I am yesterday’s news, brittle & sepia’d
by over-exposure. My vivid blues
have turned Gray-Lady gray
& my yellow journaling has curdled
along with the leaves.
It’s the silly season of the soul.
I look for a late daisy to petal-pluck
but find only asters, blue rays
too numerous & disorderly for any kind
of in-depth, katydid-or-didn’t analysis.
The government thunders the fee
fie foe of socialized risk
so gods can go on living in the sky,
go on disemboweling the mountains
for coal to run their air conditioners
& turn their sunlit mansions back
into caves. You don’t need a haruspex
to tell which way the blood flows.
When I came up from the cutting-room floor
last Sunday, my hands were red as lipstick
& stank of the other white meat.
The storm jarred me awake at 4:00,
at 4:30, at 5:00 — close strikes
are a fact of life here on the mountaintop.
The lightning came & went, came & went.
When I finally got up,
weariness flooded every muscle,
& I sat on the porch sipping black coffee
& enjoying the Brownian noise
of rain on the roof. The darkness
freed me from the labor of seeing,
the downpour, from listening.
Each flash & boom was painful,
the apparition of trees, yard, porch
all much too brief for my slow pupils
to shrink and take in.
Awakening is rarely a rapid thing;
dawning can’t be rushed.
I’ll admit, though, I pulled my pocket
notebook out & began writing blind —
too risky to go turn the computer on.
When I looked at it later, in the light,
I found I’d underestimated the spaces
between lines: words overlapped
as if on a palimpsest, ballpoint arabesques
interwove like fingers in hair. Flashes, but not of insight,
I appeared to have written. Ark of the Covenant — talking drums —
dyslexia of dark & light.
I am a cipher to myself. At least
the storm passed.
Rocks are the roofs of a city
we barely know. On a dry ridgetop
at the end of a dry month,
I find little under them but burrows
leading deeper into the earth,
a colony of ants frantic
at the sudden inversion,
and on the talus slope, more rocks:
a puzzle that was put together wrong
8,000 years ago, but over the millenia
has settled into its own kind
of rightness. I follow a bear’s trail
through the woods, marked by black
cherry-pitted cairns of bear shit,
& note the series of overturned rocks,
flipped by an expert claw.
Only a human, uneasy at the way
our grotesque bodies no longer
quite fit into the matrix,
would ever return a flipped rock
to its bed. Birds have nests,
foxes have holes; culture
is not a thing unique to humans.
The song that makes the songbird
must be taught. Instinct borrows
always from improvisation —
the true two-step. But watch
a human child, too young
to hunger for our made world’s
humdrum El Dorados, playing
in the creek with a stick —
how she projects her dreams
into the teeming, pulsing flow,
how she punctuates
& fabricates — & tell me
this is not more wondrous
than any gold, this human
Three days of hurricane-remnant weather —
a tropical depression — have brought varying
& unpredictable amounts of rain. Today
we’re in a cloud, which acts as
an acoustic blanket, letting me fantasize
that I’m living in some mountain fastness
a thousand miles from the nearest factory
or highway instead of just two.
The night before last, hard rains
loosened the bark on the lower limbs
of the dead elm in my yard, and I woke
to find the tree half-stripped. A pair
of nuthatches — bark-gleaning birds —
flew in & discovered the change
while I watched, spiralling rapidly
down the bare columns of wood
on their big clown feet, poking,
calling. The fog reminds me of early June,
and makes me miss the wood thrushes
& their melancholy flutes.
It occurred to me that memory
provides its own layer of vibrato,
whether or not the original tone
still sounds. But sadness wasn’t
the whole of it: the low pressure
provokes a mild elation in me,
as what was once a boiling fury
passes over these tired, old mountains
without opening its eye.
With our internet connection
rapidly degrading here, I may soon get
my wish for isolation. Which
was never of course my wish.
So I wonder if I really could live
without the highway & the railroad,
the quarry & the factories,
the human presence implicit
in all that noise?
Cold out this morning, but
one cricket still managed
a sclerotic chirp. I watched
parallel furrows form
in the clouds to the east,
five lines. A large flock
of grackles flew across them,
accompanied by the usual
scattered notes. If I’d snapped
a photo at that precise moment,
there might’ve been a score
someone could play.
Instead, I sat thinking
how I’d like my own notes
to be so lightly anchored
to the page: an antidote
for all the heaviness
our tribe of meaning-makers
has inflicted on the world.
I am lodged in this body
not like a businessman
in some motel but like
a meteorite at the center
of a target its own impact created,
glowing for a short time
with the heat of its entry.
The truth isn’t out there
between the stars. The cricket
kept chirping in the herb bed,
and beyond, the wild rose
almost leafless now as the color
deepens in its shrinking
which are said to heal.
UPDATE: We’ve decided to broaden this conversation and invite others to join in, because why not? It’s a world-wide web. See Dana’s response to me, and Lirone’s response to Dana.
I climbed the ridge to look for a poem
& came back with supper instead:
five pounds of chicken mushroom,
freshly sprouted from the end of a log
& dripping with moisture.
A couple of rove beetles scrambled
in & out of fissures as I began
breaking off hand-sized fans
& nestling the boneless yellow flesh
in a shopping bag. In this supermarket,
the shelves themselves are edible.
Red letters on the bag said THANK YOU THANK YOU
THANK YOU THANK YOU
Have a Nice Day.
Looking in at the bright crop, I felt as if
I’d raided the crayoned worlds of first graders
& lifted the sun from the top left
corner of every drawing.
I left a little behind for the beetles.
The beginning of a planned correspondence in poems with Dana Guthrie Martin, my co-conspirator in the new Postal Poetry venture. If it goes O.K., we may branch out and correspond with other online poets this way, too. And we hope to inspire imitators. Weblogs seem like an ideal medium for this kind of exchange.