Ten Thousand Years Upon the Land Bridge

Now sleeps the sun,
And the living world
Dreams upon the sky
Cold, silent fire,
Raging shimmers of green striving with powers of blue.
Gather now,
Round fires dim made bright by gloom,
And I will gaze and tell you truths seen only by the old.

For behold,
The world is old, old beyond the furthest count.
I cast my eyes from east to west,
And see the young are old,
The old are gone,
And in breaching agony and blood
Always more arrive:
From warmth into cold, seeking warmth;
From shelter into the open, seeking shelter;
From one into many, seeking the One.

Here, within the whirling dance of many Norths,
We wander, flock, we nest, as spirits call and winds decree,
While tusks and antlers wander, herding toward a covenant only they can sense.
How long shall we winter away, buried from the wind,
Tombed against the cold, laying sides together,
Making long shadows upon ceilings of ice?

Our ancient mothers’ fathers tracked beneath a different sky,
A wider land away beneath the setting sun.
There, mountains bled
And smoky ravens spoke their riddles to the keepers of the fire.
For there were days before fire came into our captivity of stone,
Before the first stone was ever flaked,
Before our gifts of tongues, or hands,
Or eyes to make sensible the light.
There was a day before the sky was lifted,
Before the sea rained down,
A day before the stars, or moon,
When all things lay buried in the unborn dark.

Tonight, at light’s end, we praise things yet born.
For the world is young, younger than it is old.
We are destined to another land
A wider truth.
Every year the ice gives up a step, leans back into the cliffs.
Buried valleys make smothered groans beneath the crushing ice.
We are destined to palm, to claw, to climb, to fall.
We are destined to pass worlds,
Reach new totems and appease new powers,
Or else to die in the high whiteness of pitiless chance.

Our hope passes, spills and flourishes.
I gaze a remnant,
Those favored by gods petty and obscure.
They rise high above our drowned steps,
Stand and straigten in the sun’s full light
To look back and see only mystery, emptiness.
I see them, gaze and see them
Rising up to the dreamtime fires.

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Cassettes

It is such a chore,
to cut
and cut my self
on the clattery pile.

Here is a production soundtrack
for the one acts of ’95.
Here is a radio comedy
improvised with my little sister
in 1986.

Here is 90 minutes of radio
snagged greedily from the air
the summer Union Oil exploded
and so many endings.

One at a time,
each one
digested.
Rubbed over magnets,
spindle-chewed
intro crackles and pops
and hissing, fiery sound.

It is the sound of time.
Not a tick-tock,
but a slow, sonorous
quantum foam,
the sound of expansion,
of atoms growing distant,
of horizons unfurling;
past, present, future
all gaining distance from one another
at the same time,

the sound of the universe
running away in all directions.

Here’s 9 to 5, Dolly Parton back to back
with Guns ‘n Roses and Billy Don’t be A Hero.
Sinatra is cut off by Weird Al.
The Police tumble through the Doors
and stumble into the Theme to Airwolf
and the Shadowy intro to Knight Rider.

Here are the copies
of Janie’s albums,
twenty five years
before she stepped in front of a car
and disappeared.

One at a time
each morsel is fed into the jaw,
locked in,
sucked unsavored
through the silicon and ozone,
fed through the narrow wire entrails
up into the hard drive
where analog is made digital.

It is a cold trick.
Cryonics of sound and memory–
yesterday’s fiery soul
carbonite-ed into motionlessness,
a purple, red shifted stillness
at the event horizon of sorcerous will.

Here are the cords, the lyrics
I tumbled blindly with.
Darkness was immense back then,
filled with chattering D.J.s
and one a.m. love songs
about truths learned at seventeen,
behind the stadium.

Each sound is its own wound,
exposed to the air
after so long,
each one
a tiny piece of organ seizing,
a tiny rake of flesh removed,
each one a local agony of the soul.
How they gather!
How they loom, and brood
and watch,
hungry for the last of me.

Endcap

They have been friends behind plastic
for some time now.
Duke
with the Joes.
Luke
with the rebels.
They wait
dispassionately
next to each other
on the pegs.

They are two
haggard, aging, blond colonels,
two old, fading Norwegians
each having seen too many
fluorescence washed aisles,
too many tired, hasty Christmas seasons,
too many harried adults
hardly able to focus their eyes
on the print of the packaging
as they both in turn are picked from their places
and examined
rationally
for their joy content.

It is all business now
all empty ritual.
Nothing flows,
bends unexpectedly up ahead  like it used to.
Plastic is lighter
like the shed skin of an idea.
Accessories no longer tumble out of the boxes like fruits and kisses.
Instead they are retentively issued
with tweezers
by pale, balding men
in creased suits.

These two:
they are the old-timers,
the heavy hitters.
They are the anchors
the bastions.
They have been there the most and the longest.
They and Optimus,
and they both think Optimus is a twit.

They used to spend their grim expressions
and their stoic energies
contemplating the end of the season,
the end of their respective wars,
their lapse into civilian disuse.
Now they grunt vague, half-chewed sentences
about the decline of childhood
or the bane of computer consoles and smart phones.

But quietly
in hushed undertones,
in suppressed, denied implication,
they look sideways
down the long, long, long unbending aisles
and hope to finally see the break.

Demolition

The first clumsy swing
is glancing and weak.
It pecks a tiny nibble from the porcelain
and bounces the sledgehammer.

Alone, I hear my father:
(“Whatever you do, keep your ankle out of the way.”)
Alone, I hear my uncle:
(“It’s a lever; it needs to pivot.”)

I spread my stance,
bend an elbow,
slide a palm.

I imbue the dead weight
with my own life.
I bear down and burn biscuits
into an energy
traveling across the wooden shaft
and coming to a restless presence
at the far fast end of the hammer.

It accelerates,
dividing through infinities
until it breaks a whole united moment
into a Before and an After.
Uncountable atoms
line up along biffrocating fissures
and choose their association
among the thousands of shards and splinters
which clatter against drywall
and tinkle upon the linoleum.

I am unprepared
for the way the iron chunks apart
like wet cardboard.
I am surprised by the interior ripples
which betray the tub’s origin as a poured object.
Most of all I am stunned
to bear witness
to the past becoming irreparable,
prophesy igniting outward into truth.

There will indeed be a new tub, and a new bathroom.

It is the past itself that lies shattered on the bathroom floor.

He Struggles Lonely with his Dreams

He struggles lonely with his dreams–
Will not be told what they mean.
He sleeps in darkness, now, alone–
No cry for help, no fussing moan.

I would stand with him on shadow’s sand,
On darkling plain in Neverland,
And with him the Dragon Foe contest.
I’d sing the hollow in its breast.

Transform his falling fear to flying,
Show black tongues of flame for lying,
And in every alley, trap, and tomb
Find a latch– the secret room.

A lucid place of light that’s calm
Where power serves uplifted palm,
With shelves and drawers of novel fare:
Lockets hidden, old books laid bare.

I’d clear a darkwood in his mind
And build a tower there that time
Could only increase and make ornate,
Where Merlin, Einstein converse on fate.

But the plains of Pluto are closer by far
Than the nearest shores of his dream lands are.
He must go alone and find his way
As best he can until night is day.

Sandy

I stood upon a picnic table
in a long ago backyard.
I flung my hug around her neck
and she looked into me and smiled.

It was a complicated smile:
tenderness seeking after strength,
cool water poured into scalding.
It was a red sun on the horizon
quietly deciding: up, or down?
Her eyes seemed open inward,
outward,
remote but present.

My years have discovered
so many of her other smiles:
melting smiles spilling over,
grins made sly,
escaping below retreating eyes…
but it is always that complicated smile I think of first.

And how she
lives with symbols and meanings
which she reads from rawness.
Seagulls and giving trees and sad clowns
adorning her life like totems and artifacts.
How she arranges them like furniture
in a large house,
administers them
like a table setting,
an altar.

I recall her many times from many shadows
walking along a lake shore, taking pictures,
picking sticks, gathering waters–
She never seemed to walk alone
but always with un-present others
with transparent steps–
others lost, others distant, others unknown even to her.

*    *     *     *     *

This past summer
she wrapped up
all her sad clowns
and gave them to me to sell for her.
She told me they
had become someone else.
I felt the truth of her words,
like a breeze at all altitudes.
Her smile seemed to have cleared and lifted
and waxed larger than its shadow.

How strange to notice, now, this change
this difference of substance transmuted.
I suspect no alchemy,
no dream quest or spirit-jaguar,
nor a life season,
a simple product of time.

She seemed simply to reach again
and again for herself
and by rooting down to stretch upward
one more branch and one more leaf.
To unfurl finally
past the long shadows of the high rocks
till she could crown into the new light.
I did not see it happen.
I only saw that it happened.
As when you see a tree with fruit
and come to know
it must have budded, blossomed
since you saw it last.

Encounter

I
am five.
I hide inside
my father’s dark,
cavernous tool shed.

Hot
stifled air.
Daylight waits,
lays ambush outside,
looks in at the gaps, cracks.

Dark
slowly
fades like
a fog lifting.
Gasoline smells.

Then:
one, three
five butterflies,
black, mottled grey,
violet glyphs upon their wings.

They
rest, silent
on exposed
studs, like flies
picking carrion ribs clean.

They
flex their
leaf wings with
one silent whisper.
Wait. Then another.

I
see
seven, ten,
fifteen. They
are always more.

They
surround
me. I pull
my arms in,
step to center.

I
breathe
hard once.
I wait. Then
another breath.

It
is yet
another
encounter
with the Hidden.
Here, silent spirits
dry their wings
in the
dark.

Transit of Venus

I align binoculars;
my son adjusts a paper plate.
Together,
not quite magic,
not precisely science,
we summon the image of the Sun
and the small, hard, black spectacle.

The moment feels carnival
and calamity.
The eye sees and knows
but the heart cries peril
at that transient, cunning injury.
It imagines the Eternal, the True
bearing the gaping wound
of the contingent, the happenstance.

The eye comprehends,
assesses, proceeds.
But the heart lingers,
returns,
observes the aberration
pass slowly across.

I explain occultation and eclipse.
I explain alignment and conjunction,
and before my mind I see the universe
like tumblers on a slot machine.
A googol of tumblers,
with a googol of symbols,
infinite payouts, infinite busts.

The Sun, Venus, Earth it goes,
as seen on any news report.

But I show him:
The Sun, light, Venus, shadow,
Earth, lens, plate, reflection,
retina, nerve, lobe, brain,
awareness.

And I consider for myself:
time, region, culture, weather,
Moon, collision, gasses, spin,
eleven dimensions knotted one way,
parents — two, four, eight, a billion,
contention, extinction, expansion, mutation,
discovery, tectonics, blossoms, June,
Japan, stamps, a note, a call,
A promise, a plan,
A son, a father.

And I know forever,
for all eternity,

(or for ten minutes, until I forget,)

Improbable is all there is.
Unlikely is all.

Stones

I would keep each of my days
As a stone.
Some, river worn pebbles, oval and smooth.
Others dark,  jagged flint or shale.

The days I wandered
Would effuse the sharp scent of pine.
The days I began to love
Would flame a fierce cinnamon light.
Many would be grey, heavy, and ordinary.

I would know
This one missing,
This one three times thrown
And brown crusted with dry blood.
This one sucked on,
Held in cheek,
Rolled on tongue,
Explored to the smallest divot.

They would be worth having,
All of them,
Even for a room full of stones.
Each one substantial,
Appropriate.

A comfort
Come the week of my death,
I would pile them in heaps
By the water
And throw them
One by one
Back into the sea.