(When you get right down to it, a brick
Is a brick. But even further down,
Don’t let your eyes deceive you.)
As for what’s going on uptown,
Those lights you see are, aren’t,
Lights, you see. You thought that was
A stadium, but a stadium is
A hole, really. You heard the buzz
Of electricity, even
That, sorry, is a high tension
Wire in Missouri. But if
You need the slip promising your pension
And you see yourself wetting a line
In Blue Springs Lake, or your destiny
Seems like a cobweb in the attic,
Then imagine your agent with a goatee,
Imagine a cloud raining cats and dogs,
Imagine smoking cherry tobacco
On the back stairs, imagine hobnobbing
Out in Arles with Van Gogh.
My word! He knew how
To paint a field so that it ceased
To be a field, you shook your head,
“I’ve always been a shaggy beast.”
The holy road leads from the snowy
Hills into the snowy city.
It’s hard here for the snow to stay
White, you even need a committee
To clear a line of sight to the hills.
Sometimes you just want to go out
And ski! My gosh, your wrists and ankles
Are vibrating! The heck with the gout!
And paradoxically, all
The rules make sense, how to hold
Your ankle and your wrist—your mind
Flows, you’re hot inside and cold.
Song is the source of wisdom. (Wisdom
Goes far down, into the crippled
Psyche.) Song is it, it’s the show,
Song is coming from the tripled
Soul, followed by a scholar
Laying out the notes. This whole
Crazy people sings (including
When it eats filet of sole).
This is your own private tune
(From your brain to your broken
Toe.) Any other thought
Involved would better be unspoken.
So special is this tune (that even
When it’s overcome, it over-
Comes [though don’t expect a prize],
So view an integrated flow—ver-
Acity from head to heel).
Optimistic hopes pervade
A stream that overflows its banks,
Along a long and strange parade.
Jules Verne didn’t know
The half of it: Journey to
The Center of the Earth, really!?
He didn’t even get through
The crust. How about getting
Through a universe, a handful
Of vacuum, a shpritz of wormholes, to
Sail beyond Taurus the Bull.
What if spectrographic analysis
Yielded no serviceable result,
Because they revealed nothing but
The presence of an outer tumult?
And meanwhile, inside, whatever it is
Is turning everything, even its opposite,
To itself, with lots of cosmic
Foaming, and yet it has exquisite
Precision in its manifested
State. Should that break down,
What disaster, if it only followed
Rules that were a hand-me-down.
One can ask a hundred foot wave,
“Who are you? Are you alive? What
Do you want?” You can struggle against it,
It will spatter you and blot you out,
Or maybe in the chaos you will think
Beyond the borders of your ship
And you can spend your life being lifted
And battered, it can remove the grip
Of your every tired thought, or then
The radio squawks, they want you to
Return to shore, unload the fuel,
And report beside the avenue
“Great is my love for all creatures, for all
Reality.” (In point of fact,
I’m struggling to latch my belt,
And get through the day with a minimal tact.)
“Heaven forbid to insert in my heart
A sliver of hostility,
Of hatred for anyone.” (Except
For this barren range at the Northern Sea.)
“I can feel how I’m filled with love, great love
For everything.” (Here’s another
Mile of debris on the railway tracks.)
“Especially” (if I don’t smother)
“Human beings, even more,
“The children of Israel” (they’re the ones
Who cough, who rustle, who stir,
Who clank their skeletons),
“And even more, those who fear
God” (yes, I read about
Them every day; something’s odd
In Kensington and in the bay.)
“And how much more, the scholars” (how
The streets are strewn with anxious, twisted
Men, and I don’t know who
They are, cowards or double-fisted.)
“I won’t diminish anyone,
I want them all to rise,” (if I
Can undertake) “to be honored,”
(not to streak and scarify)
(Furious now, and disappointed)
“I have to know myself, my soul”
(My mind, streaked and double-jointed).
Many times, the channels directing
The waves break the flow of the massive
Sea. The MRI shakes
The soul, the patient lies there, passive.
Every time you feel the massive
Generators, until your body
Trembles with its throbbing,
Until it loosens every knotty
Trigger point, the hundred foot
Waves swamp the oiler deck,
It enters the trough, the sea roars.
In one type of wave, the caps fleck
Higher than the bow, in another,
A running wave, the ship feels
Itself running in the sea,
With both, a deepness steals
Into the crew, with both, the sky
And sea are no longer the sky
And sea, there’s no more roar,
Silence, praise, which signify.
It’s only natural that two
Masses of air cannot mix
Together. Are the boys fighting
Or playing music? Fiddlesticks!
The more you rise, the more you see,
You want the Alps, also the ocean,
And the wind rips up the clouds across
The north islands. And the commotion
Of the flaming west glints
The heavy waves, pushing across
The seas from Acre to Spain,
Under the wings of the albatross.
A whole nation can choke and stride,
A whole planet, it’s even eccentric,
And angels, splitting to the void
And one and still, concentric.
The best thing for the living is life.
Pushups, hikes up Hunter Mountain,
To brighten the blood in all the cap-
Illaries and remember, again,
To climb beyond the flotsam and
The rotting seaweed. You’ll breathe much better,
Your molecules (your gall bladder,
Your pancreas), the interior letter
Combinations and the global
Meta what-fors become goss-
Amer, ecology of spreading
Worlds, and rocks soft with moss
Even high school, even Edna,
The light is working, I know it, strikes
Of light and thundering clouds,
Collapsing walls, gleaming turnpikes,
All the dark mountains, all
The blocked tunnels, all the rockslide
Bounded roads, the sandstorm
Stinging, blinding the bleary-eyed.
First you need a map and a compass
And a darned good reason for getting there,
You know where, I suppose, where the darning-
Needle is hovering in the air.
Through the body, you can barely
Touch the soul. History
Can do it, accumulated in
Your bones as scars, whose debris
Will not bury your mind, and whose
Agony will clear and leave
A clear mind. Because you
Can walk beyond a make-believe
House and barn, because the wind
Will smell of water, because
The false earth ends, and you
Don’t end, and the great jackdaws.
Yaacov David Shulman