In the days when a man would hold a swarm of words inside his belly, nestled against his spleen, singing. In the days of night riders when life tongued a reed till blues & sorrow song called out of the deep night: Another man done gone. In the days when one could lose oneself all up inside love that way, & then moan in the bone till the gods cried out in someone’s sleep. Today, Already I’ve three dark-skinned men discussing the weather with demons & angels, gazing up at the clouds & squinting down into the iron grates Along the fast streets of luminous encounters. I double-check my reflection in plate glass & wonder, Am I passing another Lucky Thompson or Marion Brown Cornered by blue dementia, Another dark-skinned man Who woke up dreaming one morning & then walked out of himself Dreaming? Did this one dare To step on a crack in the sidewalk, To turn a midnight corner & never come back Whole, or did he try to stare down a look That shoved a blade into his heart? I mean, I also know something About night riders & catgut. Yeah, Honey, I know something about talking with ghosts.
1. smoke above the burning bush 2. archnemesis of summer night 3. first son of soil 4. coal awaiting spark & wind 5. guilty until proven dead 6. oil heavy starlight 7. monster until proven ghost 8. gone 9. phoenix who forgets to un-ash 10. going, going, gone 11. gods of shovels & black veils 12. what once passed for kindling 13. fireworks at dawn 14. brilliant, shadow hued coral 15. (I thought to leave this blank but who am I to name us nothing?) 16. prayer who learned to bite & sprint 17. a mother’s joy & clutched breath
I dwell in Possibility – A fairer House than Prose – More numerous of Windows – Superior – for Doors – Of Chambers as the Cedars – Impregnable of eye – And for an everlasting Roof The Gambrels of the Sky – Of Visitors – the fairest – For Occupation – This – The spreading wide my narrow Hands To gather Paradise –
I drift into the sound of wind, how small my life must be to fit into his palm like that, holly leaf, bluejay feather, milkweed fluff, pin straw or sycamore pod, resembling scraps of light. The world slips through these fingers so easily, there’s so much to miss: the sociable bones linked up in supple rows, mineral seams just under the skin. I hold my palm against the sun and don’t see palm or sun, don’t hold anything in either hand. I look up, look away ( what’s that? ), I trip and stumble (fall again), find myself face down in duff, a foam of fallen live oak leaves, with only this life, mine at times.
Come live with me and be my love, And we will all the pleasures prove, That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields, Woods, or steepy mountain yields. And we will sit upon the Rocks, Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks, By shallow Rivers to whose falls Melodious birds sing Madrigals. And I will make thee beds of Roses And a thousand fragrant posies, A cap of flowers, and a kirtle Embroidered all with leaves of Myrtle; A gown made of the finest wool Which from our pretty Lambs we pull; Fair lined slippers for the cold, With buckles of the purest gold; A belt of straw and Ivy buds, With Coral clasps and Amber studs: And if these pleasures may thee move, Come live with me, and be my love. The Shepherds’ Swains shall dance and sing For thy delight each May-morning: If these delights thy mind may move, Then live with me, and be my love.
At night—the light turned off, the filament Unburdened of its atom-eating charge, His wife asleep, her breathing dipping low To touch a swampy source—he thought of death. Her father's hilltop home allowed him time To sense the nothing standing like a sheet Of speckless glass behind his human future. He had two comforts he could see, just two. One was the cheerful fullness of most things: Plump stones and clouds, expectant pods, the soil Offering up pressure to his knees and hands. The other was burning the trash each day. He liked the heat, the imitation danger, And the way, as he tossed in used-up news, String, napkins, envelopes, and paper cups, Hypnotic tongues of order intervened.
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee do go, Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery. Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then? One short sleep past, we wake eternally And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
My mother sleeps with the Bible open on her pillow; she reads herself to sleep and wakens startled. She listens for her heart: each breath is shallow. For years her hands were quick with thread and needle. She used to sew all night when we were little; now she sleeps with the Bible on her pillow and believes that Jesus understands her sorrow: her children grown, their father frail and brittle; she stitches in her heart, her breathing shallow. Once she even slept fast, rushed tomorrow, mornings full of sunlight, sons and daughters. Now she sleeps alone with the Bible on her pillow and wakes alone and feels the house is hollow, though my father in his blue room stirs and mutters; she listens to him breathe: each breath is shallow. I flutter down the darkened hallway, shadow between their dreams, my mother and my father, asleep in rooms I pass, my breathing shallow. I leave the Bible open on her pillow.