Change and Not-Change
face the hangman? See you on the other side,
when we all shall be changed, changed in an instant.
Changed utterly. I'll still be the same, but I'll be other,
changed, not-same, not-changed. Life passes through
you like a runaway steam train derailing on the wooden
trestle over a deep mountain valley, boxcars spilling wood
into sky as it plummets, coals kicking out from the open
engine fire door, and when it hits, remember it's not the fall
that kicks you, it's the abrupt collision at fall's end,
sidecars boxcars and passenger cars split into flying kindling
scattered up and down a snow-covered hillside.
Deer will wander through, and beasts hungrier.
Fogged in an anaesthetic trance, animals seem to wander
through your guts, leaving indifferent hoofprints
where they will. Seamed and sutured sandstone hills
cut through by rivers of mud blood and mud, knives of birch
soft banking against red-ferned canyon walls.
Mind the gap. Avoid surprises. Walk the narrow jagged line.
Between tendon and torch there's a wide gap of pain.
Honor the honorable dead, without voice, with no charism.
The animals are marking their terrain, where deer lie down
in trampled grass on the short mesa, where wolves mark
their territory with scent. We mark our bodies with blue paint,
war lines and geographic indicators, inner maps and outlines,
the way the knife is to be traced, the way the trace is to be cut.
On the other side there's a dream of fighting amongst
sharp-toothed hills, the valleys of aggression and redemption.
I have a silver cord that was promised to guide me out of
the labyrinth. If only I can hold onto it.
Be irritating. Squeak that wheel. Sometimes you need to squeak,
or roar, to be heard. They keep trying to give you things you
don't want, out of habit or policy. Some days you're quiet with pain,
but squeak anyway. Squeak on. Make them grease the rusty wheel
as well as the gathering mouse. Gather memories of days
like fuel for an invisible fire.
Is this that bardo? That state between lives, when invisible memories
spin tangible whorls onto your fingers? Thread the needle
with a dizzy hitch. A certain loss of equilibrium between the falcon
and the fangs. Kraken surround. What can be made of blood bricks.
Here's the limit line. The crossroads, place of crossing over river
into nest. Before the mast, the knife, after the long voyage and fall.
We go up. What comes after unpredicts from itself a wager
on behalf of long ribbon rides and pastures. Wander over
the long hill and glen, and there's at last a sea-breeze. How thin
this indication of eternity. It's a short ride to the piers, and crabs
under will catch. We shall be changed in an instant. Changed utterly.
Nothing ever the same again. What's done is dead.
And then the wander. Wherefore the disputed lake, dry and alkaline,
fought over valiantly though no one really wants to live here.
Put the salt in the bucket. We go up. Wander over. And down.
Where sea-changes are dissolving, slowly, into long cool suns.
Poem form evolving again. More broken up, spilt in two, sliced across its guts, and stitched along a line where nothing more can be taken away. I've only written a couple of poems in this series since winter. A poem not very often. Which doesn't matter, I merely observe. Two poems in a shorter, more broken mode; same series, but with changes, in a different style. Both more coherent and less tight; both more broken and more continuous. Paradoxes aplenty, as ever with this writing. Nothing much to add, a few mysteries left to parse.
I speak for those with no voice. I realize, late, with growing humility, that I speak for those who have grown the identical thing but have no artistic voice to express what they think and feel. Prophecy is not prediction, it's being to articulate what can't be said. I make no claims to want a role I find myself forced into. It seems like everywhere I turn lately I've been reading interviews and hearing stories from people who have been through what I'm going through. The dragged-down multitudes. Maybe that's my only purpose here. I thought I was making art about this medical process for my own sake, as both memorialization and catharsis; but maybe it's not just for me anymore. Maybe it's for one or two others who, having been through it too, will understand, and find some small human connection therein. I'm going to keep doing it mainly for myself, though. The rest is some beautiful kind of lagniappe.