Upstairs, she’s playing the keyboard again.
This time, it sounds different. Well,
It always does. Last time, I asked her
To be quiet. I couldn’t smell
The sea for fourteen days. So when
She wants to play, let her play,
Wake you up and drag your sorry
Carcass through the Milky Way.
The vehicles come wheeling down
The straight road. Sometimes you’ve got
To polish your buttons, recognize a field,
Undo a centuries-old knot.
And if your truck wears out, the clutch gives way,
Climb into another truck.
You become a better driver, you swear
Less, so why be thunderstruck?
And if, at night, you see a tree
Turn into a giant bat,
Or if the sinks and sizzles
In the waves, what’s wrong with that?
And if you drive a little raggedy
Or push those curves on 44,
You’re still the same old soul we knew
Before you moved to Baltimore.
People built my first two houses.
But it didn’t work out. The county came
And tore them down. The concrete was too rigid.
Not enough water. There was enough blame
To go around. Not to mention,
The foundation was weak, on top of which
You could smell the sewage from the nearby plant
And the truck with streetlamps was stuck in the ditch.
So they’re lighting the road one bulb at a time,
At least they’re getting somewhere. Last time,
The people trashed the place, even
When they met to fight crime
Or clean the streets, they were squirreling
Kickbacks, the philanthropists,
And all the projects had mold under
The floors—but the happy tourists!
When this mess gets straightened out,
There will be some real kind deeds,
Not the social justice with
A megaphone, whose victim bleeds.
Then we’ll have a lovely house,
The Chief Builder himself will build it,
With lots of light and a charity box
That can be unlatched when people have filled it.
--You’ll be all right, don’t be afraid,
We’ll have an island, maybe in
New Zealand, for all of the grifters, from
Dearborn, Michigan, to Berlin,
—You’ll be all right. Your friends will be
Your friends. They’ll come to visit you,
Most of all, this lovely home--
And the people who will light the avenue,
And build the home above the clouds,
Are the people who clear their inner plain,
Who interpret cracks in the stone, who find
The fruit tree and the ripe grain
This is the only way to know
The world, your next-door neighbor in Ghent,
This is the only way to know
The fiery mountain beyond presentiment.
Keep an eye on the red anemones
And you will see how beautiful
The grasses are, bending in
The wind, that show the scarlet, full
Field. The red anemone
Will never disappear in the grass,
The soul will never melt into
The arms or legs, into mass
Or into energy, the lighthouse
Is not the shore. The heart is in
The torso, it keeps it alive. More
Than that, it is silence beyond din,
It is the trace of light. In Ghent,
The people shut their blinds, they grumble
At the dawn. One day, their eyelids
Will burn, and their houses will crumble.
“Beloved is man, created in the image.”
The ladder climbs from here to there.
And action at a distance isn’t spooky,
And liquid stirs inside the earthenware.
The Khoikhoi and the British, the leg
And the arm, and then there’s the soul
Of the world, its iridescence
And its blessing. The fruit in the bowl.
When he told a story, you could smell the fire,
You could see the night and hear the snapping
Sparks. An island rose from the sea,
And after the glow and the thunderclapping,
The rain fell and the hot rock hissed,
The earth accumulated, the seeds grew
Into vines and trees, and the smell of blossoms
Where the listeners walked on an avenue.
The sun is coming in the window,
But the sun is not the window. But that’s
Not true. The window is another
Form of the sun. The aristocrats
Of thought will tell you so. Even
The Montgolfier brothers looked at cows.
It was sunny where they were, even when
The shadows covered the rows and plows.
If you want to feed an orphaned fawn,
Dribble milk on its lips. It will soon
Drink ravenously, and overhead,
Gold by the sun, a gondola balloon.
Imagine your bride was flown in by helicopter,
You were curious to see what she looked like, you ignored
The bridesmaids, and the first thing she said to you,
Was, “Do you like pizza?” You felt a discord,
You felt the whole world was merely a symbol
And the symbol itself was a world, and that world
Was paralleling your world, and everything collapsed
And you found yourself in bed, your legs curled
Around a cat, and there were coins
On your bookshelf, and a dawn across an entire
Sky. And you trod across the porch,
The shadow of your head on the briar.
The limestone cladding is impacted with pink,
With glints of blue, with squiggles of red,
It is a trace of a memory of a bakery
And the yearning raised by the scent of cornbread.
It is only because I see that I am larger than I am
That I am talking to you this way, there are storms
And the white wood exposed from beneath
The bark, the snails leave shining forms,
The air is filled with petrichor,
Is it music or words or light or scent
That create the entire world? I would bet
That it is a hard-to-find unguent
You say you want to go up, in fact
You do go up, but in a way
That you stay inside, a topography
Of items that were cast away,
A museum of Paris and of Saturn,
Train schedules, a night club and
Fine art, a book of poems referencing
Joyce, the vulgar and the bland,
But more wonderful than all
Their wonders is the sense of wonder,
It is the coffee that makes you weep
The flooding and the thunder.
The angels weren’t happy. My gosh!
They wanted to keep that door closed.
Inside, there’s all the bric-a-brac,
Electronics, their guts exposed.
The city of the angels is built
Of tarshish (beryl, or aquamarine).
It has stood there for 6,000 years,
They gather in the mezzanine,
And they deplore, deplore! the messy
Trace of man, the winner and
The also-ran, who has free will,
Freud, Mandelbrot, the manned
Satellite, who builds a Temple
And offers up his entrails to
Be burned, who lives in the center of
The earth and makes a rendezvous
In Timbuktu, who fails in Peru,
Regains his footing, finds his inner
Zulu, slips back and forth through
The cell wall and misses dinner,
He stands by the highest lake in the world,
Clutching a gecko. He puts down the gecko,
He is slogging through the everglades,
He hears a voice, or, he thinks, an echo.
Yaacov David Shulman