The Word Fire
“The word fire,” says Sensei,
“does not burn your lips.”
But say, Sensei, that the word fire
Burns your heart, the heat rising
Through your neck, and, yes,
Singeing your tongue on the way out?
What if the word eagle
Makes you feel like soaring,
All the while tethered to your
Earth-born dreams, that seem only to rise
Or the word dying, though it seems a lie,
Still feels dark and wet, not exactly cold,
But too thick for that?
I think, Sensei, that even your
Ancient schemes cannot touch
Your finger points only to a place
Where the moon might have been
Two Short Poems
A Pond in Cesvaine
Into soft shoreline watches,
Like unmoored souls
Floating into wilderness.
Wisps of anguish
All but unremembered.
A Kurzeme Meadow
Your summer dress
Of untold yearning
Long into the night
These flowers, too,
Have long since passed.
If you live long enough
If you live long enough, you will see them die.
Longer still, and they fall like spring snow.
There are those who say grief is all second-hand,
That we grieve for ourselves alone
When those too like us prove mortal.
I suppose, for the first fierce blow,
That’s true: we stumble forward, gut-shot,
All death and bewilderment;
But after that? After the long parade begins in earnest?
True, a kind of acceptance sinks in,
A not-quite numbness, a sedation,
A shaking of the head, “Why,
But there are ghosts.
They follow us everywhere,
And in some unguarded moment, a grief descends
Pure and sweet, almost holy,
And wholly devoid of self.
In these moments
We cradle our memories like children,
And all we long for
Is one more touch.
What dogs lack
What dogs lack is perspective.
There are no dog priests.
No dog poets barking rhythmically at the hollow moon.
No dog inspectors, no dog police.
A sniff is just a sniff, a scrap is just a meal.
They fill no days pondering the meaning
Of the star- rooted sky,
Or why a corpse will disappear
Slowly, like yesterday’s breakfast.
There is nothing sacred or profane,
Nothing indelible stamped on the
Hide-like souls of dogs.
They eat. They shit. They sleep.
They’re in heaven or hell, one the same as the other,
They see no difference between
A special day or no particular day.
You can’t sell a dog an insurance policy.
They like the warmth of a human body,
The sound of deep sleep,
The feel of an embrace across the depthless
Helix, as distant as love, as close as touch.
If there’s food, they will eat all of it.
Voyager 1 is expected to leave all solar influence behind, and slip into interstellar space soon, very soon. It will be the first man-made object to do so.
An inconsequential piece
Floats miraculously out
From the sun
So long, goodbye
We’ve heaved you gone
And yet you write back
As if you’d found work
Beyond the heliopause
Where strange bits of nothingness
What do they make of you?
Too smooth, too rough?
Too many kinds of things
To be of any use to entropy?
I do hope
Things work out for you.
How Swiftly Came the Killing Season
How swiftly came the killing season
swept in from hinterlands
just when we had remarked upon
the sameness of it all.
How soon the must-not-be-named
Weren’t we standing there,
thinking how sensible
not to raise a ruckus,
how preferable to simply
turn our backs to the foul wind?
How did we come to this?
Didn’t we say how better we were?
What comfort are platitudes
Just before the final extinction
Just before the final extinction
There were strange and wonderful creatures
Elusive slabs of silver
Darting through the water
Among shape-shifting bulbs
Trailing fierce limbs
And some barely-there whisps
Still deadly with near visible
Strands of poison
And the stone-clasping tendrils
Living dually beneath and above
The frothing rock wacked about
By unseen surrounds
Miniscule bits buzzing through the air
But strong enough to pierce the
Thick outards of others
To suck their vital fluids
Long bendy tails with no body
Slinking among roots and shoots
A mouth at one end and nothing at the other
Lumbering bellowing lumps
With long tusks
That dazzled white in the pristine sunlight
Oddest of all, a bipartite creature
Split nearly symmetrical
Nearly similar but cruelly not
Moving by alternating stilts
Spindly and unbecoming
The two halves bound in eternal embrace
Clutching each other’s throat
Desperate to let go
But trapped, trapped by fear of succeeding
The clouds thickened and cracked the planks of heaven
Heaved overboard their burden
And crushed the green and brown spring in pale dunes
Robins puffed to pigeon size
Buds disappeared beneath white-laced wings
Of earth-shackled trees
No one about but Cossack girls
With speckled jeans and high boots
Pulled along on bright orange leashes
Their dogs resolute and patient
Sniffing remnants of bygone colleagues
And sprinkling messages in the snow
Long ago such snow shrouded mysteries
What was it I imagined?
All of life and death I suppose
All of longing all of waiting
All smothered ambivalence
All new and green erupting from stagnation
The salt of sailing bruises the blood
And infects the ordinary with wonder.
It may be only swill
But it quenches well enough.
We take stock of barriers, boundaries,
But it’s the continuants that carry meaning
Through years, around days, hours.
A life seems to grow more tail as it winds slowly,
Hauntingly, toward oblivion,
Or so it seems.
This meander, this immense detour
Charts what passes between us,
So ephemeral, wight-like
Those threads of love grow thin,
But strong as spider silk.
Along About Now
Along about now,
A particular group of photons,
Some 200 million light years away,
Is heading in our direction.
They’re out there.
At the same time,
A delegation is leaving my face,
Bound for cosmic intersection.
After all the debates have passed,
Long after the poor old Earth
Has been wrung free of its
Infection of life
Their memories wiped clean
Will pass in the distant night
As unaware of our anguish
As we are of their fate