One river that began in rivulets,
That ended in a cataract,
One aquifer that emerged into
A system of canals, pickabacked,
Blended, created a whole ecology
Trees whose leaves basked in the blazing
Sun. And a wind that came from
The horsehead nebula, dazing
And shivering among the dark, slick
Rocks, a wind in which the swallows
Turned, the caves crashed with sound,
And multiples of song filled the hollows.
Sometimes it is hard to deal with all
The details, all the rules,
Because you just want to get to
The top, and who needs mules?
Or maybe you haven’t taken your medicine
And you’ve left some spotted ampoules,
Or maybe the two are mixed together
And you cannot catch the molecules.
So you need an acupuncturist for one
And an herbalist for the other, dragon bones
And mugwort at cross-purposes,
Accept the needles and the cones,
Climb to the lookout point, when
You get a call, you can see the globe
Curve, and you’re needed to come
To the lobby to pacify Job.
(The trunk of the tree
Hangs in green light), in
The branches life swarms, seeks,
Flow of sap, adrenaline,
So restrained, we only hear
A squirrel scrape, still
The life proliferates, the roots
Grasp the plateau, the hill,
Almonds grow, wild apples,
Blackberries, the bluebird seeks
Grasshoppers, the chipmunk carries
Wheat seeds in its cheeks.
First we irradiate the roots.
And discover their dependence
On a huge boulder. And that tree
And stone, their resplendence,
Become a river and island. The river
And island are blood and the heart.
It is a bright day. The sun blazes
Your eyes. Nothing remains apart.
The river is flowing to the sea.
The windmills are turning, the smoke
Dissipates, the sound of the water,
The green dapple of the oak.
The LSD had a delayed reaction,
For one person it took an hour,
For another twenty years. It dropped
Into an iced tea, it permeated a shower
Across a county. Some parts were
Digested easily, and a tree appeared
With a human face. Other times
It took awhile before the blue ponies reared.
But what good will it do when we
Do not read or walk along
The avenue and give a quarter
To a bum or to King Kong?
A strength comes from words,
From points, from sparks, from life
Scattered in the trees and
Cuba Road, the mantis and fife,
Caught in the web or van Allen belt,
The instrument panels glow,
The patient is growing stronger,
The valley under the dirty snow
Opens to a pool, and through
The narrow defile the stream
Spreads, the minnows flash,
The broader current frees the bream.
Knowledge itself ducks into a hole,
The elevator sinks down underground,
With layers of shards of statues,
Skeletons, burned or drowned,
Silver-foiled clay jars,
Hieroglyphics of fiery lips,
A heart half-eaten by a
Centipede, then the ellipse,
Then the light, the zinc spark
When sperm and egg collide,
Or galaxies grasp and strain
The cowboy legs embrace the slick horse hide.
The minus is by nature dead,
It is chopping away at the tree,
Its legs are deformed and it speaks
The sayings of a fool. Catastrophe,
Its head is removed, it cannot see
The glow, it scrambles to the cave
It composes psalms, proclaims,
Its brains are scattered, its grave
Ideas, the avenues of its heart,
Its dark ideals, its stagger,
Its stumbling shuffle in the fog,
It kneels and with a chipped dagger
Hacks at the vines, and its mind
Flies, the crows flock and caw,
Land upon the tree, step sideways,
Invoke their own guttural law.
Skyscrapers and centipedes, they’re all
In these tracks that trudge across
The desert. A red fluorescing scorpionfish,
In Samir Ahmedov, the moss,
The liverwort, the Caucasian grouse
At the edge of the birch forest, and
They are all alive, even the pockmarked
Cobble, the light that shifts on the sand.
When the straw is rotting, and strewn
To efface the road, the stones
Still bruise, the holes still shake
Your bones, glanders attack the roans,
And sinkholes are swallowing homes.
And twilight creeps across the border,
The sun creeps across the sky
And everyone feels ropy, out of order,
Until the sun will illuminate
The lavender, the purple iris,
The letters carved on stone
That match the grain of the papyrus.
But when the mildew blights the indigo
Until the stems grow grey and dry,
The sun will shine a healing light,
A sword will hang across the sky
Someone is whacking away at the tree,
Refusing to listen, he started
A fire on the horizon, a demon
Sits on the desolate fence, he has darted
And swung his oxen horns, he flew in
From tomorrow, the day after that,
When the rules will be abated,
But the spell is wrong and flat.
Yes, on the 310th floor, everything
Is smooth, you can see the stars
Swinging, and the country stretching
Beneath the sun and moon, Venus and Mars,
And you can even see the sea and
Its whales, its rejoicing bottlenose
Dolphins, then the paths in the sea,
The paths in the sky turn rose,
It is all a script, a script
That was etched on our bones,
At the side of the road, that
Shown on the silver milestones.
Yaacov David Shulman