Monday, October 11, 2010

The Cherry Laurel

The women who would gather in the vale
chewed cherry laurel leaves; when the poison
took hold and ushered them into frenzy,
they would see the vale was a hovering
of matter, a glittering haze; the earth
their bare feet danced on, and that had brought forth
everything around them, would -- if they
threw off the names they had used for themselves --
begin to reveal to them what there was
of eternity in the world.
                                            The vale
could open into a being, human,
yet other, whose name was a limitless,
pure embrace in an instant with no end;
then could close again and be a chaos
of innumerable identities
interspersed with abyss upon abyss.
It could pour blind currents of life, of death,
through the women's living skulls, and plunge them
into metamorphoses -- so they might
suddenly know more than any mortal,
having become the vale itself, knowing.
Some would never return from such knowing,
and collapse and die. But others would now
be called Daphne, the name for the laurel,
and be priestesses.
                                   The light of the vale
is in love with those frenzied ones -- the rays
sent as from Apollo still following
the woman who ran from him and escaped
when she was changed into a tree; the fate
of even Apollo's love is held here
in the laurel branches. Here, your own fate,
though you do not know that fate, pours through you,
while the light, the vegetation, and rock,
so bright, so mysteriously exact,
are a moving stillness, about to speak.

Vale of Tempe

from A Tunisian Notebook

We look out a train window -- on the way south.
Are those olive trees?

Oh yes. Oil from the fruit of their ancestors
lit the lamps of the ancient world. Floated flames

to keep away the evil eye. Those silvery lights
that flit around the leaves -- were gods and goddesses.

Last night, small bluish black olives on our plates --
the fruit soft and bitter, and irresistible.

You glimpse the new, unripe ones, small,
and still hard and green, shy-seeming,

but which will be ripe, be one of the different kinds of joy,
the way a love will have been a long fast,

then a feast made from a glimpse-beginning, a flitting --
be the dark, sharp-rich fruit. Here are the trees.

Blackberry Wine

The moon in octagonal windows, twin portholes,
passing silver over her half-the-couch-long hair.

All evening, she bottled wine, now she sleeps,
her face a figure's on a prow. It must be that in her dreaming

the house is a sailing vessel filled with the scent
of blackberries. The ship lifts anchor, the tide is with it,

the wine of her is beginning to flow -- and she is leading
the ship, giving it life, she is brewing the wine.

The cache of ripe berries is stirred and crushed
in boiling water, the mixture strained and stored,

the juice poured into bottles and fine cloth fastened
over the glass mouths, and the juice collapses its structure --

all as she sails out into endless scent and transparent
purple-black gloom. And it must be that in her dreaming

she has searched for and found the ship's lost helmsman.
If she awoke now, she would find her hair wine-damp,

and find the one she allowed to stand within her
was one within whom she herself had always stood --

the two of them out under the full sail of the invisible,
in the moment of the wine steering through the wine.

The Man Who Sleeps in Cemeteries

Refuse recyclable paper yard bags. Refuse gloves.
Collect yard trimmings the way you know how --
I’ll do likewise. My friend, don’t hurt your head.
Afternoons, slide down the avenue. At every intersection,
karate kick crosswalk buttons. Show up mornings
a very macho character, a little threatening. Show up
fawning, a little flirtatious. Talking religion, bitches.
Going on about your lady -- in the mirror, lipsticked.

Gang boy in Colombia. Gang man. You left that life.
Yes, they found you in Miami. They killed your wife,
your two kids, they threw you off a balcony. Now lay
down your head. With strands of yourself off in the trees,
running quiet and clear in the quick creek water.

With your arms wrapped around surgical scars.
With your collection of scars. Miami to Vancouver? I think
I walked. Lay down your English. Por favor! Scowl
and explain to me in Spanish that you don’t speak
Spanish anymore. Or Portuguese. Or the Quebec French
that jumps out of you. Explain to me that North Vancouver
has the most beautiful cemetery you’ve ever slept in.
No landlords, no need to pull a knife. With different
parts of your brain in proper places, explain it.

With your jumble of words, lay down your head.
With your jumble of words. With your single joint
per day and the pain gone out of your skull. Let
the sections of your head click into a proper machined fit.

Yes, killed so many times, scattered in so many places,
you can’t say -- say a loud Fuck you! in the direction
of your every past boss. Say it at your every refugee board
hearing, at your every income assistance interview.
Consult the cemetery’s visiting bear, coyote and deer.
Consult the community of the dead flowing in unison
beneath your head. Then make your many decisions
and rule the parts of your head. My friend, my co-worker,
here’s a coffee, a set of garden tools and plastic yard bag.
Come do your expert work. Whistle all day the songs
that came to you in the night through the cold clean dirt.