Monday, November 19, 2007

the way of leaves

More autumnal poetry. Something I wrote some years ago, freshly revised. Actually, a combinatorial retrofit of two discrete poems, merged into one better one.

The leaves here have mostly fallen. The weather has closed in, and is dark and bleak and overcast. The few colors left to the land stand out brilliantly against the gray-brown gloom. I think again, since it's autumn, of everything fallen, everyone lost. John Donne famously wrote, centuries ago:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. —excerpted from Meditation XVII, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions.

I’m in the time between the end of an old cycle, and the beginning of the new. I don’t want to go back and write the old poetry, the old music; the new is not yet formed, not yet emergent, except in small pieces. I’m in a desert time, a waiting time. I am not sure where I’m going, or even who I am; I’m not sure of anything, anymore. It’s hard to be patient, sometimes. Sometimes the world wants you to rush ahead, and not wait. But in crossing the desert, you have to cross on foot, which takes time. Sometimes you have to wait. Sometimes the time taken for the journey matters more than the arrival. The going is complete in itself.

I feel like I am back in Joshua Tree, camping in the desert under a sky full of stars, the reflected light of my cookfire flickering on the surrounding rock formations, making them orange and alive in the wavering light. I sit there, listening to the fire crackle, no other sound around me. Out in the silent dark something moves. I can sense it, but it hasn’t come into the circle of my light yet. I’m waiting for it to come sit down opposite the fire from me, so we can have a dialogue. I can wait a long time. The fire shows no signs of going out.

the way of leaves

the way the leaf lies on the book,
giving these lines color: summer greens,
autumn browns, even in the weakening light
of winter blue—
still alive—
ready to spring
out of the page, growing
instant branches, trunks, vines:
homes for spontaneous wings

she becomes leaves:
a whisper-quick merge
of lament and breeze
larks through the orchard
as she cries, falling—
striking the grass, wind-torn,
a browning heap of maples

when you open the book,
leaves fall out:
paper, like ore, wants to return
to the mountain where it was born

last light:
the hills pass the sun
to naked trees

and sunset colors
towards the evening star
and up, up:
to the green aurora

the sky’s teeth
hissing veil

the place where blue
becomes pale indigo
and black is the
color of retreating suns

she goes to bed late:

a few auburned things
shaking by the banister
hesitating on the stairs
before climbing towards the unsaid shadow—

a lurker in the attic
a bed-spirit
abductor of the roses
a loving knife—

into twilight
the adulterous wounding

the unexpected caretaker

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