Whoever wakes as Phillip Levine has overslept
Silence of the looms. Books piled high into a single thought.
Too few recognize death as the last great adventure. Woodpeckers
approach the suet cake (white, sweet, sticky, hanging in a wire
basket from a nail) walking up and down the great oak trunk. Out
this window the first fat drops of rain mimic the rhythms of distant
footsteps. The man in my dream who, if I just saw him (but I can’t
tell if I’m chasing him or he’s chasing me, elaborate
dream rigamarole in a dark red bar in El Cerrito, that if I could
just go there I’m sure I would discover doesn’t exist,
everybody making preparations to fly, by several separate small
commercial aircraft, to Connecticut for some conference or meeting – I
have a bowl of something like Jello, a deep red, and I keep moving,
hoping he won’t catch up to me (without knowing why), hoping
I can just get a glimpse (without knowing why)), would just solve/explain
everything. Carpenter, our plans are wrong. These tomatoes too
bright a red. That moment at dawn after the birds have stopped
their compulsive singing. Still I have no desire to contribute
to the hysteria called recovered memory. Stop in a bowling alley
just to take a moment and read (the tumbling pins as regular and
peaceful as the sea). How will I know when I don’t make a
mistake? The violence of number not in the counting. At first I
wrote county. Lego maniac.
Mimicking an important religious feast, the Serbs take three young
men from the village (the others are gone, vanished, never to be
seen again), roasting them naked, alive before the eyes of their
neighbors, forcing the captive women to eat the cooked flesh (he
had spoken to his wife and daughter about what he endured in the
camps, but refused to inquire of their own experiences). The air
is cooler under the fans or in the shade of the living room with
its blinds down, but at this temperature people move more slowly
as through an emulsion (the lone lamp a television with the sound
off – Mike Piazza on second base, the front of his uniform
dirty from sliding, pulls his blue cap off to wipe the sweat from
his soaking brow), in the rocker my father-in-law sound asleep.
The best part of waking up / is Folgers in your cup! Children
swarm about games at a school fair. Laptop built into the patrol
car’s dashboard. Oak trees now full provide a canopy (it’s
10-15° cooler here). In these woods, even pre-dawn, air is
not “invisible.” First chorus of birds barely audible
only because I’ve grown used to it.
Bob, ten days dead, five buried: Evie stands alone now in your
garden where the hill slopes down into the forest – “We
were going to tame that, forty years and we never did.” Two
hours south in Baltimore, the fire flies already in full explosion.
A white guitar (a toy) sits atop a school desk in the basement,
ceiling fan on high all night. The sister of infinite anger. Flying
things swarm the light. A man with huge hands holds a magazine
in his palm – it’s not the flowing blond hair that’s
at odds with the grey checked suit, tie still choking tight in
90° heat at the airport, but how the neck bulges at the collar – on
its cover the face of an actress so familiar I can’t recall
Realizing there are finite words to a life, one holds each more
cautiously the older one gets, until at the end one hordes them,
a syllable at a time.
The stone house alone fails to match its neighbors. A man scurries,
hurrying to unlock his car door, half-crouched, as if that will
protect him from this sudden rain.
“The joy of doubt.”
Itemize the components of desire. What often I remember is the
light at the window, the color and texture of the wall (the sun
behind K creating a silhouette, a halo) – so that emotion
now years later proves identical with hue. Ability, or the lack
of it, to absorb gluten. Palm-sized tattoo at the base of the spine.
In this un-airconditioned kitchen, I sweat just to sit with a book,
my shirt soaked, my hair pouring (slow waterfall of my neck).
Centuries later, among the pot-shards, all they will have to remember
us by. This fly, in its dance, between the lights and the slow
blades of the ceiling fan.
The content of the dream, the context of the dream, the eyes of
the other confronted in the act of. Parrot that could imitate perfectly
an electronic handshake. What we had imagined as the captains of
poetry were no more than boys shocked that the succession of elders
should pass down to them like children playing dress-up or how
the people of St. Petersburg must inhabit the Old City. Who lives
in the giant’s house once he is gone? The hard drive straining
on the incoming mail.
Screensavers remain long after we need them. So stand on the train’s
platform well before dawn. Imagine what lies within those slowly
approaching headlights. Zeno himself could not drive faster.
The moment when, house filled now with relatives, in-laws, friends,
your father’s body, which at first you wanted, needed to
sit with, suddenly is not your father to you anymore, but something
alien, cold, profoundly other. Giant long-legged spider, elegant
and angular, amid the leaves and stalks of the garden.
Well before the sun, changes in the hue of what sky is visible
through these trees, a gradual lessening of night. Colony of flies
in their awkward geometry of flight, light and heat descending
from bulbs that bouquet out from beneath the ceiling fan. A woman
is power walking through the trees. Within, the captains of poetry
can be heard mumbling, bickering over who gets to sit about the
dying embers of their fire. Soon the sun will shimmer too red,
too huge at the horizon. A giant eye. Nobody notices the chill.