Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Singer

When you wrote that song
you were sitting in dry bone dirt
against the back wheel of the trailer,
three mangled chords cutting into
your wrong-callused fingers.

Years later everyone and no one
knows what it means.

You are alone in a sanctuary as the drunks
push around you; your cigarette blesses
them with smoke sacred to the vocables.

Your old legend of despair carries them
to their knees and some strange grace
knocks the wind out of their deaf howls.

You sweat out ten lifetimes of blood feuds
and swaying bodies from the rafters.

The rocks cry out, touching your
forehead in steam as you wished your
father had, shooting some great animal
spirit through your veins.

You become music.

Prophecies of the 5th Dimension

Eric Haggart : Angel Oak

Once I was praying and saw that the longing of the whole world fit
into the smallest acorn. Later I heard that a saint named Julian had
seen the same thing in darkest of ages across time and water.

So I wonder what small visions you see in the
still hour when the earth stops around your breath
and all you know is that your heart’s on fire.

There was an orchestra on a star, and you
were in the orchestra playing kettle drums.

And the drums were the center of the concerto
hurling it away from a dozen black holes, and the
music swirled around your every gleaming struck beat.
And a violin humbly snuck into the finale, making your
finish the power you always knew it must be.

You found the house in the middle of a forest you’d come
through many routes as a child but never seen a built thing in.

And the moment you saw it you knew it made itself a hidden thing
to the eyes of everyone else, even insects. Only you could ascend
the tree to the seamless door, only you saw the wonder of every
emerging room. And only you felt the velvet of air as the walls
disappeared, showing you how to be held.

The sound that shook you was your heart
thundering your ribcage to vapor, turning you to spirit.

The fear is power once you’re falling through the zeroes
of altitude like a droplet driving downward, in gravitational
surrender. There is no loss in the jump, in the slight lean
into nothing that is all that’s needed for magnificence.

Understand this dark river you’ve come down, no stops
between continental shores. Consider the nights with
drenched paddle in hand, muscle burning away thought.

There was that one patch in the starless black quilt of night stitched
into next night in which the sky turned luminous around a comet so
unearthly you struggled later to believe it. That hour or minute, you
saw the shapes of trees protecting you, the slap of broad tail coming
down in the water and on the east bank.

The beavers came up from their maze below to watch you drift by,
their eyes solemn, acknowledging the long waters you’d traveled
to be the first to discover that they, in fact, were the secret architects
of Macchu Picchu, Stonehenge, the hanging gardens of Babylon.

As you turned the bend into the rapids again, you heard them sing
a hymn of wonder.

And then the one tree spoke as it grew around you, reciting back-to-back
histories of every living thing it had seen or heard of since before the time
men began burning down everything they couldn’t have.

Except for it. It told you it saw you coming, five hundred more
years after the air turned into war. Not because you are a prophet,
or even an exceptional warrior, but because it saw you see it
the first time you crept around its circumference with a burning
heart, quiet as moss.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Pearl

You cannot reason away the
blast of the sound barrier, the

neon fire that blankets the city
and melts your arm. It is

what it is, even when they
tell you it wasn't. No argument

to dismiss the power of the
pure at heart when it annihilates

a thousand viruses under the
microscope. No words are

adequate ridicule, even though
this cure, this beauty, this

suffering is a foolish bet to sell
everything for. You would throw

it all away for a pearl. You would
let them put out your eyes for a

glimpse of the coming kingdom.
You would ask the unknown

question. You sail in your skin
boat over the edge of the world.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Poetry of Ordinary Time

One night when I couldn't sleep, I decided to listen to the latest On Being podcast, which was a really arresting conversation between Krista Tippett and a poet I'd never heard of, Marie Howe. There were so many words, lines, thoughts that stood out to me as I listened, and I kept thinking, I should write these down. But then they were more than just thoughts; it all sounded like a poem to me.

When I was about 19 or so, I found a book of poems in the library by the amazing Annie Dillard, who'd written a book that had recently blown me away (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, of course). Annie handled words like a cross between an athlete who performs stunning feats without a second thought [apparently] and an astronaut who sits on a thin ledge between life and death and fixes some billion dollar spaceship part with a jerryrigged toothbrush. (Okay, that sentence proves that I'm not Annie Dillard. w00t!)

My point simply being that Annie could've been putting out loads of volumes of profound, elegant poetry made of her own words if she wanted to, but instead, she put out this odd and brilliant book of "found" poems. Basically, she played around with scraps of words and phrases from the random sources she so delights in (e.g., an 1800s manual of boys' projects, a Russian hunting memoir, van Gogh's letters, the Apocrypha) and found the poetry in them. Anyway, I recalled the book and thought, Why not?

As Annie says in her Author's Note, "I did not write a word of it." In other words, Marie Howe said all of this; I merely created a collage to form a fresh image of these ideas. I might have contributed punctuation; I might not have.