once under a long-stemmed moon
we became human for a minute
like a woman wearing a black abaya
with a gold filigree rose inside
singing softly behind a high wall
in the market in old Aleppo
i cannot think of why
you created me
my father’s mind
there are splinters of knowing
(you and me)
open to the sky between
the tiny pieces of terror
under the waterfall
grips the stone
with its mouth of all eyes
shadows making new rocks
how hard it is to climb
to the top of the water tank!
the steel ladder pulling
a ground skirl of smoke below
an impaling cushion
a wind farm walks over the horizon
grinding and scissoring
the close-cropped land
with its dry sunken creek veins
a moon the color of a calf’s ear
the long harrowed fall
as close as your thigh bone
I am five years old, sitting in wiggly anticipation
under the circus bigtop. Barnum and Bailey
has come to Sheridan, Wyoming.
The crowd is a hot smear of Saturday afternoon faces.
The room smells of animal dung and buttered popcorn.
I have the surprisingly intimate feeling of being
let in on a secret — there is a world where the rules
are suspended and even run backwards,
where people fly and elephants walk on their hind legs,
where women wear spangled, skin-tight suits
and swing on swing sets the size of tall buildings,
where people are sawn in half and then reassembled,
where the polar axis shifts and time runs in a bright
circle with a man standing on its back with a whip.
Of course, I have no way of knowing the conjuring
has a cost. And like a broken foreign correspondent,
I have wandered ever since looking for what is conjured
and what is constant.
Last week, a man in Estacada Oregon cut off his mother’s head
and took it to a convenience store. There among the growlers
and Monster Tea and paste food and rows of cigarettes,
he tried to begin the second act of his show
but fell before he could bring more of it before the world.
Today, the last Barnum and Bailey circus show took place.
After 146 years, the medieval review and spangled
swirling together of what can and cannot be done has closed.
It is is being replaced by the grim theater of small, lonely, suicidal men in Oregon and the U.K. and France.
This time the roles are reversed.
The actors bring forth into the world
what is rarely seen, but is all too real
and we — all together now —
will conjure to make it disappear.
I have taken every third word
I heard today, gathered them up and dumped them in a pile.
Some I jammed in a pill bottle with other acid reminders-
a random chemical family. Maybe they will work things out.
Some I hung in a tree like a wishbone.
Pull one end to see if you are lucky or not.
Some I laid out like plastic trash above the tide line,
in between the clumps of seaweed.
Some I scratched on the side of the doorless outhouse
we set up to face the ocean to watch for returning boats.
Some went for new, inventive labels on the grape wine
we made when it was too rough to fish.
The rest is personal packing
to keep my insides from falling out,
wrapping them around the thing that made no sense–
Duncan’s body, or what was left of it, washed up in a tide pool.
The top all gone, just the legs up to the backbone.
He still had his white socks on. No boots though.
A freak sea, a big wave over the false bar
and the channel inshore of it, quick sandy on the inside.
His boat probably swamped coming in over the bar
and he fell in, got dragged under, numbed by the cold
and had no time to kick his boots off.
His Dad walked the shore everyday until he found him.
Some in the tide pool and farther on
some other parts of him, the head and one shoulder,
all chewed up by crabs and sand fleas.
Once, Duncan and I were fishing off of Port Hardy.
The sea got big and I got so seasick I passed out.
It was all Duncan could do to handle the boat.
I woke up with one eye swollen shut
and vomit and blood and fish scales everywhere.
These words, blank-eyed and staring back at me as I write them,
make me sick like that.
“There’s a blaze of light in every word, it doesn’t matter which you heard, the holy or the broken alleluia” — Leonard Cohen
“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” — Anne Frank
“In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit. ” –Anne Frank
For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river
–Ghalib, eighteenth-century Urdu poet