Poster Art Nights Excerpt
POSTER ART NIGHTS
There is a ring beyond the ring around the moon.
It has the clarity of glass and contains nothing.
Not everyone can see it. But later
There will be other reproductions,
Other nights when we will watch where cars
Like beetles in the dark
Follow their twitching cones of light
Across the ridges where the river bends
Around Elk Island Farm.
But the burning spirals of my digital self
Are never just the same old song,
Each track is shorter, but contains more information,
Until the final spiral disappears untraced,
Heard only by my friend, who claims to hear
The silent ‘h’ in ghost.
It makes an invisible sound, he says,
Not everyone can hear it.
As on a winter night years ago we stopped here,
Angrily pulling off the road,
While the queenly moon
Assumed her listening pose across the river.
And so our words, cruel and obvious then,
Are invisible now to me,
And of the many things we said that night,
Or meant to say,
I can remember almost nothing.
Yet I still can feel
The roughness of your coat across my hands,
Still see the water drops
That streaked the steaming windows,
Drops that glittered
In the same cold light that shone
Upon the frosted blades of grass outside the car,
Both then and now.
Where in the park we stood each day
By that rude philosopher with lantern thrusted high,
Who stared with his stone eyes at those who passed unheeding,
A companion girl bends now, head down, face turned away,
And gathering close her granite robes
As if his searching question had found her in a lie.
What is it that he always doesn’t say
In hermetic language none of us can hear?
Like traveling without a map, you say, of dreams
That nightly took you to a silent land
Whose hieroglyphs gave meaning, instant and complete,
Which waking, you could never seem to understand.
AND THINKING TO ESCAPE
Why do we say this can’t go on,
When vanishing each day at five
Through doors that open on dark streets
Impossibly we leave our spaces empty
And move cleanly westward toward the light.
Later, fumbling at the winding sheets
Sounds move past us in the night.
Though in the dark, we cannot be alone.
Something is always with us, invisible, like air
That pushes gently on an outspread sail.
It knows we must be going
And will take us anywhere,
Even to those places that ‘just might have been.’
Some friends have gone before us,
We see them moving there
Like shadows in a mirror where symmetry has failed.
Awkwardly they stumble, then stare and look surprised,
As if discovered reading dead men’s mail.
PROMENADE IN THE BACK YARD
The girl in brown stood by the door
Where the bats inquired in the dusky air,
While in the yard the unwashed Poltroon
Hacked and spit in the booted sand.
“Come out, come out, and play in the dark,”
He plunked out a tune on his comb.
The dogs howled, and near the porch
The cats made infrequent rushes.
But still she leaned against the door
And made no stir. Would
That the moon had called to her,
The moon, and the honeysuckle’s drift...
Only the essence in their names
Lives after them, vibrating
In the air of lonely rooms
Where once they lived.
They are reduced to signs,
Or random noises that go unexplained.
Someone sits reading in the chair.
The summer day
Draws its strength together for the afternoon.
In the hall a floorboard creaks.
The curtains flutter
But the leaves outside are still.
In this one moment, when the reader’s eyes
Lift uneasily from the page,
The mind clear but not focused anywhere,
All that is needed to bring them forth
In buzzing clarity
Is the simple murmuring of their names.
But we forget! Or quickly distracted,
We flip the page, annoyed,
And shifting in the chair
We fumble for our matches
And another cigarette.
Who will be the last to say their names?
The very last to say
“Why, this was Great Aunt Harriet’s vase,
Who lived here long ago.”
Then, smiling sadly,
“But of course, you don’t remember her.”
And what of Harriet, then?
Will she hover forever in these rooms
Like an echo,
Waiting for the one lifted sound
No traveler now on earth can make.
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