I was halfway through the thick book
When I saw: It’s just an introduction!
Then by intuition or analogy,
By faith mixed with induction,
I realized there’s a library,
And books of law and right and wrong
And corners and nooks for the shy
And great tables for the headstrong.
But then there are the books upstairs,
On the shelves accessible by ladder,
That explain to every serene heart
The sweet nothings that really matter.
The philosopher loves the ordered
Gardens at Versailles. As for
The gardener, he loves each branch,
The leaves on every sycamore.
Look at it all together, there are
A thousand miles of snow and field
Of thin, leafless trees up north,
A million voles and owls, concealed,
And all that together seem to make
A pattern. Or do they really? At least
The pattern that we think we see,
The fields in our own minds released.
On the other hand, focus
On each vole, its every flea,
Its hole, its family, its seeds,
Its every joy or agony.
The frightful vulnerability
Of children randomly born to mad
Parents—some percent will
Survive—or the desert nomad
Feeling that the sky and sand
Are blessed for him, and that his way
Has been ordained both emerge
From the same ocean and its spray.
There is no chair. It is merely a pulse,
A wavicle. All there is
Is the all. The chair or molecule
Is merely the apparent fizz.
God only sees the all. I guess
There is no chair. The all He sees
Inhabits every chair, even if
It’s just a shadow on the breeze.
Do you think you are (or were) a robot?
Or that the train was destined to enter
The station? Today you are the student,
Somewhere you have been the mentor,
Somewhere the grid of trains is set
In motion. But that you only see
As a vague and foggy motion, a shadow,
A smell of electricity.
The universe is a holograph
(That’s different from a hologram.)
“Gather us together from all the ends
Of the earth.” Here comes a clam.
All of its legs are controlled by its brain
And they scuttle together. That gives it grace.
Sometimes in the smoky bar
Where everyone thinks that he’s an ace.
You find a shiny dime, and
Your thousand dollars are complete.
In the library, you don’t see the book
You want. You see it, but the heat
Blurs your vision. You open it,
But it appears dim, hard to see.
But you have that shiny dime
And dream a shiny ABC.
In the maelstrom, you may find
The most abject flotsam. Even the shark
Turns belly-up and is dragged along,
Bizarre shapes of something, the spark
Of some bioluminescence
In the dark, some cold mind,
An eye, the vision of an alien plain
Becomes the field of humankind.
(You wear your praying mantis mask
And look in the praying mantis’s eye
To see if she will eat you. Do you
Appear to her as gal or guy?
(Asks Lacan.) Alternatively,
The mountain has trees; the air shimmers;
Lavender clings to the slopes; the towns
Below are lined with tzimmers.
How much the silver mine can learn
From men who write or sing or speak
Of silver veins. Lean in to listen
(Don’t be chilled by fits of pique).
When the DNA coiled deep
Within the cell was sound, it made
A human brain, which when inspired
Rose beyond the barricade.
My tank was drained, and I looked around,
I only saw another sibling,
Who looked like me, except I was
No longer me; I was scribbling,
I’d forgotten how to sign
My name. I was an image in
A mirror, and there were a thousand
Mirrors, every man with a grin
Is a king, I looked and saw
A dust devil filled with scraps
Of magazines and album covers,
I lost my topographic maps,
Where was the mountain, was
There even such a thing? Attach
A cam to a mountain and trust,
Yearn to be like them, to match
Their yearning. Do not collapse when
You see the spread of invasive plants
Rolling across Massachusetts, creating
A surface scent of false romance.
The ship slips from its moorings, the sailor
Wants to go back home. The rain
Spatters the earth until it seeps
Mist. The light shines through the pane.
Out in the park, the strong man does pushups,
A woman is feeding the squirrels, the birds,
She buys a bum a square meal,
He mumbles a few thank you words
But that hunted look he has is gone,
He says he’ll find his own way home,
The sunlight pulses on his eyes,
He’s been to Karnataka, also Rome,
The sailor dreams of Acre, at night
When his bunk is shaking, “Come, tired
Sailor, the wind is strong, in my shops
The bread has been baked and the pots have been fired.”
If you forget the forest, the lake,
You are one shade paler. Imagine
You returned to high school, how
Disconsolate you would grow. Chagrin
Doesn’t begin to tell it. You have
Forgotten, haven’t you? Sometime
There’s a weed you have to look real hard
To see, you might think some number’s prime
When it’s not. That’s why we have
This river of fire. Once in a while
We have to disappear. Try
To come out, this time, without guile.
Words seep down. To you, to me,
To them. Words come home, they have
The power to tremble glass. It’s scary
For everyone. The cows calve,
The rain falls on dust. The golden
Suncup, the fairy duster, the Apache
Plume, the desert bloom, the might,
The kind words—your throat is still scratchy--
The calm, cool morning. And above
The copper devil’s claw, the blue
Blazes, the air pulses, even
If you fall asleep, still, you
See that blue. You can start to talk,
Even to those who clearly are
Not you. “Come to me, you
With your back to me, playing guitar.”
Yaacov David Shulman