Archive for August, 2011
This year it’s piles of peppercorn, allspice
And cinnamon that fill the Keeper’s inn,
Not last year’s frankincense and myrrh. This year
As we watch his men scurry through the fields like mice
Deep in the world’s skin, we stay behind the gate,
For it is the Innkeeper who must weigh the fields of corn
This year, count the cattle, count the sheep, winnow rice,
Number the worms and snails, even equate
The sea with water fresh from mountain streams.
He must reckon a final tax on all the world’s
Finite bounty. Seal the gate. Make it a poem.
And by your grace, my lord, these poems cannot be dreams—
These dreams! They stamp like spiders through the gate,
My lord. They buzz my ears, like flies awake.
Where it always forms, where the mountains crowd
Against the old ravines, where the deaf owls live
Amongst the mustard plants, where they forgive
—at least forget—the way the ancient cloud
Could hide the rain inside each day’s blue sky.
Sure, they may feign a squawk, these birds, but they
Cannot mimic human speech; they cannot betray
Their lives with simple sentences; nor can they lie.
It’s not the vista of a thousand years
That we all fear, but a thousand seconds,
The time it takes the cloud to form the rain,
The rain to form the lake, the lake, it’s tears.
When owls view the cloud, they think it’s in their horns.
They think the deaf are dumb. And so the old lake forms.
He can taste the faint taste of tangerine
Deep in the back of what is, after all,
Her throat. His kisses are like trees. They scream
At summer’s wet opulence. Too tall
To climb –as if being were the big thing,
As if such innocence was just as good
As reading Plato in Vermont at 5 AM,
As if the one bird left in one wet tree was good
Enough to wake the crows to murder geese
And geese to gaggle crows—these trees don’t mourn
Or mock our loss. Neither kidney nor kiss
Is something they will miss. First born acorn
Is all they sing as little nuts roll down
Into the lake. Some will live. Some will drown.
It was summer. And I wasn’t thinking about
December: about all that sapless clacking,
about deciduous death.
Nor did I for a minute think about the process
of holding the branches up.
(Hint: Trees do not have muscles.)
And somehow I thought I’d be in a city,
not out here on this lonely perch
overlooking this great expanse of sea.
Truth is, it was more the glory of the leaves
that I was focused on, the flat broad
photosynthesis, the autumnal sun
and shadows; it was more the wet branching growth in
spring rain, the roots digging down in the rocky soil,
the sheer regeneration of it all.
Just think about it, oxygen, always on
the tip of my tongue, the fresh dream of it
filling the night sky, night after night…
So I became a nice hardwood birch tree,
good some day for furniture or for firewood,
and good right now as a tragic guide to
guide us on our trip through space,
the poéte maudit that lives in us all.
And when a whale breaks the surface
of the great sea, his skin may be raw but
his mind is clear as the ocean’s swell. And the oxygen
he has risen for is from my breath.