Thursday, April 30, 2009
In Blackwater Woods
Look, the trees
their own bodies
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
the long tapers
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
If you believe in the magic of language,
then Elvis really Lives
and Princess Diana foretold I end as car spin.
If you believe the letters themselves
contain a power within them,
then you understand
what makes outside tedious,
how desperation becomes a rope ends it.
The circular logic that allows senator to become treason,
and treason to become atoners.
That eleven plus two is twelve plus one,
and an admirer is also married.
That if you could just rearrange things the right way
you’d find your true life,
the right path, the answer to your questions:
you’d understand how the Titanic
turns into that ice tin,
and debit card becomes bad credit.
How listen is the same as silent,
and not one letter separates stained from sainted.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Tuned in Late One Night
Listen - this is a faint station
left alive in the vast universe.
I was left here to tell you a message
designed for your instruction or comfort,
but now that my world is gone I crave
expression pure as all the space
around me: I want to tell what is....
Remember? - we learned that still-face way,
to wait in election or meeting and then
to choose the side that wins, a leader
that lasted, a president that stayed in?
But some of us knew even then it was better
to lose if that was the way our chosen
side came out, in truth, at the end.
It's like this, truth is: it's looking out while everything
happens; being in a place of your own,
between your ears; and any person
you face will get the full encounter
or your self. When you hear any news
you ought to register delight or pain
depending on where you really live.
Now I am fading, with this ambition:
to read with my brights full on,
to write on a clear glass typewriter,
to listen with sympathy,
to speak like a child.
I spot the neighbor’s dog scampering across the lawn
with my name in its mouth,
leaving me to wander through the house anonymously
and scour the telephone directory for an alias.
When I say my name out loud it sounds like
someone else’s, a character in a play who cheats
the hero and comes to a bad end, or an obscure
athlete lost in the deep encyclopedia of baseball.
When I try writing it down on paper
I find I have also lost my signature. My hand
feels retarded, unable to perform its inky trick,
that unmistakable, eerie, Arabic flourish.
Perhaps the dog was never given a name
and is now eating mine with pleasure
under a porch in the cool, lattice-shadowed dirt.
Perhaps late tonight I will hear the voice
of my neighbor as she stands at her back door,
hands cupped around her mouth, calling my name,
and I will leap the hedge and come running.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
All the True Vows
All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.
There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.
Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.
Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.
Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen
nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.
By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.
Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,
it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.
in this place
no one can hear you
and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,
that way you’ll find
what is real and what is not.
I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.
Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
for the first time
after all these years
in my own voice,
before it was too late
to turn my face again.
Friday, April 10, 2009
My teacher lies on the floor with a bad back
off to the side of the piano.
I sit up straight on the stool.
He begins by telling me that every key
is like a different room
and I am a blind man who must learn
to walk through all twelve of them
without hitting the furniture.
I feel myself reach for the first doorknob.
He tells me that every scale has a shape
and I have to learn how to hold
each one in my hands.
At home I practice with my eyes closed.
C is an open book.
D is a vase with two handles.
G flat is a black boot.
E has the legs of a bird.
He says the scale is the mother of the chords.
I can see her pacing the bedroom floor
waiting for her children to come home.
They are out at nightclubs shading and lighting
all the songs while couples dance slowly
or stare at one another across tables.
This is the way it must be. After all,
just the right chord can bring you to tears
but no one listens to the scales,
no one listens to their mother.
I am doing my scales,
the familiar anthems of childhood.
My fingers climb the ladder of notes
and come back down without turning around.
Anyone walking under this open window
would picture a girl of about ten
sitting at the keyboard with perfect posture,
not me slumped over in my bathrobe, disheveled,
like a white Horace Silver.
I am learning to play
"It Might As Well Be Spring"
but my left hand would rather be jingling
the change in the darkness of my pocket
or taking a nap on an armrest.
I have to drag him into the music
like a difficult and neglected child.
This is the revenge of the one who never gets
to hold the pen or wave good-bye,
and now, who never gets to play the melody.
Even when I am not playing, I think about the piano.
It is the largest, heaviest,
and most beautiful object in this house.
I pause in the doorway just to take it all in.
And late at night I picture it downstairs,
this hallucination standing on three legs,
this curious beast with its enormous moonlit smile.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Those who don’t feel this Love
pulling them like a river,
those who don’t drink dawn
like a cup of spring water
or take in sunset like supper,
those who don’t want to change,
let them sleep.
This Love is beyond the study of theology,
that old trickery and hypocrisy.
I want you to improve your mind that way,
I’ve given up on my brain.
I’ve torn the cloth to shreds and thrown it away.
If you’re not completely naked,
wrap your beautiful robe of words
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
A Story That Could be True
If you were exchanged in the cradle and
your real mother died
without ever telling the story
then no one knows your name,
and somewhere in the world
your father is lost and needs you
but you are far away.
He can never find
how true you are, how ready.
When the great wind comes
and the robberies of the rain
you stand on the corner shivering.
The people who go by--
you wonder at their calm.
They miss the whisper that runs
any day in your mind,
"Who are you really, wanderer?"--
and the answer you have to give
no matter how dark and cold
the world around you is:
"Maybe I'm a king."