All of the clams were controlled by the rhythm
Of the sea. And all of the seas
Were rolled about by the moon.
Of these we’re all facsimiles.
Imagine a raft of seals that is kind
And a cove in Greenland streaming light,
And all of nature is stuffed into
Your veins, and everything is right,
And even the suavity of your spine
Is attuned to a book whose mint taste
Glistens on your tongue. It is
A scarlet sash around your waist,
It is a turban. It is a ship
That sails along a forest shore,
A mountain that rises above all hills,
And a fortress of the emperor.
Don’t fall apart. Modesty
Is good but don’t let your brain
Shatter, your neurons quiver into
Crazy-quilt drops that drain
Away because of merciless
Humility. And when your mind
Climbs, don’t disappear into
Shaking terror, don’t unbind
Every thought you labored to
Attain. You were asked to be
Intelligent, hold yourself
Together, be a somebody.
You break the cameras of the paparazzi
Because, you tell them, there’s nothing to see:
That’s why John Lennon didn’t believe
In Zimmerman: he fell into a frenzy,
King Kong battled the dinosaur.
And out of these realms of darkness, illusion
Battling the poisonous gas of bitter
Nihilism, collapses. Fusion
Out of that collapse, a piercing
Point of light, a nova stains
The sky, the shadows are bleached,
The clouds shine beneath the airplanes.
Everything was just confusion,
And dirty too, so it goes
(So I said). Otherwise,
I wouldn’t have looked (heaven knows)
For a clean undershirt. The light
Had hurt my eyes, everything
Was blurred. And now the light was sweet,
The morning birds were chattering.
I pushed a tunnel through the grass
And crawled to a wheat-stalk cave
And light filtered down and the sweet smell
And the crowding, curved architrave.
It all started (I believe),
With one of those gales so prevalent
That time of year. It broke the oldest
Boughs, wild, belligerent.
First, get into a quiet state,
Since, you know, you’re about to get sick
You’re about to fly into the hills
Of darkness and bear down to the slick
Cliffs. I know you’ve still got some
Reception, the blackness smudges ash,
What’s worse is the glassy rock that looks
Like nothing at all, the sudden gash,
Glassy rocks that rise from heaving
Volcanoes. Don’t idealize
This territory, the colorful men
Who live here, the colorful prize
Hot air balloons driven across
The sky. Remember that even Moses
Was raked across the coals, employ
A spirit that good will imposes,
Some people are drunken fools. They will
Just shut their mouths, they’ll mail back what
They stole, they’ll plant hibiscus, and
We’ll yearn for what we once forgot.
I thought he was holding a shield. It was
A light. It showed the skeleton
Of a leaf. Sometimes an
Entire tree glows in the sun.
And how sweet the inner and
The outer lights together, how
Fine when human beings walking
Home see the muscled bough
Of a sycamore. You cannot
Speak to a tree of compromise.
There is no compromise. The goal
Of goals is to shine before your eyes
The light of the first thought, the thought
Of tree trunks, from which branches
Hang with leaves that reflect sweet inner
Light. And the white of avalanches
Exposes the red soil, as sages
Learn when they become elders.
Even at night you can see the gold
Blended to the silver by welders.
Music doesn’t exist. Ask
Any cat or turtle. When
You feel it, you can stop asking.
They’ll think you’re a comedian.
Sometimes it’s music, sometimes it’s
A foal, or a cloud, or
A cubic nanogram of space.
What marvels, what a semaphore.
Mice scuttle about looking for shade.
They know they are afraid but
They do not know about the sun.
When you know about the beech nut
Tree, you see that it is a shadow
Cast by light vaster than
A galaxy. You shake off
The drops of rain, your steps span
To artist from orangutan,
And when you open the book, the letters
Float and you float after them,
In the spirit of your betters.
The manna was snowing outside the window.
Or were they spots before your eyes?
Rembrandt, you didn’t see the soul
But flesh that didn’t compromise
With light and shade. How much more
To see a street of light and shade
That never had been seen before
And only to your eyes displayed.
So much magma, so many aquifers,
So many glinting minnows, so many
Diary entries, and here, in my
Collection, is a wheat-stalk penny.
Everything fit together, there
Had never been free will, everything
Flowed into a channel, when it was there,
Free will, you might say, was the clamoring
Out of the dark. And what did it mean?
There must be a series of roads that rise
To a lookout point. I struggle to find
The laws, and trace the fireflies.
Yaacov David Shulman