Perhaps. But once it had begun
it was as if it were a human voice
as patient and as skilled as any poem
could ask for in its subtle grace and poise—
a warmth, for growth perhaps,
for words so softly spoken, they seemed
content to talk amongst themselves; for a thought
to scratch the soil for mud worms in a drift
of mud that became the lake we dreamt of
when we dreamt of his dreaming eyes, forever clear.
These are his lips, parted and wearing a smile,
perhaps but once, as though in a last consideration,
his mouth left open like a jack-o-lantern
atop a galloping, breathless horse.
Perhaps. But once it had begun
The rain comes out of nowhere, thunder first.
It rumbles through the town more like
a rock concert than a storm. Lightning bolts
light up the dark streets with their ancestral ecstasy.
The boy sits on his bike, his newspapers folded
and wet. The gas station on Sunrise Road
is empty but open. The milk truck stops,
then glides through the traffic light.
The boy pushes off into the dark red street.
If only rain were syrup we could use
to sweeten the sounds our words make—
the words they think will come out of your mouth
to stop him, but don’t,
words that will speak your name—
your name along with all the songs to sing before
the skidding truck suspends all sounds—
the sounds that crash as if bottles fell from the sky,
so much like that hissing sound
that lungs make as they finally slow the breath down—,
and of course the sounds of a prayer
so that he could lie down to sleep
where such precious words are formed—
within her gentle hands.
While he sleeps, you could be
listening to Chopin or Bach—
the Nocturnes, the Preludes, whatever,
even Debussy’s Le Mer would do—
instead you are turning over garbage cans and scaring cats.
While you sleep, he could be
eating Russian caviar or tripe
or baby turnips from Estonia.
Instead he is prowling around listening for
the sounds of teeth tearing flesh apart—
as if you actually liked the smell
of blood and excrement—
as if you actually wanted to suck
fresh marrow from bones so alive they burn.
A suit of armor, unsuitable
to be a soul, sleeve or silk nosegay,
is suspended and shining
among Sir John’s darker possessions.
There have been too many words annulled,
too many thoughts concealed
for him to rest easily.
In another moment perhaps Time
itself would appear from the clouds to tease him,
its bird-like self too swift to be caught today,
its slim waistline always ready for more
studious adventure.Perhaps once again Sir John
will find his thicknesses sentenced
to big bellied laughter, and to idle promiscuity.
He stands alone at the podium,
his horse voice [his joke]
become a paper whisperer
[ours]. He needs
to go on speaking, he says, despite
his throat. He will recite
his poems. Once read,
twice destroyed [no joke].
His mind is slowly sifting sentences from
the past in to a confrontation
with the future. So vivid is silence,
especially when in a shouting match
with an empty room. Too young to be a summary,
he must remain a part of the elaboration.
A hawk-like silence guides his every step.
The kill is but a breath away—
to exhale, so quiet, so pale—
Will nothing ever move again?
Imagine how this consummate grace
so precise now under a sun once perceived
as wholly good, can spark a moment of death
for but a moment’s inattention.
Dante thinks of his poem here.
How it starts out in a dark forest—
a regular day for most of us—
a product of earth’s revolution, this light—
not a perfect circle, nor a perfect cat—
which in turn turns a false guide
into a real one, a radiance full
of God’s grace, bright for sure,
but so swift, it leaves not a sound
to echo His good intentions.
You listen harder at night—
your veins squeeze,
the nameless neighbor,
the police car/fire truck/ ambulance sirens
as they cross on to the FDR Drive,
the lonesome/ frightened barking dog
the groan all buildings make when they breathe.
You listen to the voices talking to you—
though they don’t know your name as yet
or the sound of fog your breath makes
against the mirror glass—
so much like blood as it hits the porcelain floor.
You listen to the sounds your ears must make
as they shear off the words, themselves the kin to words—
by being there, so to speak, to listen.
Who dream there is a city full of sentient caterpillars;
Who dream the sleepers, who begin to believe this dream;
Something the brain has squeezed together, say,
Something that allows the groggy and the gasping sleepers
To sleep soundly while the caterpillars climb
All over them. Of course rumors abide. Some say
That the caterpillars must be a dream,
A sort of collective nightmare. Others disagree.
The caterpillars must be the reality, they say.
This is not Walt Whitman with his super empathetic
‘pausing and gazing and bending and stopping.’
This is a nest for the nameless. We want our rights,
They say to the sleepers, not your stupid dreams.
Butterflies, this is our dawn. Sleepers, you must wake!
strong (as strut or wing, as polytope, as things are
Each night, Cassiopeia came so near,
Andromeda was able to study her cat-like poise
With such a friendly gaze it seemed just noise
From earth. But what she sensed was fear.
Her mother had grown monstrous with age, feline
In the worst sense, cat-quick and sensual—
As if each act could be consensual,
But wasn’t—for not even sex, as sublime
And quick as cats are, sufficed to calm her.
When morning came, the music in her head—
Crescendos, decrescendos—stopped her dead:
Her eyes out there, her eyes forever closed.
She’s trapped, like you and I will never be,
A constellation—and its atrophy.
I don’t know if it was inspiration or not, but you might like to listen to Alice Coltrane’s Andromeda’s Suffering. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfsYmrqB8EE