Hold this match still. Hold it high.
How light always exceeds itself.
The poetry of this pasture,
despite the smell of tobacco—
indeed—a cigar—a Cuban—
a light that is always ash white—
deceives the eye as well as the nose.
You think it’s night, don’t you?
You think it’s a field of soybeans.
You fool the eye, and, look, you fool no one.
The rain has remade a solemn forest into
a jolly field of microbes that no one still alive
can smell or taste, much less see or hear.
Hence the poem, this poem.
Only it can discern the rain as it redraws reality
in this ultimate darkness. Only it can see
the world without poetry.
How it grows, glows.
For John Looker
Skin white as chalk, she stands alone.
Her numbness moreover
has left untended what it came to uncover:
the webs of the brain are webs of light.
The moon will rise early this evening.
It will turn celestial and fly across the lake
in a reflection of a reflection.
At least we think it will…
A gifted child of the earth,
it might end its life forever this evening—
this coming summer’s evening—
prurient and tingling,
as though it were only a belly dancer sent
to entertain only us.
So he began his journey to the clouds.
On a day for kite flying, he flew his kite.
On a day for whistling wind, he whistled.
His life was to be like an island in a storm-less sea,
Protected by the clay warriors buried in the sand,
He was to live a life of fragile inquiry. .
The Emperor could call out from anywhere
And expect a servant to know the answer to his questions.
How could he know the land would turn to mud?
How could know his eyes must remain in situ?
Snakes and lizards, frogs, mosquitoes, snails—
They were nothing but names to the Emperor right now.
All he wanted was to fly with the thunder clouds,
Among their lightning, their haloes, their hail.
It seems for her, reverence still came down
to little toads alongside little frog ponds
in gardens of toil and tuition.
She stops, screams, inhales.
It is as if a bee has landed on her lips.
A toad jumps, tries to escape, fails.
Likewise, it seems all ideas should be
a pasture of places, not plagued
by ugly wart-toads asking stupid questions.
The bees have trespassed on her world forever;
the frogs have always laid eggs in her mud.
Her reverence is like a snake uncurled.
She could taste the nape of his neck
as she began to pull his skin apart.
So calm, the life of a plant.
So many seeds to scatter.
Her body’s tears resembled a rainbow.
Her reverence was hot inside her, like a bee.
The wave glimmers and waits.
So still, it could be nothing but dry earth.
Or, it could be an ancient statue—
To see through those stone eyes,
a galloping horse over a dry land mass,
a race to fulfil the sunlight’s challenge.
We say, ‘we’—to name the new creature.
We hear its thunder.
It is born. The first wave crashes.
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.
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.