January 24, 2012

Night Journal

by Charles Wright

—I think of Issa, a man of few words:
The world of dew
Is the world of dew.
And yet . . .
And yet . . .

—Three words contain
                    all that we know for sure of the next life
Or the last one: Close your eyes.
Everything else is gossip,
                          false mirrors, trick windows
Flashing like Dutch glass
In the undiminishable sun.

—I write it down in visible ink,
Black words that disappear when held up to the light—
I write it down
               not to remember but to forget,
Words like thousands of pieces of shot film
                                            exposed to the sun.
I never see anything but the ground.

—Everyone wants to tell his story.
The Chinese say we live in the world of the ten thousand things,
Each of the ten thousand things
                               crying out to us
Precisely nothing,
A silence whose tune we’ve come to understand,
Words like birthmarks,
                      embolic sunsets drying behind the tongue.
If we were as eloquent,
If what we say could spread the good news the way that dogwood does,
Its votive candles
                  phosphorous and articulate in the green haze
Of spring, surely something would hear us.

—Even a chip of beauty
                      is beauty intractable in the mind,
Words the color of wind
Moving across the fields there
                              wind-addled and wind-sprung,
Abstracted as water glints,
The fields lion-colored and rope-colored,
As in a picture of Paradise,
                            the bodies languishing over the sky
Trailing their dark identities
That drift off and sieve away to the nothingness
Behind them
           moving across the fields there
As words move, slowly, trailing their dark identities.

—Our words, like blown kisses, are swallowed by ghosts
Along the way,
              their destinations bereft
In a rub of brightness unending:
How distant everything always is,
                                 and yet how close,
Music starting to rise like smoke from under the trees.

—Birds sing an atonal row
From tree to tree,
                  dew chants
Whose songs have no words
                         from tree to tree
When night puts her dark lens in,
One on this limb, two others back there.

—Words, like all things, are caught in their finitude.
They start here, they finish here
No matter how high they rise—
                             my judgment is that I know this
And never love anything hard enough
That would stamp me
                   and sink me suddenly into bliss.

January 20, 2012

This Might Have Been a Goodbye

by me

           I searched for you in the frozen fields. Your face seemed to peer from the distant trees, around the piles of snow dotting the land between. Echoes of your voice rustled tall, ice-slicked grass, exhalations of cold wind. You were there until I looked, and then you were not. Your absence became its own presence, ubiquitous as the cold. The numbness in my cheeks became your breath, the aching in my fingers your touch, pulling me forward. I pushed through snow as deep as my shins, searching — for an eyelash, a thread from your favorite scarf, a strand of hair caught in the grass. You were there until I looked, and then you were not. The presence of your absence all I could find. Before long, every crunch of snow became your bones under my boots, cracking into shards, scattering in the boundless white until I could not tell you from the snow melting into the earth.

January 09, 2012

To Starr

This post is dedicated to Starr, my dear friend. She passed on December 12th at the age of 21. This is nowhere near sufficient, but she loved poetry. So for you, Starr.

The Man Moves Earth
by Cathy Song

The man moves earth
to dispel grief.
He digs holes
the size of cars.
In proportion to what is taken
what is given multiplies—
rain-swollen ponds
and dirt mounds
rooted with flame-tipped flowers.
He carries trees like children
struggling to be set down.
Trees that have lived
out their lives,
he cuts and stacks
like loaves of bread
which he will feed the fire.
The green smoke sweetens
his house.

The woman sweeps air
to banish sadness.
She dusts floors,
polishes objects
made of clay and wood.
In proportion to what is taken
what is given multiplies—
the task of something
else to clean.
Gleaming appliances
beg to be smudged,
breathed upon by small children
and large animals
flicking out hope
as she whirls by,
flap of tongue,
scratch of paw,
sweetly reminding her.

The man moves earth,
the woman sweeps air.
Together they pull water
out of the other,
pull with the muscular
ache of the living,
hauling from the deep
well of the body
the rain-swollen,
the flame-tipped,
the milk-fed—
all that cycles
through lives moving,
lives sweeping, water
circulating between them
like breath,
drawn out of leaves by light.