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Slow summer weight lifted
winter not yet brittling the air,
just the dry breeze turning cool as it touches
in Autumn exquisiteness,
bare arms and neck.
Breathing clearly over me,
how sad the passing perfection of this air.
Black, clear water
sings its depth.
Meteor shower of ripple-light licks the surface.
levitating for as long as they move
in an impossible dance above slow currents.
They dance above a song so slow we barely hear it -
Slower than molasses and transparent as deep space.
What does she sing?
A billion scores written in A, T, G, and C,
Remixed endlessly in a larger melody,
and counterpointed by edies of extinct body plans.
And each note sustained for its allotted time,
Then falling down into far silence of and ancient bed.
We look down into that slow darkness
and see ghosts of the great arcs of melody
in gestures fossilised into hard-coded neural paths,
in the tattooed lines of bloody clan motifs,
and the stories,
Oh the self-same stories,
The repeated pantheon rippling across every new made heart.
Yet something in the glancing stones, in the gloriously jagged light
says She loves us more for our futile defiance,
for throwing off gravity in a desperate last leap from that surface.
With a half smile She whispers:
“Do not forget, mortal, that my cruelty
to a million generations
gave you eyes, hands and creative will.
You defy me with my blood-gifts,
therefore defy me but remember that you are no innocent in this song -
child of wild, dark currents
of burnt out stars
and a billion lost souls who burned to live on”
I saw you in the morning sun,
You left the last village a little before me
Picking up your pack in the cool, clean air.
I saw you under a broad, pale, blue sky
Inside a small room in Florence.
A small room with a sky so broad it stretched my eyes.
And I saw you at the threshold of an opening door
At the top of an old, dark stairwell
Lit only by the lightness of hearts
Changed by their journeys.
You gave me tea
And we walked along the road as we sat.
“This road goes nowhere” you said,
(Smiling, delighted) in the way you sipped your tea.
“Yes” I said “This road leads far away back to this road”
in the way I breathed with you.
And we laughed aloud
in the way we were quiet.
The sunlight of that morning room,
I thought it came from outside, from the light of that old enchanted city.
And then I thought it came from you:
thought your light came flooding in through the window to shimmer on your hair.
And then, later still, you pointed out along the road, and said
And I understood - though it was the understanding of a man throwing a rope around the wind, seeing it lift for a moment and
Thinking he caught something.
We have wandered from that road that seemed so clear.
Wandered and stumbled back, sometimes together and sometimes apart,
Known together and sometimes apart the pain of forgetting and the
Joy of remembering.
Called gently when one was lost - or argued over an old map when we both were.
Walk beside me, Pilgrim:
We will go again as thieving children
Through the window of a nearby farmhouse,
To steal rough, fresh bread from a kitchen table.
We will run with roaring hearts and gasping laughter.
While the unseen farmer watches us smiling,
As we carry away the bread he
Left for us to find.
Walking through the quietly fading light of dusk.
Succulent light on the precise fork of my eye.
Oh don't end,
now and now and now, and each footfall another now.
How strange it is, my clawing with words at these moments falling away underneath me,
like sand quietly falling away under bare toes as the shallow tide retreats.
Filigree of leaves brushing the clear arc of sky with perfect washes of light,
so gentle that they are more still than a photograph on a glass slide.
How precise the idiosyncrasies of little rocks,
an impossible weight of days compressed into each of their broken and gnarled faces.
And a paper thin dried leaf, lying prone, is a sculpture of its history -
the intertwined story arcs of a hundred thousand cells and their chloroplasts
breathing the changing sunlight and air into their solid notations,
into planes that are the final summation of a million molecular gradients.
A hundred afternoons like this written into each little book, a billion undecipherable moments felt.
The perversity of this poetry:
the mad scratching of words to catch this delightedly empty moment,
to pin it down as it gleefully fades.
Is this, then, the reward? To know this quiet agony? To witness it?
Not ecstasy, at least not the kind that some part of me expected to arrive one day,
but a sadness, a sweet, overwhelming sadness at the passage of unholdable beauty,
allowing with the fond sympathy of a parent
this child clutching at words.
Go to the sink and splash water on your face:
hold with mind the dripping cold, then the dry towel’s welcome scuffing,
then the cool fading of delighted skin.
This sip of espresso, warm, bitter, comforting and sweet,
but each one empties the little cup until it is gone.
I try to draw it out but without each emptying sip, without each slowing breath, it never was.
Is the best we can hope for to open our toes in the sand?
Let the grains rush through, to touch that flow with delighted nerve endings,
and reassure the child holding an armful of little buckets and frantically watching moments pass.
Four lanes thick
of city traffic.
air dropped like dye in swirling water
slow motion blossoming of space out of chaos.
Like time lapse clouds opening -
They are the storm-frothed sea, how strange they
Somewhere unseen, before and behind
traffic lights quelled the madness.
This madness we try to escape with more madness,
bruises more gentle than the seething mind,
ink drawn under skin to find lines more natural,
rolled in dirt more clean than these sanitary rooms.
Volunteer for war to escape the war inside,
but return home with another war inside,
Everything the same, but older.
How hungry I am for faces,
whose madness takes them from the madness of the world,
that special madness learned, or remembered,
eyes curious and clear,
and heart lost somewhere in the wind.
Let me go with them,
somewhere into that strange desert,
where together we are all alone,
and alone we are together.
The Face whose glance,
whose calm breath
four lanes thick
of city traffic.
Why choose me for your shaman, your poet?
I did not ask for this.
Or did I ask for it?
Did I, in fact, choose my wounds?
-like dusting off an old map?
Choose my frailties like a sailmaker
for the strange ship?
And my sensitivities so to set the tiller against the weight of the wind
just so, toward a perplexing cloud gathering far.
Why put these words in my mind’s ear,
and make me run to catch them before they slip into the grey forgotten?
Why do you fill my time with your dictation?
Why call me to the strange nexus
where the real sings of the possible paradise
and the half-forgotten demon,
where the twinkle-eyed smith is in a distrustful dance with the strange-eyed wanderer,
where technologist and mystic lash out,
each a ghost to the other, futile fists passing noiselessly through.
They are locked together in a fluid I can’t quite see that disturbs their clothes,
where one ghostly hand grasps a shirt nearly to ripping,
“WAKE UP” they scream to the other’s face, silent.
These two men, wrestle and now kiss,
loving and hating the other, they arc like welding electrode to steel,
then stick and hum malevolently, current throbbing.
Does boyhood fear of dark
condemn me to these nights spent during the day?
to the thirsty desert and a waking dream of flood,
frothing with strange meanings around me in the quiet.
Am I condemned for my immodest thought,
for the lack of discretion of what may be thought, and what may not?
I mis-spell my words, lifting their edges
and underneath is the shrieking of word-space, and a thousand cross-bred languages and
I did not ask for this.
Must I be here, in this throbbing hum?
But, did I in fact ask to be?
If Your will is to keep me half broken
wandering Your desert
in this pain-joy,
in this terror and wonderful longing,
Then I accept.
But am I a warning or a guidepost?
Am I to make others strong by my weakness?
One thing is certain:
I am marked with unravelling stitches restitched,
never finally whole.
this is the privileged sentence,
for a shaman welder.
Vitalis (for Paul)
Tonight on this barren ridge with star-dome sky
I sit at my spear-mending,
rekindling a low fire, far thunder echoing the inside horizon.
And, unexpected, your memory comes to sit with me, my brother.
Somewhere in the ocean’s strange frontier.
beneath the mindless wandering of currents,
and their dumb chaos of waves,
your rich will was stolen.
The ache of the too full breath,
the hard texture of the spear-gun grip in your palm,
and the cold lick of water on your sides,
you ran like a wolf through those dark, slow fields.
How close the sirens and their slow serene song.
They watched your thunder-hearted chase,
softly took your hand, and with their kisses,
forgot your breath away.
What glory you leave, Achilles!
Is it with envy I see your laughing death?
-your reckless will and unmarked body
and broken mourners without solace?
But now, years later, the tide slowly inhales and exhales,
still dull to this moment
and to the rich life it diluted into darkness.
I will call Death by no more soft names.
You were the silver pre-dawn,
you were the joy that calls us out of a gentle bed
to chase the cold transparency of the new day,
while the rest sleep.
With unforgivable thirst you ravished the sunlight,
you drank sunrise on the Kimberleys like kissing a woman’s warm skin.
And in aching fingertips on the rock face,
you tested your willful cunning against danger.
You knew the unfulfillable ache,
the artist’s subterranean will that traverses even sleep
perhaps seeking to close childhood wounds
and return to childhood dreamscapes.
With your silvery square format film
you stole crisp photographs from wild birds,
and the shy light from fading afternoon.
Let me stand on the wild plateau and breathe that light too.
I will look for you in square-chested Orion, brother,
and I will raise my much-mended spear in answer to yours,
and I will not forgive a mediocre light-lust,
in the time before I too wash into the dark waters of fading remembrance.
I will laugh with you
and run with your silent, thundering wolves,
and know the sweetness of light-prey.
But to Death and his closed back cover I will give nothing willingly.
Let us not try to contain it in some grand, dusty title -
instead let us stand on this old ridge together, and look out, pointing, and say “There!”.
You call me beyond their safe professions,
You turn my compass inwards-out, to the wild unknown.