Embryonic Gesture The homunculus floats in a sweet, salty sea. In the darkness its first gesture is a translucent finger gently outstretched as if pointing to a future in a distance. Then a canted head or the wiggle of a mole’s toe. Perhaps a twist of the torso or a bent knee follows. Thus the embryo collects information in a galactic night while walking on water for only a short time until the future arrives with a blinding light and never ending noise. Falmouth, Maine 1-20
DOG TAGS To the soldiers whose suns have set over the beaches of Iwo Jima, the glacial ice of the Bulge, the fire storm of Dresden, the gangrenous limbs of Bull Run and the red mud of Da Nang, we try to remember but time obscures the agonies. Now part of the spectral universe you float above, boneless, muscle-less, mindless and weary of the search for resurrection while we below finger dog tags and conjure images of innocence, the browned skin at the beach, the football game, the prom, the suit, the flowers and the girl. Falmouth, Maine
Harley A lung full of Milwaukee muscle Pushing as far as it can go Down the blunt law of the asphalt, Iron pumping oil and fuel Through bellowing valves, The outlaw predator of the Badlands. Atop, a lord of America’s history, A lone Brandoesque heartbreaker Booted and leathered as the gunslinger Searching down the road For a Madonna, a muse of his poetic Where the bellicose stanzas of his song Barrenly echo in the clear space Of the purple canyon or the scorpion’s desert. The rider is a mystic of rebellion, His legs welded to an iron renegade Galloping uninhibited under a Dionysian sun Toward the freedom Of the intelligible revolt of sweet youth. Falmouth, Maine 3-20
EXAMINING A NUN Through the cloth I hear a heart, a saintly chanting heart. It has no reflection in the mirror. It’s an atmosphere, a vapor. It’s faith, blind and supplicating. I hear that the self has departed long ago to a land of ash, grey like a sin. There are no sins to hear through this cloth. They have been washed away to white, the pure nullish white of God, her god with no blemishes. Falmouth, Maine 08-20
BLUES In the languid months without my shadow I see that space even with its astral glow has so much darkness. A blue river runs through my heart with windy arms that hold me. I become Lorca’s dead orange tree that bears no fruit. I too ask the woodcutter to cut me down returning me to earth where gray flowers lay trampled by the feet of a dancing woman with flaxen hair. In her, innocent branches sway in a summer breeze. The sun is golden. It casts iron shadows. She was mine. Falmouth, Maine 08-20
NUCLEAR BLUE In the smoky sorrow, after the fall of the mourning curtain all has been burned to cinders leaving the ashy debris of our moments, The Towers – Columbine – Newtown and black mouths awkwardly singing a song of violent blues and massacre red. Yet, it is in our lullabies to our children that the colors of our future are brushed onto the canvas of human unity as small lives swell to the opening of life riding the current of innocence outward toward a landscape persevering despite the ultimate threat of a nuclear blue rain, not just another moment of deranged sanity but rather a collective application of a Jekylled science in the face of the collapse of human language, the very skin of our planet. Falmouth, Maine 3-20
Boardwalk A grey wind lashes off the channel. The tents are down, the Ferris Wheel dormant. Pennants flutter. Few straggle the boardwalk, some lonely, Wishing to be near the sea, the brooding parent. As we walk, you are coiled into me. Ours is the warmth of solitude shared, The intimate instant of anti-ecstasy, A reflection on primary reason hidden from the thievery of words. Now only the murmurs of quiet interiors, Cages where the canaries sleep Hooded from the torments of shadows Falmouth, Maine
You are asleep now. Your chest moves sweetly in and out. Syllables are quiet on your tongue and your head rests on the chest of the pillow like an exhausted lover. Our son sleeps in the next room, gently whimpering with the first dream, the astral bullet carrying the mystery of half sleep where the moon is a honeyed cream, the ichor of the gods themselves.
The house is quiet. The noises of the furniture, books and mice are gone. The clock ticks mutely. I am aware of time. I will never have this moment with them again. Minutes are bleeding away. There is no styptic. You and my son are voices in the snow, merely words falling and melting away.
And what of me lying here beside you? What am I but the blond son of Heraclitus standing on the bank of his river? I am merely an abbreviation of what I’m becoming. Neither of you will be with me in the estuary when I am subsumed by the sea, the vast and eternally amnestic nothing. I will not remember you.
Our home holds us together tonight. Its walls block the caprice of living a life on a revolving planet, spinning through the universe past wretch and glory toward its disappearance. Our encampment inside these walls is a safe district where we can sleep, dream and love sheltered from the weather of the seasons that revolve in a circle always returning until they stop.
The steely fingers of a winter evening, a heart wandering the landscape of love, the volume of the sea hurled against granite in spumy vanguards and in the wind from the north, a regiment of pine trees bent at the waist. The silent hour. The tall clocks have stopped. In time’s dark closet we drop our clothes and stand, flesh and bone. Enamored with our shadows we reach for the other half tone. The absent mirror shows no countenance. We are vaporous, lustful carbons, as we coil in our embrace. From it I dream of white apices, the room, the ladder to there, the mountain top. The visions come in the lonely haunting hours of morning when I smell a wood fire in the distance that is not mine. I smell the fragrance of day when I will shoulder curves of coincidence and chance as a stooping burden on a soul facing the arduous ravine of yesterday’s tomorrow. It is a sour weight, a mass of daily entanglements that fill the auricles with a serrated anxiety.
I wish to stay in the embered, iron warmth of this room where hands advance ten abreast into the shadows that please us, the shadows that live while dying in the absolute tangle of us. I want to stay hidden here in this room with you and my overcoat hooked in the corner uttering not a word of urgent dissent while the snow professes its nutritive silence.
Leather bag, red high heels, thick glasses for the eyes. Embrace of an old love remembered in the valley with the whistle of the train traveling toward an end that passes, too. Remembered as strong and agile. Remembered as innocent, emotionally myopic until the mocking bird, high on a wire, began to sing. Remembered then were his hands. His desire recalled as urgent. Tears of joy stained both young souls in an end that also passed.
Yellow taxi with slapping windshield wipers. Slush falling from the sky. Leather bag, red high heels, frosted thick glass for the eyes. Aloneness. The pond had lost the water. Dry. Remembered as an apartment high above the city, art, caviar. Dry. The pond with the sunfish was a thick wide mud caked with the rays of time, molecules in movement forever, an end she’ll never see pass.
Remembered as a lesson learned late while she looked out the window at the passing countryside and listened to the plaintiff whistle of an iron horse.
Fair children, white innocence, hearts of tenderness, shadows now on a brick wall at dusk. The mothers have called them home from the falling sky of night. Fish and potatoes, knives and forks, buttermilk, and the lies like mustard, smooth and bitter, warmly seductive. Purple mountain majesty stretched sea to sea, a land under God, a life for that land, a medal for an empty chest, a flag for a silver coffin, the futureless future of the eternal evermore.
To the soldiers whose suns have set over the beaches of Iwo Jima, the glacial ice of the Bulge, the fire storm of Dresden, the gangrenous limbs of Bull Run and the red mud of Da Nang, we try to remember but time obscures the agonies. Now part of the spectral universe you float above, boneless, muscle-less, mindless and weary of the search for resurrection while we below finger dog tags and conjure images of innocence, the browned skin at the beach, the football game, the prom, the suit, the flowers and the girl.
ONE HOUR WITH A LOVER
Starts and stops in a slippery embrace behind a drawn shade on a summer morn. Voices sing off key to the adagio, the allegro, the adagio and repeat again. Double shadows on the wall tangle a thousand times. Have it now. Have it there, inside the other. Find it there, the heat, the rub, the piece that’s missing, the hand you were never born with.
The gate closes within the hour. You must hurry. You breathe more oxygen and sweat more salt as you canter toward fatality and its apex. Then the gate closes and the other, the lover recedes. The hand, the heat, the rub are gone merely the bromidic ephemera of an hour, the malediction of lust.
REALIZATION OF LUST
Tonight having left the world of purpose behind, I walk Jagg’s Creek toward the falls. The air carries the fragile aroma of a downpour. Above the sky is clearing under the second moon while in my heart there is a tepid quivering of flesh. I feel it in my hands and on my lips. In my ears I hear the splashing of the salmon as the force of procreation drives them upstream, their fecundity bursting their bellies with seed. As I listen my heart swells and the quivering becomes a thirst spreading to my arms and legs in a parathesia. I think of you so close to me and yet at such a distance, a length that must be traveled before the dryness is quenched. After the quenching for the salmon there is death. For me, perhaps a child, a true purpose to the world. Death awaits me further upstream.
The performance is ultimate. My shrill pipe reaches with its fingers of melody into the dawning sky searching for the magical carpet of the rainbow that I will walk to the end, there to find destiny, the ever more, the Amen.
I am accompanied by Time on the piano. He’s dressed in a black night suit, crisp and creased white shirt, black bow tie and black leather shoes that depress the pedals propelling the revolution of our well-worn planet as it hurtles through a deaf universe, a universe of distances unimaginable, stars incalculable and a weightless air that creaks with divine steps.
I play in unison with my accomplice as we wonder through the adagio avoiding the maledictions of a faithless world. We cross rivers and estuaries where the egrets search for their own destinies. We enter the woods. Shafts of a fall sunlight beam down from the canopy warming my skin and bone. As my lungs respire with the music I am serene and contentedly aware of myself. As the first movement ends I feel like a flower, turgid and seeping a sugar honey for the bees and all of nature.
The second movement begins. Time has broken into an allegro. I struggle to keep pace with the dance of his fingers across the keys. My heart is pounding and I am wet with my own saltwater. I feel close to the sea which is squalled by Viking winds from the North. The sea rises and falls in a swelling tide of apogee and nadir. I rise and sink on the waves that spume and drift into the wind like the notes from my pipe that disappear into an evanescence so that I question whether they are truly real. Then another question follows – Am I real or merely an ephemera with the life of a musical note? The movement ends with pipe and piano kissing passionately in a lustful embrace beyond any measure of betrayal.
I was tired. My mouth was dry on the reed but to my surprise Time began the third movement with a Monk-like improvisation. The notes were difficult to follow. It felt dream like. I was dissociated from any reality that I had known. I was sleeping, walking into Time’s mind where the arrangement of notes were erratic, seemingly random yet with a cohesion at the same time. I found myself on the mountain top with a cool jazz surrounding me, a music that forced me to raise my arms to the ultramarine sky in a supplication, a final surrender to the splendor of nature herself. I was becoming nature so that I was the mountain top as well as the valley where the mourners were gathered anticipating the arrival of the cortege which had carried me through the fields of wheat, past the ancient stone houses and the faces of children who were mesmerized by the procession as if they were seeing their own fate pass by. The third movement ended with the sound of musical flowers dropping downward into the grave. I was exhausted. I rose, turned to the audience and bowed. I heard nothing. I looked up. No one was there. There was a window. Through it I could see the rising sun of a new day. It was at that instant that I could smell the bacon burning downstairs.
THE SPECTRAL HEART
I sleep submerged in a lethargic pallor in a room of echoes; sounds of shadows; distant voices from the inaccessible district of time, that lofty precinct of criminal air and grotesque proportion where when midnight approaches the death bell rings and visages appear. These are not just the faces of my dead ones. You are there, too, when I look into the deeper chamber, the ventricle where wounded love nests in its own bed blanketed with the sorrows of sterility. Your face is unrecognizable yet so familiar that I feel you more than I see you. Your sense is that of a pathos, the sadness of the distance between two hearts, that wasteland of raucous tears and morning teeth, foul with the breath of soured love.
Yes, I see your face in this trabeculated chamber of my heart. I see it in all of the distortions of a house of mirrors, the angles and shadows of your cyclonic psychology bent and gnarled by the transience and grotesquerie of a merely specular life. But I don’t find your heart here. It’s the same heart that you had in your mouth when you kissed me, the same heart that was in your breast when we cried and the same heart that through an intimate cord fed what was ours only. That heart is gone, now ungraspable. I am left alone in this deepest recess of my heart, this most severe canyon that resounds with the chorus of corpses, the ghostly voices of the luckless leaves that have fallen from the tree to be raked into piles and burned to ash as if there was never a life to them.
The stubby awkward hand of a child casts a sharp sunlit shadow as it reaches for a glass paperweight. In her eyes I see a nascent curiosity, an impulse to know, to shape an objective world into an understandable order albeit an order vulnerable to the vicissitudes of living, an order that will change a thousand times as she grows.
I anticipate the storm, a blizzard, a white out, confining days at home listening to the sea and the winds blowing down from the maritime provinces. I see the swirling grays of an irascible sky as the storm gathers darkly. What is it that I fear? Is it the chaos of the brewing tempest or something else? I don’t fear the ferocity of the weather. I fear losing my child to the world, a sphere spinning madly on the sharpened blade of time, whittling itself away to the point of disappearance. I’m afraid that my daughter is vanishing in front of me.
I help her hand as she grasps the paperweight. In unison we shake it. I can feel her excitement, a glee as the snow begins to fall over the erect towers of a city reducing them to spectral shadows in a distance. The blizzard continues and the streets are covered yet walkers move down the avenues ducking in and out of surreptitious doorways as they wander searching for a destination so different for each person and yet the same. The street trees are gathering snow on their branches so that the harsh melodies of the city are muffled leaving the limpid quiet of a country crossroads. In the quiet there are assignations in furtive hotel rooms where lovers sip champagne, make love, and ready for the train to the suburbs, there to reenter their desperate lives of illusive love surrounded by family and quotidian responsibilities. In restaurants diners gaze out to the falling snow, blanketing the city gardens, while eating oysters and escargot.
I see this all in the mystery of the first snow, a storm bestowed by the awkward hand of a child curious about the order of her world, a world vastly different that before, more hostile, more adult. I follow her eyes as she watches the snowflakes falling. The snow stops as suddenly as it came when she asks, “Is it snowing where Mommy lives?”