Something tells you to be afraid
(Whoever you are) above the railing,
The shell swirls down from the almond, death
From the fear of death, the fear of ailing,
There is an afterglow of lightning, the lightning
Showed a ring of mountains, it showed
A sinking gorge, the black burned white,
And all of that upon a greater road.
You are afraid, “How awesome is
This place!” that fear itself discovers
Love, the curling ocean roars
At two a.m. and it recovers
A salty breeze that drifts into
Your home, a sound and rhythm that seep
Deep under the street, that cradle
You and wake you from your sleep.
Without pressure, without darkness,
Sliding out of the porte cochere,
Without the mountains of foolishness
But the tingling, stinging air,
(The spider sits at the outdoor cafe,
Holding his slick magazine,
He’s got a pencil cigar in his mouth
And his hair is slicked back with brilliantine,
But) the raindrops are still dripping
After the storm, you’re shivering, but
The battered grass between the road
And the drainage trench, deeply cut
In the soil, is bright, and then
A lenticular cloud glows over the hill,
You know, sometimes it’s too good to be true
And it’s true, and a trout fights up the spill.
What counts is coming back down the stairs
(And like, taking off yourself
And it really wasn’t yourself? And finding
Old teachers of yours sitting on the shelf?
(And now it’s like, what the heck,
And you say, “My God, it was all an act,
All of this sensitivity and tact,”
Now everyone on the team has been sacked,
And) well, would you like some blancmange?
If I could go back to school, I would give
Good advice. (I wonder if sea urchins
Feel sorry for themselves and squeak “Forgive
(“Me! I can’t help it if I poke.”
Just how many times can you go any deeper?
I mean, descending a staircase.) My goodness!
There’s the light switch, behind a creeper.
And you too have your honor, the honor
Of a simple man who wants to pray
And pay his car insurance. And blanc-
Mange is sweet, in a milky way.
There is a law of being kind,
There is even a law of love, there is
Even a law of being a friend,
It appears in a person’s sky and on his
Hills, in the mice and asters along
The arroyo, it embraces the bubble
Of the universe and rises past
Beyond the senses, past stubble
In the cornfield, it looks for sweet corn,
It looks for light where light is too dark,
It looks for spirits and for souls,
It looks for the celestial aardvark,
It looks for angels and for holy
Erelim and the multitudes
Above, and, without fingers
And sound, it strives to play etudes.
Sometimes, the light goes out (the way
You relate to God mirrors how
You act at your high school reunion)
And now, instead of I and thou,
You bring your dog his chow, the cow
Looks and thinks, “How proud I am
Not to be the grass and thistle.”
So pack it all in an epigram,
Send it by Western Union; someone
Is shining a flashlight in my eyes.
And the battery inside is “A,”
And the man’s head bumps the moonrise.
(That which one person sees in heaven
Another person sees in high school,
There’s the exosphere, of course,
And the iron-oxide molecule,
There’s a small, white hand, that opens
Into a realm of history,
Stones are stones, and allegory,
And they are free, and obligatory,)
And affection for grass and football field
Bleachers, and the lights shining at night,
And the glistening water on stalactites,
And a smear of glowworm yellow light.
Sometimes (but only when you are you)
You open up (even if you
Were not you) and even if
You were shopping on McDonald Avenue
A song starts playing in your brain
(And even if the words are silly,
If you come to the end of the words,
You will reach a line that makes you chilly,
That makes you stop, that hits you in
Your solar plexus. And you do
Not know, not for many years,
That a cord connects each blue to blue).
So we put this camera on a weather balloon
And watched it, live, below, it gave
A sense of vertigo and then
A certainty, and with a brave
Flair we disparaged creeping
From street to street and alley to alley,
The traffic jams, we were here
Above the city and in the valley,
And we could see-down below—how everything looked,
The entire flow of the city, and dots
That might have been us—and we looked around
And saw in the field the forget-me-nots.
“You can understand that when I discovered a snake
In the basement stairwell, I cleaned the debris,
I had been afraid for the baby, now I cleaned
The furnace, so that it would burn cleanly,
“Without blowback.” The National Geographic
Tells about a mountain and
A cave, poison air and rubble,
And a stream that pours down to the strand.
Hello! So you would like to clean out the basement
And clean the gutters on the roof?
There is that something about a spring day
That makes me feel worry-proof,
One of those days when the squirrels and
The spiderwebs, the winter creeper
Seem at peace, most of all
The rough-legged hawk, sinking deeper.
Yaacov David Shulman