everyday sky exposed like a maundering madman mocked into meaning -- because no one can bear the darkness alone, because no one can go on shielded alone, Your name went up in the half light that day, like smoke lolling up from the cannon's mouth, from house after house and cell after cell, to show where the flowering multiple death had departed your body, your country, its ghettos. As your life's first day is destroyed in the last, as the mouth of the serpent swallows its tail, as the spirit's skyscraper's consumed in a rose, let all darkness be broken like bread among brothers, all being more and less than a metaphor.
Three Moments for George Sullivan
1 Burial in Providence Your sleeping eye turned inward now in death is looking squarely at me I have none to know you and only yours to see me wanting for my own to follow Do not wait long for earth to come settling in with you for the loose stones to shift towards you Help me remind the heavy quiet you have come to lie in with the mother that bore you to the new sleep stretched straight with no need nuzzling you to be growing over earth or in the sea floating or turning in air to the cities of the mind's altering necessities Give me with you sinking slowly under my feet turning this next moment in your vanishing eye 2 Waiting in Washington In the bruised sky racing my scanning eye and the withered tree measuring a low fury of wind I catch trills whistling the ends of days A time that was will come in the couplings of underground fur feeding asleep root and worm beast and mind to meet overground In the warm hide's last days and hours still smoking with breath the panes of the eyes snow mountains stone slides clear to the end Time moves down forests past toy cities fallen through heads cracked with flashings whisked into brains like mine Last week died with my friend tucked in his box and my stare gave him pause a wet second on earth in the sky's face in the wind's eye closing In the airport I sit under rain waiting to fly 3 Walking in Sweet Briar On the path the thawing rivulets of icebound mud run an ooze my shoes cannot resist I plod upward towards the first lit window of a house soon to pass in twilight when from nowhere comes a shattering as of all things fallen in their emptiness a breaking of the clots and clogs of days as I arch through rain too slight to threaten reminding how once in skyfuls it cracked down and I ran as though all life were funneling off beneath my shoes Lives tunnel in their safeties making room beyond me as I move unheard back into my life of nowhere's other silence other time awaiting the first word to be before words were heard singing the way this ooze runs under me before me moving past the house it will take after me