Compulsion and Sorrow
I tell one story and then another story and always it’s the same
story about the lost bees. They swarmed and left.
What was broken remains broken:
tree limbs after the storm strewn all over the yard.
That was something that happened so I count other things:
socks, stones, feathers on the ground, a basket of eggs.
How many times did I fill a glass of water and put it beside me at
And how many times was it still full in the morning?
I dream of presence. I dream this often. How often? Ten
times? Twenty? And then I forget.
I count again. Counting on it again.
Brushing my long hair every morning.
I tell one story, then another, and it is always the same story.
Surcharge for credit in the city of angels. I was foolish in ways I didn’t know possible. The sky streaks and then, later, tiny lights come on in the hills. They call this a basin. It goes on for miles. Can I wash my hands in dust? Can I wash my hands? They call this the golden land and it stretches out beyond relief. Now, no heat in the Millennium Hotel and a lone bug trawling the line of sight. After that, the breaking point.
The tree inverted - its branches
become roots - the drawing
made to explain the workings
of the human eye, perception
and vision being two aspects
of the same experience. Poor
roots, flailing their ever
more delicate threads into air.
“Shot of whiskey,” she thought, from nowhere, not because she ever drank the stuff, but because it seemed the kind
of random association one might have at the end of a long day. Beauty is what she wanted to be, but didn’t know the first thing about. “Shot through with light,” was an expression she liked. Radiance or the idea of glowing from within seemed a worthy aspiration. Unruly she was, actually, and messy, useless papers and books crashing to the floor, and she too defeated to pick them up. At least, capable now of candor when she looked in the mirror, she saw limit smudging her eyes. She looked ahead, steady on her feet, or so she thought.
Close on to the longest night of the year, moon just past full. Nothing to declare, I walk through customs, papers in one hand, luggage in the other. Gatekeepers nod. Gatekeepers never know what I carry, what I leave behind: revelation; rival gangs of angels; oranges and lemons; crimson amaranth: time before trouble
So listen, let me confess, I do not live in a world that lends itself easily to description or evocation or adoration. In my ordinary life I face one brick wall on one side and another brick wall on the other. I do not even have words to distinguish one brick wall from another and if there are windows in yet another wall they give over to a wall on the far side of any small opening. I envy those who stand quietly on shores and watch plovers. I do not know what a plover looks like and I do not know if it makes a sound. The word contains the word “lover,” and also the word “over” and that is yet another brick wall. I believe in the power of birds, but I do not know, not for a minute, how to describe their quivering hearts or their flights or the mad plunge of herons into salty marshes. A little while ago I washed my face in clear water. I plunged right in, my stupid eyes closed
They say the fingers were much longer than the thumbs and curved ever so slightly. This, they say, meant that these creatures, early versions of us, used those curved fingers to climb trees. But of course, after that, the journey was all downwards and surely we know, don’t we, though we never speak of it, that once we had beaks and claws. We had feathers and plumes. Once we were birds, and came flying out of the trees.
All poems above originally published by Nirala Press; “Humility” published in Barrow Street in 2019.
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