The light of reason
On the most alluring
Good works gleam
With diamond dust intensity,
Arrested by a photographer
Caught setting jewels:
Emeralds, sapphires, rubies
Where the eyes once saw you.
Ministrations of cold
Creams to cover girls.
Replete with therapeutic virtues –
And loosely pressed theories:
The light of reason
Riding passenger side snapping right,
I’m down in front stealing long exposures.
From the back seat our youth sits
Mocking us with instant polaroids.
Destroyed pictures of minutes and memory
Precious and precarious slip a stone
At once here and at once gone.
Right under the driver breaks hard and higher
Up another mile, silently stealing all we pass.
As if it meant nothing, had no value.
Yet we never stop to salute the flowers –
All wilds and yellows and purples.
The foothills’ shoulders grow peonies
Upon sunshine golden with military ranks.
How jagged time?
We spend ours climbing again as
Eventide approaches us.
Stealing the light
Squinting and teasing Every photographer’s eye.
The lens escapes the fight as fists fly
Above us rung the first punch
Headliners: the over-real versus the unbelievable.
Then we drop down tearing around
The Summit dragging the day with us.
With us flat then right over on the side.
Buckshot sprays whitetail from
Underneath the wheels,
My skin and bones chill fast underneath
Blankets just a quarter mile thin –
Count the microclimates in a 14 mile exposure.
My imagined assignment, anyway.
Inertia now driving our ascension
Finally dousing my focus.
Yet I am pacified by
Deep coastal royal blue velvet,
And by the courtly cape
Of dense silver fog.
Trees, reach in and take my attention
Lost in the sky and yet at home.
Away with the little brick foxes
Already started by the drooling hounds,
Running in distant golden broken lines
Shrinking to a pointed index
Finger of bent redwood lumber.
Penciled between the knotted trees
Escaping our eyes
They write letters to us
To one another, to anyone.
I imagine the trees alone love themselves.
Writing in dead languages those
Modern towers of Babylon
Without oral tradition
No monks or followers to take dictation
The mighty ones tie rings around
Paper and papyrus of their own making.
They, like me, can write their own stories.
Distant deamons dance to the music of the eventide,
Whose eardrums thump and pop from slight descents.
Mercies clear the stares and the macabre glances.
And up ahead the night hides just around
The voluptuous Earth’s curves.
Yet she shakes off the road upon her hip
Langushing and lounging
Laughing at all the forsaken highways.
You snap me awake.
My hypnotic state undone
By our quick duel and I, only me –
I roll one window down
With enough sense to know
The party orange of evening presents
A moment for exposure
Showing the night undone
By the simplest flash
As we find a space and stall the motor,
King and queen of the hills
Announced by snare drums and trumpets.
Goodbye, twisted bruised skin of eventide.
My room unlatched
Releasing shirts, slacks
To hungry closets for
New black suits.
Drawers devoid, empty,
Open for guides and
Maps. A single dirty window
Opens to a brick wall.
My memory of the word
“Defenestration” fell out.
My mouth shares the doubt
Of an incomplete education.
Underneath paper thin sheets
Uncover my form asleep dreaming,
Murmuring bird breeds.
I fly into the diaspora.
Street artisans took to the
Deep sea once, yet to which land?
I hold the receiver and
Wish for a revolver.
Legal language defense
Hold up in court.
Unknown room numbers
In a delicious series of
Chambers marked 12, 31
Remembering a stone cold six story
Buddha in a wide open gin palace.
Cigars and molten cherries
Jubilee. Bananas foster
Charles Foster Kane,
His full name from nothing.
Mother’s greasy brunch pumpkin
Markets and street tchotchkes.
Snow globes from America where
Going down South the snow
Attracts curious tourists.
Angry without rose beds,
Lawnmowers without preteens.
I learned the names of
Chateaux. Bordeaux, Chablis
Pure sunshine Chardonnay.
Tastevin and Caskets
Down in the catacombs
The same town underground.
Rise up and run off
Spilling me like syrup
On pancake embankments.
A cooing stewed pigeon
On an expired warranty the
Black dial telephones,
Hissing tube televisions.
Anonymous but you only
Would send such indifferent
Cheap bouquets of sprayed
Carnations and baby’s breath.
Such sorry little pimples
Those flowers, like calling
Cards for bill collectors.
Or foreign exchanges between
Currencies for emergencies.
Ladies wearing smart suits
Tahitian pearl chokers
Rhinestone bangle bracelets
Bengal tiger-print hot pants.
A real mistress
Ends in a whisper
Her knowledge sits stuck
In the back of a cab.
Like all irrelevant souvenirs.
Bees swarm from the 300 year oak
Guarding the fire department.
Emptying from the hive
Growling as one great
Carpet to cover the daylight yellow
Moist and musky bungalow.
Shotgun shacks, powder kegs open
Their queen, a patron saint
Leaves her scent, thinning the
Hive of the dullards,
The abused and the confused.
One last time, dressed
For success the top opening
For California mornings air.
I sneak out the back and press on,
Press on emerging into traffic.
Stop and go in snow, in traffic, mother
Of course it’s the weather, noneother.
Midwestern December seasonal jokes –
As many as there’s names for Snow in Alaska,
Outcries and inside laughter.
Generously long routes, craning to savor day’s last light,
Good behavior rewarded, we finally turn right —
Towards the porch lit arms.
They wear glowing, wicks smoking, closed farms.
White, blue, red halos dripping, wax tendrils
Waning slowly, gasping on card crowded mantles.
But for one home, at once a sudden single
Moment and no more.
Staring, sending messages,
Minding the change. Her sharp, shrill voice calls:
I’m fine, no really fine, go worry about the environment.
Gulf side store-bought guilty cinnamon sweetness,
She’s now explaining,
(No patience anymore, as though you appreciated it?)
I change. I lay my gloves, toss my driving wet scarf
In the canyon eroded onto the old twin beds.
Returning, in a few moments all slippers and robes,
Old reruns of TV, family, historical arguments
Hidden in revisions and mistakes.
Taciturn remarks about topless cars,
About wild Mustangs and scorching scars.
Carbon, dating with all four on the floor.
Eternal dark hands latch white storm doors,
Snow pushed up on lawnless grounds.
Signs, wired ice knives — shattering, creaking, pointing down
Augers the night of Damocles, whose sword flashes
Screaming in the dark: stop, go, stop and go.
Spring brings black pitch tar steaming fill and rising streams.
He’s certain of the weather, again, I know.
When Minnesota blood runs south via the mouth
Of the Mississippi River byways and embankments,
The answer spits out as ice and precipitation.
The coin fed arcade witch or gypsy — your good fortune in hand.
Our God instructs with tiny gifts of anticipation,
And I, the torch of pain as a paper angel holds her wand
I sing of shame, tuning forks, and rabbit ears.
Why it’s so plainly true, your grin widens coldly, I suppose.
As a frightening hand clocks to and back a metronome,
Heavenly-made answer saves the wost worn.
How wrong, again, or all along, again.
Weather and evening corralled the horses inside.
Our engines idled, cooled, then died.
Suddenly yet expectantly (as ice or apple pie)
Boring holes in us with collapsible eyes —
Like summer left us in an awful rush,
So the bent boys gasped
As tall awkward girls cried.
Until the day comes when my breath no longer returns from the night,
Now visible from my lungs, vapor trails hang frozen in the wintry air —
Then if my labored lungs must remain longer, I remain.
When the last black bloom of your want wilts and waivers again,
And my secret history garden fades into the night like dreamers in the shallows,
Tumbling (at the seashore, swept up with any undelivered moonlight)
Until my breathlessness sheds the air’s sour taste,
Returning me to the source of persistent music and its instruments
Tuned by invisible, merciless hands.
Voices sweet like memories singing,
Louder than every sound ever heard all together at one time,
To drown out my questions,
Your ciphers long forgotten yet tested for time
To the unknown names of every crime.
Yet to ask from nowhere, I insist —
There, how effortlessly you knew when I waited until the day turned and left.
(You cannot say the name “Forever” again.)
While my words waltz to the end of time,
Dancing to a rolling lento drum,
I sent you a present, a tune wrapped up
With yesterday’s news knotted in pale silken twine – please
Right here in black and white, look at it.
How do you refute indisputable lines?
(Though now every last bite of it tastes rotten and bitter…)
Untie the infinite ribbons of light opening my hands, lost in midair
Drink deep from the water of my solace,
As it drips with words from my lips
To quench the ache of every moment:
Find a small skeleton key in my laced fingers,
Weakened from solving all history’s lessons.
As a body folds in on itself
It holds faster, together.
(We question the answers and quickly bury our words.)
Maybe next year we can awaken the annuals again.
The stuff of sudden daydreams —
You falling into the arms of the air,
I sit and wait although not selfish with my hope,
Yet this alone drives me home again.
(If cure becomes your solitude, then shame reminds you of my defeat.)
As the truth emerges, lighting dim violet walls,
Our bedroom shadows sway dancing, slowly.
As I sing softly in the key of grace,
Hold on to me so that I may keep you still
And reach gently into your memory’s halls.
Your open windows – please,
(Tonight unlatched, just this once I may return unharmed.)
Now, go back to sleep, stay still unmoved until
Morning as its long fingers find your cold cheeks.
Starting you awake once more,
By hearing some faint distant laughter you think,
“I know her.”
And you may possibly recognize my voice like notes of an opera,
(Now impossible to discern my spirit, ascending towards starlight and mournings bright sun)
No one takes anybody or a thing into the ever-years aspired,
And where the memory serves no use, we lose our hearts and fears.
And though we know the futility of life’s take, we all roll at once and descend to die trying.
Ashen long shadow-colored faces stare back from my past.
Time sits in my lap a small child, hands raw and worried, consoled
Comforted by stories of never lands and ever mores.
Today, my words rendered illegible, erased nervously.
All the while
To shoulder –
Somewhere a darkened classroom with every wall covered
By blackboards waiting, vacant for me.
Now, turning deserted like a Western town,
With chalk wisps ghosts, picture the sentences
So long ago hung on a nail struck by an invisible hammer.
Tonight’s erasers let out old chalky coughs, like a smoker’s
Thick with phlegm and gravel. Cleaning the felt gills free
From years of numbers and letters,
The remaining clouds too thin to grab hold
By the sky, shimmer, unlined heavy lids shutter eyes
So weightlessly, lashes feathery, they move too easily,
Then blow past us, like a divorce.
Folding myself in to bend at the cracked window,
Seeing a reflection in the mirror panes,
I shiver first at the draft, and as the stars give way to the day,
I see everything.
I find all the sunshine ever shined,
Filtered through my forests, my pin pupil eyes.
And I, without permission,
Acting out against all advice –
Finally stare into the sun.
Overcome by warmth in my extremities,
My silhouette against the wallpapers,
In a still house framed by night.
Looking over the unnatural hills a flutter appears.
No birds yet, not a song, no flights, no song.
Though late enough for a gray mourning dove.
Listing up over the trees, on currents along moves
The flightless wings floating delicately, white.
At my feet: paper with a single seam
Addressed to only me,
Retun to a boy named Eternally
I unfold but once, then read.
“Make one promise if you please: only now and for you,
if for want of love to capture the clouds,
snapped still like a photograph,
take just enough and give your heart to listening alone.
Talking creates your deafness of thought
and silences your laughter.”
I drift down, into the needle
Bed, and dream of spiraling pine
Cones. Yet again, I find a broken
Offer instead, because the forest
Only knows honesty. Lying
Gently in my hands, I cup
(Like my heart) a broken shell.
A deserted robin’s egg, hatched
Speckled turquoise, open,
Fallen from branches, a cradle
Rocked by the wind’s hands
From the green canopy above.
(Like love) I listen for anything
Hungry. Hoping to hear frantic,
Open red beaks. Tiny beggars’
Purses, singing safe and
Sound. Napped, maybe stolen,
Straight out of the blue?
(Like a thief) A prowler,
Spiriting away to the hills,
Ducks into a fox’s den:
Just a stone cold hole,
No longer vacant or available.
(Cracked like an egg, now
even I cannot afford emptiness.)
*Fearless (David Gilmour, Roger Waters)
The country of Illness
In a town called sick
Squabbling or wordless,
Rounded outwardly thick.
Bellicose brick towers
Bruised smokey blue
Indian summer showers
Over babies bathed anew.
Watery heads doused by the sea
Drowning deep in kitchen sinks
Forks napkins politeness and please
Cheeks red as lipstick all pinched and pink.
A fat bike tire, a bent back bow
Digestion, plagues, and like tissue
Blowing out each open widow
Oh, he whispered: maybe I’ll kiss you.
In Illness, my country
Sick towns allegiance to my space
I swim free as concrete
Cold deep water displace.
(Fearlessly the idiot* dying
Yet with whom that scares me so.
Reap later you enemy spying —
And now too too late to sow.)
Scene 1: Enter Stage Right, Cat
This year Cat knocked Mary down.
Mother of Jesus, Carpets, Jews.
Last year, Cat ran off with the Husband—
Taking Joseph’s coat, too.
Not seen since the incident,
Neither man, nor carpet, nor cape.
Cat, exit stage.
Three years now since,
Dragged down a turkey.
Bigger than his head, feasts Cat,
Dinner of greasy fowl, used and
Orphaned. All shiny fat prickly sinews
Cold kitchen floor decor.
We retired in living color,
Cat waits on sock rugs,
Chasing bugs and saints.
Eyes devour the Lollipop Guild,
Feasting on colorful Witches brews
Enter Wizard. Sleep in straw
The tin cans sending queues
Heads with curlers, spitting nails—
Shake and roar, black as night.
White pictures of spoiled babies.
“My,” gasping grandmother
Hungry, yet we search the air.
Relief, at long last,
A manger all in tact,
Carpentry’s first common
Cat stole him three years past.
In stretches morning, you gripe
“Such an imprint for a wife.”
(I am the knife.)
Cat, please take leave —
Please leave, leave the coffee.
Four years back, for I
Then me. We sighed, “no cat.”
Dreams of dances on tippy toes,
A vision of homes built round,
All trees and ornaments and we’s.
Petting slowly, backhanded
Head to tail.
Cat purrs waltzing,
Jesus asleep now, Joseph
Warmly herd sheep sows, Mary
Wailed and cried still.
Elbows under chins, on sills.
We keep all the straw for a manger.
We each pull out one for luck:
I forgot to count the flock tonight —
Up to number 10 to silence
My weeping, I shivered.
The Egyptian visions,
The escaping slaves —
The sundown desert —
They eyed green knaves.
The riddle the answer the
Four Footed beastly things.
The long tail sweeping
Dust up on wings.
Nestled pyramids, soldiers of sand,
No servants hand, no strangers.
No one died today, no saints
Made. Cat wore the Ankh,
Carried the dog headed staff,
Drawing along the sea crooked to
And fro on the sand, wand dragging
Wagging a tail — Happy in now,
Yet name him Memento.
Cat, built it all alone, he meant
To say, “I made that,” in peace
Cat dreams of Cat things:
Play, sleep, sun, warm, eat.
Return to your lines, to track back
Over three years, to four.
In scene two: sorrow and worry,
Cat pictures Mary, Joe, and the baby boy.
Rejoice, back in the trunk
Running for the fifth term monks.
Cat: teeth glitter with hope
Of centurions and scarabs run.
Cat, to you surrendered or given
From your own meaty dinner,
pulled. Drowned asunder
All in a Dead Sea, deep
Asleep, dreaming wonder.
Swaying, overhead wire flying
Cat awake and wicked green
Snipped, he nips at grass.
His game — Cricket.
Slow, moribund, drying spice scent.
Boring holes, hearing voices.
Charming. Then crack —
A bat. Eyes followed us
On western war bliss.
Then rob the sun, beaming
Warm like a kiss.
The Queens pearls go dark.
Yet to remember:
Do not face
Anything larger than you
To enter: open this moment.
Exit the Cat.
Not the first, nor ever last,
The Second Line dances ecstatically past.
Behind the mourners, they’re not the saints,
All uplifted, marching in crowded street’s restraints.
Wheeling, turning, lift and fall with porch swings,
All souls rise upon the polls and upon night’s owl’s wings.
Arriving I walked through stranded streets,
Leaving, I grasp a heart (as my own skipped a beat.)
Coming to hear my disease my diagnosis,
Going to feel your hands opening my prognosis.
“I believe you understood I needed nothing!”
Somehow I left the sand untracked, forgetting every something,
And now I remember to choose without no judgement (or cups or wands)—
The images I neatly packed tumbled and eroded into sand.
When I lost my vision I cannot recall, but you held me in your light,
Though I came to find my courage, I dance away with second sight.