dance of gull over cliff,
surge of wave below—
argument about seagrass, the spin,
tidewaters bloom against sun and sand,
seals stalk sun on their rocks offshore,
lifting head and tail when wavesurge
overmatches their anchorage;
I need to breathe this sea-air,
make it a place in my shoes
that I can always walk beside;
constant winds make shouting
waves into spray that coats skin, hair,
very being, layers of gypsum and silt—
how did we achieve this reckoning?
the astrolabe of the sea, a sextant of gulls.
I go back to the sea, I go in by this archway:
worlds opened beneath my feet—
I fill it with soul: waves of gulls rise
to skyfather, attitude of sun on sea.
nothing to be done: this portal, opened,
alight, filled with glittering stars
and acceleration. I had a dream—
it burnt in my hand: two holes in what once
was seafloor to guide my dreaming:
broken teeth and wasted effort.
sun filled me, and the portal
across an envelope of tunnel vision
pelicans fly, small dots in the wiry firmament:
too close to lean into, too far to snow from the air.
I had every intention of dying here.
Here am I, then, amid the darkly pitted rock,
myself tectonic, drifting, spurned
by tide and sea
surrounded, enflamed, ineffectual,
a brace of stones at waterline,
toppled by wave surge into green depths,
sand buried, immaterialized.
I remain alone.
Even the gulls avoid this place of biting flies, where
stars turn in sand sparkle and mirage,
skate across encrusted feet.
An epitaph for crabs.
The rocks stand, sentinels—
lines of driftwood, wet black of a dog’s nosing—
mark the boundaries, osmotic, permeable,
between this land and another
land made of water.
Red cliffs scale in white mist, shedding
rough marks to become rounded
windstones, portals the wind rushes through
I become my true self,
that thing I am when all else
is stripped away, burned off, charred,
starved, chemically eaten,
faulted, broken at every joint,
weathered down to nothing,
where what is left at center
is both nothing
and who I truly am.
I come alive.
I am in this moment,
and this moment, and this,
no other moments, no sense
of other times.
Do the gods dwell
only in those who are ready,
prepared, the lineaments
of proper form and ritual all emplaced?
No: the god dwells in everyone,
in everything, immanent,
Pick a name. Any name will do.
I call You by Your true name,
which only I know, since it is
my own name, my inner, secreted Name.
We are these mirrors.
Here in my desert cave,
I stalk you:
relentlessly, without ceasing,
to become that which
we already are.
Written during four days camping at Joshua Tree National Monument, August 2005, where the temperature got into the 100s every afternoon. I spent part of each day in a cave made by boulders falling together, eroded into rounded lumps, providing shelter, and windowed views of the hot, clear sky.