A bird has to have wings. A photon
Clings to the sun. It lands,
93 million miles away, or
3 billion miles, on ammonia strands.
People who have a dynamo should know
Themselves. They are the waterfall,
They are the river, the tributaries.
And when they stumble and they sprawl,
They suffer. How else would the moss
Be moistened? And here the air
Is easier on the lungs, the altitude
Is not so crystal sharp and bare.
This comfort is blank, its softness vague,
Chaos. They really find a place to rest
Slung alongside the cliff, where peace
Seeps from the sun and the bramble nest.
Here you can move in any direction,
You are outlined in electricity,
Here there is no longer green or yellow
No stone wall, no boundary,
No thoughts, no visions, filled
With subtle sweetness, a scent
A melody a murmur a singing
A sussurus a stream a merriment
A fullness of love of terror
A vertigo a clarity of mind,
A sure step, a knowledge what to do,
A mountain highway serpentined,
A burst of treetops, clinging bushes,
A love for every turtle and snail,
The honor of the crow, the upswept
Cloud, the carvings on the trail,
The fields are saturated green,
They raise a mist, it settles, it burns
Off, something finer, then, silent,
The storks, the dirt road, the ferns.
“Come,” say Saturn and fluorescent Neptune,
Because there is more light than here.
Their guests are citizens there, their
Passports are stamped, “Adventurer, mountaineer.”
The rings of Saturn never err, the seas
Of Jupiter, they are fingerprints,
With the sun, of a white sky, magenta,
Saturated green, cyan tints,
There is no need to flee this world
To find the hula hoop of Pluto, Io,
These worlds are circling in our souls,
They skim the empty streets of Rio,
In the realm of space, there is no space,
No here and there, no error, ugliness,
They are greater than space, so see
The albino nebulae opalesce.
The moon is a placid lake. The light
Of the sun is unwrinkled. What more
Water or light could the world endure?
And the stars and the seas are a portraiture
And the roads to the south lead to the sun
And the roads to the north lead to the sea
And the light of the moon is their path
And the light of the sun is the crest of the tree.
And the sun and moon share one crown,
We are walking in a sea of lights,
We walk and search and drown, we see
The love of the spray of meteorites.
Ask nicely. Say please. It shows
That you have breeding. Ask for air
Or cheese. Ask for a mountain or
A leaf. And get out of your chair
Go downstairs and look for yourself.
Pick up the phone, go to the store,
Pay the bill, change your rumpled shirt,
Look through the spy hole and open the door,
And then your request will shine
On your act and will give it life. A half-
Hearted “please” is a throwaway line,
Its singeing the feathers of the seraph,
Because you don’t really think that you’ll get
What you want. You say that you do, you
Want to be good—“oh please!” you think
It’s a kind of a spell—but think kangaroo
On an Australian plain, a cockatoo
In Taronga, a shrew in the grass,
Your request is the spray of the river,
The morning fog of the fir pine pass.
“No,” said the storekeeper to the shoplifter,
But the judge from his elevated seat
Looked at them all equally. He said, “Because
The shoplifter, the housebreaker, the deadbeat
Have a place in the world, when you
Are filling your account book, factor
Them in. But do not let them in
Your store, do not mistake the malefactor
For a cop, do not call the rioter
A social warrior. Send the goat
With all its sins to a wilderness
Of rocks, the swindler and the cutthroat,
The streets of your town should be clean
And the cops who give out tickets fair,
The rowboats on the lake in the park
And giant soap bubbles in the city square.
A light that shines from upstairs
Lights up the ranks of workers on
The sidewalk, and the individual
In Port Elizabeth or Oregon.
These hands that build bridges or
Close boxes, spin wool or blow
Glass, blast foundations, connect
Power stations north of Ontario
Can contain the strike of lightning
That illuminates the street of frantic
Commuters, of antic wine merchants,
Cargo ships heaving across the Atlantic.
Here is a walkway to the government
Building, to the ministry of culture,
A helipad, a gravel road, its symbol
Is the eagle or the bearded vulture.
In the lobby, intelligent men
And women study its paintings and designs.
The plumbing and street lamps,
The townhouses and dens, shrines,
Therapists’ offices, courtrooms,
Are built by workmen on scaffolds,
Announced in the press and by SMS,
And looking past the amethyst curtain folds
We see a cormorant resting in the air,
We fall in love with the sky,
Because it is broad, an intangible dome,
The home of the bee and the dragonfly.
The knowledge of evil spreads, it
Sticks to the heart, it cripples
The feet, it turns the bile
A sickly green, with weak, exhausted ripples.
If you could take a helicopter
And hover over the sulfur springs,
You could learn about the serpentine
Twists of the valley, its unexpected reckonings,
But how many helicopters have crashed,
Have burned, have left their propellers
Twisted and distorted, and broken survivors
Who wander, spectral storytellers.
Those people in the condominiums
On top of the hill cannot tell
How badly sewers reek when the water rises
And the methane bubbles up from hell
They love the grasses and the ferns
They love the paths, the mud,
They love the black and yellow frogs,
The glistening survivors of the flood.
What your heart is feeling, if you
Look at it at the right angle,
Is prayer. And being aware of that
Is itself, when you disentangle
The brush, prayer. The light
Grows stronger in the woods and
In your soul. The light is alive.
It is the color of honey, of sand.
The word for the future is kindness.
The road climbs through deciduous
Forests, the air is crisp, it stings
The nostrils, the bees are assiduous,
Squirrels and raccoons, at night
A spotlight of wonder is turned on,
The possum is surprised in the tree,
Every meson and the black swan,
The stars are giving light,
The trees are silent, but they strain
To speak. The water offers up its burble,
The trout, the sleeping crane.
Yaacov David Shulman