Letter to my Daughter
sometime past midnight
I am reading your note, the story of your equinox afternoon. I can smell the sugary musk of rain and rot. I see the field and you in slow motion playing with a ball that gets away and rolls into the elongated shadows of the trees. I am a slug munching leaves there and, as you pass, twitch my antennae into the vibrating air. You kick the ball back out under the open red-orange evening sky.
Tomorrow the light will begin its retreat, allowing the world to sink back into its roots. In breath, out breath. Bittersweet. Little Molly is curled beside me, her thin black lips hidden by white hair.
I love you.
The floor of my mind is littered with words — scrawled, scribbled out, crumpled words. I hear them whispering to one another — lonely, shifty, resistant as shadows in wind, as bugs in cracks, as sprouts growing in the fetid dark. Some are annoying, sharp rocks under bare feet, others threatening as broken glass. Some are shallow as photos fallen from a collage, little value on their own, pennies on the ground. Others are blobs of paint that did not make it to the canvas, beautiful, dry and beyond recall. Others are worlds orbiting their own remote stars.
Observed they change. Their gravity does not obey the rules. They float, change polarities, attract and repel at random, sometimes swirling, sometimes playing dead.
World without words
THOUGHTS WHILE LEAVING……
setting out upon a long journey I take my lantern off the post
the hills in the west are approaching Jupiter
a young moon
in the 7th house
horns to the east
floats low in a purple lea
half in shadow/half in light
I take the path of the terminator.
there are endless stones in this path
each stone a world
and endless steps in this journey
each step a birth/each step a death
birth/death blended into this exquisite twilight
through which I go towards Jupiter
and the edge goes with me
for we are in need of the sea.
the little moon
the little moon
that starved so long in the brass box
the little moon
who only eyes of dream can see
who lay so long sunk in a chilly abyss
beyond the reach of conscious fire
she has summoned me
to leave the daylight realm
cold stars swirl and drown in the black sea that must be crossed
on a winter night
first passing the lava bone brain forest of an inner deep
I set out
she keeps her dark face forever turned to dark
she stands behind ripped clouds
hanging from the proscenium arch of night
peeking in at the living world
aching with light
on a winter night we set out
on that terrible journey
through the larvae brain bone forest
over sunk stars sparkling beyond reach
only eyes of dream can gather the crystals
the frozen shipwrecked treasures from which the moon was born.....
Road's Eye View
And her dogs replied, "Let us begin with death and the possibility of death for this is the humid season of atrocity and wonder and the starting point is fear and desire twisted together, inseparable vines, the assailable heart and the available flesh lashed to a skeleton raft, survivors from the carbon sea shipwrecked in a stinking swamp, ten thousand tiny concertinas squeak in the buzzing, clicking, humming dark."
...where are you here I am here I am who are you here I am where I am where are you here I am where I am where are you here I am here I am I will feed your daily flesh where are you here I am where I am I cannot sleep here I am here I am peel back my skin and eat...
when you came
and the sea was night
be with me always
o Boat — night and day at sea
your touch —
at last I speak
laughing at me
because you are kind
my heart can grow
because you love me
I do not need to know tonight
the foghorns hare aroused me
from the dream
I drift on
away from sleep
away from sleep
in you — in me
and the blissful
the murmur of your holy name
awakening in my heart at last
the fulfillment of my deepest
perhaps I can never return
my way is with you
if I cannot reach you tonight
streets and bushes
let me be
I will sing and die
waves on the shore
the end of the sea
if you touch me
make me mad
your love is enough
Heart — Night —
Cloud of Dancing
you do love me
that is enough
stairs of stone
and laughter skyward —
as though I die
telling me —
be at home my child
my darling, my earth and look for me
I am here behind every guise
garlanded by Love’s bitter-sweet tears
I am writing this in the dark
fingers dipped in ink
ushering each reluctant word
to its place upon the page, the
invisible theatre. It is risky business,
spies and traitors everywhere,
slavery and broken minds,
but these are strong old friends —
old as war.
if the blood red rose
blooms white some spring
lighting its obscure
part of the night
a small perfumed moon
nestled among its thorns
who would protest this wonder?
I tremble before love’s simplicity
oh bitter sweet surrender
oh ever sweetening trust
even death is turned
let it pass through me
love’s terrifying light
should I become ash
it will be enough
Elegy for a Poet
John Chance, June 9, 1934 - February 1, 1992
Before the final breath and night
swallowed the glow above the hill
and in the eye
before the bloodsplash of light
pulsing with unborn and terrifying thoughts
was stilled in the gently falling hush
world to world of the quietest breath
and the last petal of a most beautiful flower fell
into the quick black stream of death
fell down and forever from view
know this darkness that settled
this disappearing act forever playing out
within the world, this knife
around which the wound dried
was delivered by angels.
You were a splash of light
between two worlds
grooving, ransacking visions
till kingdom came
singing till you shattered
ravaged by innocence.
You were a dying man
hungry for the company
of rain soaked pines
a downed bird whose fierce eye
grew dim in the cage by the door.
Holy Mary, mother of god
you were a curly-headed boy
stealing to the lake for an evening swim.
Pray for us sinners
stealing back to the lake for an evening swim
stealing back to lost summer.
Pray for us now, at the hour of our death
as I kiss your wax brow
at the door that is always locked.
Now, back into the current flowing past this quiet room, back to the
leaving road. A taxi stops in the middle of the street. I throw in my bag
and go. He drives to a market where I board a bus which moves out to a
road edged by trash, blooming fence posts and occasional makeshift cafes
and with cars, food carts, trucks, bicycles, buses, chickens, people,
starving dogs and overloaded tilting wagons pulled by dying horses… and all
moving down the smelly gray river, a hydra-headed body decorated with scars
and symbols… moving... always in the same direction... Chinandega... hottest
city in Nicaragua... Chinandega... where the hen and rooster lie shackled together
by the feet of three women sitting at table in the middle of the road. Chinandega...
where life is how they keep the meat fresh until it's time to eat.
Ontology of Clouds
A thrown stone finds its resting
place within the grass —
the egg, more than a tombstone,
must shatter first into light —
what is born must devour itself
in order to survive its darkness,
its promise and threat.
Dandelion lanterns along the path,
soon blown out, are not a loss, no
seed is a loss. In the green light
of my first summers, seeing the wild
mass of morning glories swarming
secretly over overlooked places,
I knew I had inherited a lie.
When the spirit is wounded
and the wound is deep
be gentle — in this ache,
this flare of dying light, again
and again we risk everything.
Salt stained clouds foam up the sky —
it is on an afternoon like this
we will begin again with nothing.
When I see the brown hills lying
coldly in the sly distance
and the clouds having lost their ocean
looking for a place to weep
and the crystal drop on the still leaf tip
I remember the angels
perfumed and ancient as midnight
new as silver of the waxing moon
who spoke to me of death.
At dawn I went to the hill that sleeps
and called their names
loudly louder and louder
until even the snakes in their dens
then softly I called them
quietly whispering each name
until there was no sound at all
but the tolling of a distant bell.....
It was then they came
scratching the sky, reaching through
the eternal blue dream with their talons
clawing long blazing marks in the wind —
and in that moment,
sweet inconsolable lover, water brother,
one mad despised flower
with no petals at all/with translucent petals
growing beneath the bridge/beneath the fig tree
laughing to itself
bird on the morning breeze
empty of everything but light
as the slow wheel of the moon turns
and the world
blown backward in long streamers
becomes a memory
plucked and lost
a reed tossed on the sea
disappearing beneath old stones
and the town sleepers
fade and float away
above the town
clouds resembling shawled women
on currents of breath
their flickering forms
hurrying along the ecliptic
dragging their shadows
through the inky
in the street lamps
and the graveyard
stones facing west
blunted by rain
and the rubbing wind
each clasping still
its scentless image
of a summer day
a traveler appears
compared to stone
in the cemetery vines
delivered from death's sleep
a past returning to release itself
a future coming to rejoin itself
I remember it all
the human flood
the empty chair
the calf crying
before a growling wind
lost histories leaking
through the spirit barrier
a delta of pain
a bayou of suffering.
I awake beneath
the magpie's beak
see it reach
for my eye
see the world
turn red and black
and white and fade.
This is not death
brushing against my breast.
I am smudged and washed
in the stiffening sheen
of my own blood
and readied for flight.
It has always been spoken of
as the grave and womb of light
this most brief day
this deepest midnight
stiffened with ice and silence.
It is crucial now that there be
harbors and pools and islands
of light, and it is necessary
that there be song
for the dead are everywhere
stricken with grief, wandering
among the birds of winter but
with song they may be comforted
and Love, on this longest of nights,
requires the giving of a gift.
I have been up all night
writing and re-writing
watching the stars
tick across the sky.
the Big Dipper is just
beyond my window.
By 3 am only stars.
Then in the hush
just before dawn
when time slows
nearly to a stop I see
my grandmother’s dog
the one she made live outside
that entire North Dakota winter
his pleading, cold-crazed eyes
a sad, two-star constellation.
They shot him in the spring.
The sun doesn't rise.
The world falls face first
into its light
finds its mark
fiction of the day.
With regret I sense
before I can see
the Holy Dark
dissolve into grainy
morning. Here and there
a bird stirs in its quills.
they are on the roof
rattling the gutters
pecking at the tiles.
One of these days
they will pull
the house beam out
and the whole thing
will fall down.
They are not gone, they are on bricks
beneath plaster, beneath paint,
beneath posters and handbills fragile
as snakeskin abandoned to the sun and wind,
beneath the stenciled telephone, a face,
"Jesús, el teléfono del diablo" — "Mexico, poco real"
and startled black figures suspended in a running tumble
past creeping vines turning what was once a wall
into a crumbling spine blackened by the repeating,
always humid afternoon.
When the day is done I open my window to the street
stir my brush into the sleeping paint and begin again.
I am working my way back,
practicing speech, re-learning
the language spoken at the bottom
of the world, where the hair is.
I am threading my way back
through the complicated rain
where the words were. They
do not want you to read this.
I am learning your language,
working my way back to our
last universal common ancestor
enrapt by blue black dawn.
She is the moon we see traveling
at the edge and words spoken from
dream. Listen. I am re-learning our
language. These are the words they
do not want us to speak, this silence
reverting to the mean. The lost river
has brought us together, this moment
taking shape within us.
And all this time, her lying dead in the
ground and me looking everywhere
to find this stone that has not moved
and trees willy nilly where their seeds fell.
Seattle – on the occasion of my mother’s death
Touched by your eyes, I quake. Whatever is good has ceased to flow. I throw the poison mirror away. The walls close towards center. Barely room to breathe.Morning comes and again I resolve to survive the day, overcome this. We had planned to do that. Times have been better. My flesh hurts. I plunge back into sleep.But the urge comes again, jarring open my eyes. You aren't here. What am I creating here? Or am I just re-living-re-living-re-living the worst old outcomes? There was a truth here somewhere. Sinking, my thoughts become seeds seeking the comfort of dark. Memories are of no value. Where I am now I am safe, between everything, away and alone under a high cloud sky.In this inner world of the closed flower there is a moment’s rest. The wind and tide erase all. I do not speak the language here. It is a comfort. I communicate through half tones, faint smiles. Outside the petals, rain and finally a clear sky and distant mountains asleep under their snow. Having held back too long, I do not cry. We bend or break. Now I lay me down to sleep. The rain drenched petals creak. I am lowered into the storm – small boat, small wings – to try the sea.— asha
to the disembodied
painted faces of the inner air
the stone voice speaks
the whorls upon waking weep
the swamp of singing reeds
the growing world
turns to listen
delirious with eternity
there is no answer
in the winter sun
birds are thinking
they do not reply
I have returned
from a long journey
I have changed
the end and the beginning
stir and separate my thoughts
it is noon at my place on earth
Life at the top of the stairs
Having to be somewhere
I found myself living
on the landing at the top of the stairs.
A thousand times a thousand times
I finished in my mind
the unfinished painting
leaning against the wall.
The eight-legged one,
tiny Protectorate of the Shadows
guarding her eggs,
she alone knows
the rest of the story, the window,
the comatose trees,
the fog drenched night with
all the sad creatures and
voices caught in the scaffolding there.