AT NATURE'S FIRST PLACE
Maybe it feels like time, that little utopia of
aporia and beginning. But there's no void that
isn't something, in the end. Still, some girls
flip images, some flip screens, some flip hair colors back and
forth across a field and then it's all the same shade.
Some revolutions are the tiny ones—
little deer peek out of the woods and then
turn back to find the place where they were born. Or so it
seems. Nothing's ever entirely green,
and that's part of the problem, the way one sees
differently later. But it can be regained toward
with a few simple maneuvers, something to make you
find the tonic in the first place you look,
or maybe it's the last place you looked, but really now,
something that connects is often not
what you really need. Some people might call this the death of sacred.
Some people might believe that the sacred has passed away.
It's a funny thing, the ways people wait for joy.
Some are tangled in the lilies and others wait
for a savior, jealously approaching the line of
fire. Others believe that the light is to be feared, that
with the insistent twist of something they can win
whatever it is they're looking for, whatever end
is peppered with beauty or some form of trivial
trinkets. And who's to say they're wrong?
Maybe they have forgotten the future.
The last thing I remember, I was sitting on the
beach looking at the flowers, and then suddenly
something changed. The question arises as to what's uncertain.
The question arises as to whether roses are "wrong."
I focus on the abstract because it
seems likely that images are
complicated, made from the tautness of new vessels.
But are they? And what are elements?
Elements become feelings, and then the world
allows the wolves to roam again, only more subtly.
So you give up the chase and the world says, "Go back there!"
Seems likely but the world is made of so much
that can't be fully desired, that can't be fully
loved the way a few things are loved for their worth.
And then the inevitable journey out toward
the world, though with a little salt where
the wound was, the wound erased, and thankfully so. Still.
Still: the only way to begin what goes by poem.
JUSTICE OR MOTHER
Camus said he would choose his mother over
justice, the tintinnabulation
of what was once wooed falling into
where the wood was once. And what is his name?
Somewhere, up in the clouds, a man
chooses a field of lies over his mother again,
while all the flowers wait for him
to plummet into the soft earth for the first time.
He hangs a painting where
only the gods can see to trace.
He becomes a god, but only because
he can't remember where he left his
bills that need to be paid, the deed to his condo.
There never was a Word; there never was Jesus,
but he is going for something "really new."
Every invitation haunts him because it's refused.
His eyes get cloudy from looking too long.
He picks up his copy of The Stranger
and recites it to all the lost shepherds
who come to his house
every night after dinner for tea.
Its pages seem strangely tonal,
their marbly seams splitting as he passes toward sleep.
He sleeps and sleeps, and then the next day he sleeps more.
He does not need to lament any
death. He does not lament you.
The thing about Camus is that
inside those pages is an elephant,
with its DNA wrapped around its forehead and
with a horn wrapped over with hair.
This elephant likes to be called "Father,"
and if there were another meaning that could
suffice, the elephant would take it.
Inside every page is an elephant,
and inside every page a dime.
Inside every man is a woman.
Inside every woman is the strongest man.
Inside every elephant is a
child bleating like a little lamb,
caught in the fire of a birth.
The rock is the part that I remember,
before the castration, before the downward
tilt, the eyes looking downward with guilt.
The stain is the part that I have chosen to forget,
the secret that people share, that they were
part of the same tribe, part of the earth's
abstractions searing into centers, adolescent
melancholy made into amplified
music, when in truth, music is mostly just paper.
Music is mostly the inside
before you've been fully sublimated, some
tunes remaining on the outside so
you can sleep. Entertains the cats when
you leave for the work day, shuffling papers
that are what make up the world, all those white leaves.
So Camus chooses his own mother
and draws her chalk outline in The Stranger.
A girl picks up the book one day and reads the whole thing
in one sitting, then asks her father to share
the story of how he came across this book.
The father turns back to his throne.
Years later she's in college and reads it again.
She's content to wonder how she
got so lucky to encounter the two threads
of joy and desire linked up where
only a few can vine into the night.
She goes home for Christmas and tells her
parents she's becoming an atheist.
The same thing with others after class is dismissed,
the kids suddenly coming into their own.
There's nothing left to sing about.
Maybe until later.
The flowers have all faded,
and the taste lacks gold.
The king and queen turn, and
the years continue to pass quickly.
One moves out to the West Coast.
One becomes an author in a cell
and another becomes more nominal.
The kings and queens soon pass away, and
all that's left is the place where
the first pages were what was turned.
THERE'S NO LABOR
In the forest of art the people are sad,
and that's how all the goats get in
the right vehicle, tenor
notwithstanding. But there's no labor
that hasn't lived in every human universe.
Labor checks where the wrinkles
appear, like newly-creased handkerchiefs.
Her skin appears worn with
the possibility of telling all.
Her skin appears worn with too much time in the sun. O monsters.
Her eyes appear tired from drinking the ever fruit.
Her body appears slumped over and frail.
She leans into the rocks and lies where the boys are.
Her skirt is torn from all the sex
and she cannot write another word.
All around her are pools of bones,
and her thoughts collect as if a dream
needed to be written in reverse.
And suddenly, there is no labor.
Labor removes herself from the scene, and
labor decides that it is time for her to choose a name
so labor decides to name herself leisure.
That's Leisure with a capital L,
the Leisure of Arcadia, the Leisure of
stopping by the woods on a snowy evening, and
the Leisure of love and love's Leisure
which is thin but not transparent,
which is heartily placed but not placed too deeply at the heart,
which is not scored through with a knife but has been set free,
which is able to cry and feel and laugh and
congregate in bars at any hour and
make love to her lover but not to everyone.
Leisure is eloquent when everyone
is free, and Leisure has seen a good fight.
Leisure is helpful and Leisure is good,
but Leisure has her limits.
Leisure has known the quiddity of edges,
and Leisure lives in the anarchy of Now.
Leisure does not have a middle
and Leisure does not count to ten slyly
hoping to conjure a skunk or a fox.
Leisure takes flowers from the water and plants more,
and Leisure is able to sing and sing and
ignore all the weapons and
Leisure is able to play.
Leisure is anything but strange or hurt,
her dark face wanting only to see where she has been
and then recede into an epic gray
or the shadow of an old cathedral,
where she might carve her initials
with a penknife into an old tree,
knowing she has been faithful to the All,
knowing she has asked for just everything,
knowing she has asked for all justice,
as someone tosses an arrow and she stops
it with her bare hand, without so much blood.
The one who tosses the arrow
is the one whose shadow she had to emerge from,
and Leisure has known this long
and Leisure has known that she should emerge
and become one with the softest of eyes,
and become one with the biggest
and most interesting of ducky webbed feet,
and become one who is no longer statued
and become one who is able to
mew and bark at me
and at you as we sit beneath the tall trees,
hands scraping the bark for the penknife
hidden there, so we can carve our own names
and become just a little bit pensive,
looking into the shadows as if to
say that the privacy of the shadows is
where the concept ends, and finally there
is the hyacinth and hibiscus,
all crunked out and ready to party.
And finally there are the things,
the things that remain from the trees.
So we stare into the shadows and ask each other
what's up with each other and how
how did we get beneath this tree again?
These pieces are from a manuscript called Anthro, which I wrote several years ago, and they are a meditation on the human (if it's possible to believe in this at all anymore).