For her want of tears, the woman runs
across the courtyard and into the arms
of the botanist Tzu. The songs in her head
are not unlike the songs in her heart.
Maybe they come from a deep seed planted
in soil far more fecund than rain can bear.
Maybe the spring monsters will surround them.
Maybe they come from a deep seated distrust
of all our visions. Perhaps collapse,
thinks the botanist Tzu. Perhaps failure.
But the woman clings to his sleeves in silence.
Her breath weaves in and out of a narrow cage.
Perhaps she is unlike the other one, he thinks.
With no bird singing, the garden is yet more full.
 Adapted from an epigram to Thomas Merton’s Zen and the Birds of Appetite. Thomas Merton attributes it to a ‘Zen saying’. Merton’s version says this: With no bird singing/ The mountain is yet more still.
Grammar check reminds that my last line should read ‘fuller’
It could just be a tree stump
or a rock pile, or a goat
that was poised to amble down
the cliff face, not a man at all.
Until his face flashes in your face,
becomes your face,
and fades into the sea.
There is no sound, no Icarus-like cry—
nothing… until the cat calls,
until the sea begins to speak
in an ancient voice—
or at least it murmurs
—as the door creaks open—
above a threshold of silence.
It’s nighttime on the farm.
What has this to do with bees buzzing?
With meadows moaning?
With truth bubbling up in sentences
from ponds delighted to be here at all?
Even the silence grows dense.
The cows nod sagely as they dream.
All this will be milk by morning.
I reckon – when I count at all –
First – Poets – Then the Sun –
Then Summer – Then the Heaven of God –
And then – the List is done –
The casket that carried him away
should have been made with gold inlay.
He was that grand a man, the poet.
And all they buried with him was his white coat.
His head was kept above another man’s,
his cock inside a frock made of silver cloth.
He was that fine a craftsman, brought forth
to engender so regally. The sloth
of mind to trust his kith and kind
with such a wealth of material, though,
for everyone knew how much those poems
were worth, boggles the mind.
Imagine him wrestling with himself
just to find out if he could. Imagine
the crime of the century stolen in free verse—
of worse. Imagine his poem a hearse.
The wind’s sole source must be the mountains;
it’s motion, inconsolable. The sculptor of
the world is blown sand blown around
by idolatries, by sequenced sand dunes,
not the winds per se, and they are not
the terror he’d thought them to be. The winds
would bring him peace—not so, the wings. They were
God’s tools, incommensurable with man’s ways.
You used wings to fly, for god sakes, used them
to go to heaven. When the clown found them on his back,
he found them suffused to his spine and soul.
When the wind blew, his wings lifted him up into the air.
The sky became meaningless, microscopic.
The sky became a happenstance into which he fled.
I have begun with thyme again. I did not start it from seed this time; it seemed unpropitious. I got some cuttings from my greengrocer and started them in some sort of growing medium, I’m not sure what, mica chips or something. Anyway, here they are. Come spring I shall plant them in the old garden, well-tended by my Aunt Breath until she died, in the hope that not only will this be the beginnings of thyme but the reimagining of the garden as well. Next year I shall add some roses and maybe mint. I like a good mint tea.
Now it is reasonable to ask, what do I think I’m doing here, planting anything in my dear aunt’s garden? I don’t own the land. It was sold soon after her death at age 87, two years ago, to a nice family with two nice kids.
So, I won’t be able to tend it. I won’t be able to watch it grow. Or sit in the evening and smell its fragrance. Or anything. I repeat: what do I think I’m doing here?
Here’s my answer: I shall enter the garden invisibly. Like the philosopher John Wisdom in his essay Gods does; who simply posits the existence of a gardener and lets the curious try to find him. I will let the new owner try to find me. There will be no one that curious. The thyme will simply appear one morning, as if someone planted it, someone invisible. As I return each night I shall become harder to see.
We get up early in the hospital. The bright lights come on at 5:00 am. The lights are never off, only dimmed. Breakfast comes hours later, after the doctors have made their rounds. This morning I am waiting for the surgeon. The brain surgeon. He’s a tough man to pin down. He’s tough to figure out. Sometimes he’s the first one to arrive; sometimes he doesn’t come at all.
While I wait, I tend to my thyme clippings, examining all the roots as if they were flowers. They are white filament-like structures that specialize in getting nutrients from the moisture of the soil. Just the opposite of flowers. A hydrotrope, not heliotrope.
In my room I have a copy of the Philosophical Investigations, by Ludwig Wittgenstein—a second hand copy, handed down from Aunt Breath. I find I have an annotation right next to the opening paragraph, the one from Augustine’s Confessions, that reads ‘Don’t think, look!’ which is all right insofar as it goes, but it goes not far enough. The argument as I understand it runs like this.
Though Augustine has thought out his little picture what language is, he has not studied language. He has not looked at it. He was lead therefore to a dangerous picture of language, that nouns were the whole story, that language connected to t Read the rest of this entry »