Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Distinctions

My rhythms and cycles upset by some turbulence
I cannot name, I stay up half the night, I sleep in
half the morning, losing half the daylight. I dream
of argument in the night; in the morning I read
in a history of wine about Bacchus at the Benedictine
monastery in France, where they make the papal wine.
I dream of a bed under the stars, wrapped in a single
giant tree, branches spinning upward dark as void,
white flowers in its crown at dawn, and lovers
to wear its sheets as the dew rises slowly.
I can't bear to go out in this mood.
All morning I am tangled up in myself, a hint
of weeping lurking at the edges. The sun strikes
blind the cactus in my window, already blooming
a second time this winter. I dreamt all night
that men were knocking at my door, wanting to invade
my personal silence; in the morning the blind phone rings,
nobody there, making me jump. It can take all day
to untangle so strong a dream, to get its wires
separated and organized. Bottles of blush-blood wine
on my kitchen countertop, translucent in their shadows.
Bare feet on the sensual burgundy Indian carpet. My thigh
broken into like a cat scratching open a vine. No, that
was the dream again. You see? It can take all morning
to distinguish between invading realisms. Cross counterpoint
the piano sits quiet till I woke it last evening by writing.
I mean to say, but everything is a hand-me-down, old shirts
I sort into paper bags to donate to the thrift store.
I stumble across a t-shirt I loved as a boy, suitable to be worn
again by another boy. One thing I loved as a boy was taking off
my shirt, going as naked through the day as custom
and my locale dared. One afternoon under a sweaty sun
I was able to ride my mother's bike along sandy backroads,
all my clothes in the carry-basket over the handlebars,
dripping sweat from every inch of sun-struck skin.
An afternoon so private clothes were a superfluity.
In the Benedictine vineyard, they pull up their robes
to stomp the grapes, thighs purpled and slick
with this autumn bacchanale. The monks and my self
as a boy both still learning how to love this brightened world.
Do they break their vows of silence to laugh during
the grape-stomping? I was alone, working the pedals hard,
but I managed to sing as well as pant that blazing afternoon.
I needed to abandon the self, to choose to forget who I was
for a daylight, in my new skin to become something new.
Grapes stomped by foot become a wine soon consecrated.
The boy's faded purple t-shirt goes back in the bag.
How did the old monks, centuries gone, wash the lavender stains
off their thighs? Riding back into town, I put my shorts back on,
old jeans cut off high, almost all the way to the crotch,
the rest of me still glowing with drying sweat-runnels and dust.
The distinctions we make between dreamtime and waking
are as illusory, I believe, as those the rigidly orthodox nudists
make between sensual and erotic. Mostly a distinction of intent,
of the mind deciding between red and white. A bottle of purpled
blackberry-clothed zinfandel on my kitchen counter next to
a honeyed sauterne, an undiscovered country of pale viognier.
A revival of varietals ignored for a few decades of boring
commercial production. New wines in old bottles. The morning
sunlight moves across the mottled blond floorboards, I sip
my half-glass of orange juice as I read next about poetry.
The cactus on my table blooming again, four months later,
long red flowers waxy white at their extended cores, in a canopy
of taloned emerald flat-stems. Snow mostly gone from
the winter-brown grass. Red cardinal in the spruce and juniper,
red bird in a canopy of green. Evergreens never still, always
catching some passing breeze under winter's bleak pale sun.
The honeyed skin of the grapes. The frosted juniper berries.
Somewhere a sensual touch of tongue to wineskin, grape arbor,
vine, leaf, sap. Green laughing faces concealed in the vines.
What's fresh enough to be fond of. Curly-haired Bacchus
found afresh in the mockery of a shirtless neighbor boy,
at the back end of that summer of awakening. The orange
awake on my tongue. I guess I'm awake enough now
to start my day. There's a last echo behind my ear
of that knocking, knocking to get in, dream knocks
on my screen door, rustling of paper bags full of all-cotton
memories gripped by scent and sunlight. This lingering
reluctance to swim on the shores of noon. Maybe this
afternoon will be just warm enough. Some mornings
the ordinary takes on a perilous glow.

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