When you have a dream in which you meet yourself
coming in the door of your childhood home and you look
at the you looking at you with a level gaze, of course it is
unnerving. The you in this visitation places his hand
on your shoulder before moving past you— or is it through
you—then proceeding up the stairs toward a skylight in the attic
you don't recall ever being there. If this is the shadow-self
coming from that place in you of mystery and wildness
and the unknkown, the message he bears is surprising—
You have to stop. Who is the you watching his shadow walking
away, caught once again in a swirl of obligations to the world?
Perhaps you'll follow him up the stairs. Perhaps you'll lie back
in bed, into the fog of simple sleep from which you can't
retrieve or remember the dreams that visited in the night.
( a partially found poem; thanks to Drew Lopenzina)
The land no longer provides without fail
for those who faithfully labor and trust.
In the dream, the hills are packed tightly together.
When they open their arms, a thousand birds
fly blind, like arrows into the sun. A smell of burnt
flesh fills the air, and news of cities exploded
into sand. Through a spyglass, we can see
a flotilla of ships pretending the pearl of the world
has not yet been discovered. Even in the dream,
I want to keep you safe. I want to tear down the over-
growth, to gather rain in flasks we can hide in our
clothing. We look for round shapes to cup
in our hands. Even in dream, we know the brilliance
of time is hidden in the heart of secret things.
When your teeth tingle, you are reminded they are bones.
Your fruit is your vegetable, your bread is a soup bowl.
The need for utensils seems overrated when you’ve learned
to scoop a little mound of rice around a piece of barbecue pork.
Don’t you sometimes feel the need to sharpen your tongue
on a slab of rock salt or apple cake, because sometimes
it loses the motivation to bloom? The wind is a pulley
that can make even your knees creak. Do you remember
how it sang a dirge that stunned the sun into silence?
When such a thing happens, your hair folds flat as a sea.
There aren’t enough days for sorting into neat piles
but it feels like they’re always running into each other.
Fate has come that much closer. Is this what you were
thinking as you adjusted all the clocks in the house?
In this life, there is a language of wake
and another for sleep. One blares its jangled
notes in your ear at six in the morning. The other
coos faint refrains from the eaves.
You separate the wrinkled apples from the tray,
line the coffeemaker with fluted paper so it's
ready. There is a language that restores,
and a language of betrayal. Casualty comes
from casuelte, meaning chance,
incidental; unfortunate loss viewed
against the big screen called history.
How do you make sense of that
which happens, and what befalls
another? How do you make sense
of the blankness on one side of the page,
versus the dark stain where a body
burned on the pavement? There's nothing
that falls, that happens, purely
by chance. Wind whips through
the night, making the shingles clap.
Another strip of paint peels off the gutter.
Lately it's been hard to feel inspired.
Every taste is chalky, every meal uninspired.
Fruit spoils fast, the bread won't rise.
The air smells oily, stale, uninspired.
The soup is bland as the window view.
Fingers trail no shapes in dust, uninspired.
Sleep is late, is hard to come by. Dreams
In the mirror, the planes of your face are angled
and sharp. Color and shine feel uninspired.
"I'm sorry you can't have
an origin that holds you."
~ Hari Alluri
Here's a new language to marble in your mouth;
a bowl of milk in which to dip it. You're told to hold
your head in such a way to keep you from looking
back, to keep from being distracted. In certain
stories, those who give their souls believing this
is how they become eternal can never change back
into mortal form. But you love salt and sugar too much;
and broth rich with shank bones and marrow. Shrimp
paste, stinky fish sauce. In the pot, one eyeball
comes loose from its socket in the head of the fish.
Scoop it into your bowl. Suck on this chalky pearl
because you want to remember the sound of church-
bells, cacophonous grammar of war as ships sail into
the harbor, unreeling chains leading to this moment here.
Today I heard someone say it's better to live
every day as if it were the first, rather than
last—To think of the moment as if it were
the first sunrise cresting the rim of the hills,
the first egg you cracked on the rim of the pan
before anyone else was awake; the first
prayer mouthed before the first whiff of coffee,
before a cloud of white phosphorus spread
through the neighborhood in the wake of dumb
bombs. So many firsts now in rubble—at first
they were dancing in the kitchen, working
on a new coloring page, or tasting a treat
before being tucked, protesting, into bed.
"...Walk into / the center of everything."
~ January Gill O'Neil
Altogether, I have been married forty years—
fifteen in a union that broke, bit by bit until
the inevitable, even without a formal name to it. I left
that skin behind. Never thought I would do it again,
but here I am. Twenty-five this year, with a man who fit
his fortunes to mine. We live in a green house fronted
by a pair of Japanese maples, with a bright orange love
seat in a room wall-papered with books and the hearts
of plants spilling generously out of themselves. Laundry
unsorted, coffee and noodles in the pantry, the entry
adorned with favorite coats. We remember the thrift
store find of a coffeetable, what we wore when we
stood on the boardwalk that burnished day. Cake
slicer in the drawer, file folders of the bankrupt years.
Keepsakes we can't bear to throw away. Everywhere,
evidence of undimmed desire for life in this world.
As a child, sometimes I'd lay my cheek
on the desk and press my ear to the wood's
coolness. I'd pretend the clicking and scraping
I heard (echoes from other movements
around me) were proof of life beneath the surface
—an army of ants or microscopic beetles
carving roads, lifting stone out of hidden quarries,
building settlements. Because if you listen
hard even now, there are residues of sound
fallng inside the architecture of every
stillness. And there are also long, rich pauses
akin to the quiet of sleep, which is what
others thought my bent head meant—a child
always caught in the throes of dream.
—meaning, to look into the self; to open
that inscrutable cabinet of curiosities and see
how the gut, freed from its prison of flesh,
uncoils and bounces toward the floor. Torn from
the Root, that wicked tongue... Those Eyeballs
from their Sockets wrung. Around the corpse's neck:
the noose, still warm. In life, condemned; in death,
repossessed for "nobler" purpose of instruction.
The body's open book under the gaze of these
men professing science: unmasked, ungloved, how
they hold themselves apart through their station and
the richness of their dress. Meanwhile, a dog sniffs
at the heart no one has noticed in its eviction,
since it is of smaller and less impressive size.
~ after William Hogarth