You are a pulse or a particle.
You travel lines of energy
That affect others, and others affect
You, if only fleetingly.
You are free, or maybe not
So free. When you want to move
Outside the lines of Hungary
Or Spain, you’ll find they disapprove.
We are always fighting. We are always
Trying to move. Sometimes we sizzle
On the line and sometimes we’re viewed
By Michelangelo with his chisel.
Electrons are joyful and free. They suffer
No friction. As for the rest of us, well,
We’re free and we’re bound. Scale the wall,
Slip past or kill the sentinel.
He who has learned freedom of will
And gained a benevolent disposition,
Or defied the court of Rome
And gained his death and manumission
Receives his light not from a guttering
Flame but from a radiance
That permeates the bones,
That shines on courts and tenements.
You were asked to be your worst,
But I was asked to betray my best,
All along the dirt road,
Everyone had acquiesced.
The courts worked. If someone stole
Your horse, you could get it back. But
Every day, the janitor scrubbed
And couldn’t seal the wood grain shut.
Here and there at night you might see
A light in a window, someone was up,
A doctor or a nurse, sitting and thinking
Or pacing the floor, holding a teacup.
The stellar stream will always be
The stellar stream. The cuscus will scurry
Through the Malaku Islands. But the gray partridge,
Though it flees through the winter wheat, with a flurry
Screams kieer-ik, in a single clutch it lays
Twenty eggs. Thoughts lie heavy
On the heart. From the center of the city
Avenues spill out, top-heavy
Trucks reach the highway. And there are wrinkled faces,
Once they smiled, once those eyes
Took in the whole world, then they squinted,
The heart shrinks, it ossifies,
Everything is as it is and not
As it could be. Then there stands
A little door. Some people strain
To reach the knob, they raise their hands,
Beyond it waits their Rio Grande,
But for the mountain striders, those
Who own orange orchards in the valley,
Here crushed melons discompose.
Even a small person can gain
A great friend who expands the lines
Of his office space, light, airy,
What happy, what inspiring designs,
I wouldn’t meet him, though, if he sits
And glowers, wait until he turns on
His light, you know, you can learn a lot
When you call out to God in Oregon.
Here was a beautiful island, and small men
Bunched in the forests, attacked towns,
Their bones burned with hate, they hid
Beneath the soil, in mottled browns,
They infested the farms, the river banks,
Stole rifles, killed the bandicoot,
Ransacked the library, attacked
The electric plant, ambushed the route
To the university, at night they sighed,
Their faces were dead, in the morning they filled
The air with smoke, people placed sandbags
In their windows, widows were killed.
If one eye isn’t aligned with the other,
If you have to forget a to acquire b,
Then sometimes you have to forget, to acquire
Land, the contours of the sea,
Close the shade, all you hear are giant
Steps, then a melody that no one owns
Anymore. “The operation was successful,
We had to ignore your feet, even your groans,
“And we worked on your head.” The funny
Thing about the divers is that they swam
Upwards, so it looked, leaning overboard,
There was the lean one, Abraham,
He also has sheep, they graze on his
Own hill, under his own watermill,
You don’t want them wandering everywhere
And drinking from wells that will make them ill.
That’s quite a large flag you’ve raised,
That’s quite a wind, it seems to be blowing
In this direction, and all the branches
Are bent, the morning sun glowing,
The dew at the base of the leaves,
The light that excites the chlorophyll,
And the boats are floating on the sea,
Men walking down and climbing up the hill.
A paperback novel was left under the tree,
It was one of those massive tomes that contain
Everything, the entire story
Of a clan, from Rome to Algiers to Lorraine
And in the end you had to say they were right,
They were all right, it’s how each writer
Shone his light—one known for his flights
Of fancy, the other known as a fighter.
After all, if you’ve been on the roof
Enough times, trying to get
That sun-bleached look in your laundry,
The story-teller will famously let
You have some slack, and certainly
Your whole building is filled with saints,
The whole neighborhood raised this tower
Chose the colors and paid for the paints,
And most of all, the street lights burn
From Frankfort to London, from London to Bern,
The light will flood the streets of Berlin.
A woman is crushing cloves in a quern,
A man is washing the stones of the road,
The horses are stumbling, the riders fall,
Can you imagine a road without fear
And the light that is mixed in the waterfall?
Things are thought of, then they’re done.
“Please bring my suitcases upstairs.”
All the way up, to the roof, to the ozone
Layer, up to the celestial bears,
Take up my portmanteau, take up my satchel
And my messenger bag, it sure is light
Up here, and I see you have a big
Salon, and every neophyte,
Every star born in gas,
Finds electrons spinning, finds
That even shreds of light loop
In the corona, and our minds
Leap and sizzle light. “You can
Carry all of my things in that overnight
Bag.” After all, we do
The best we can, isn’t that right?
To eradicate the centipede,
To eradicate the yawning sense
Of inequity, of hollowness,
Hypocrisy and virulence,
To refresh the lakes, to restock the cove
Between two islands, to eradicate
The killers and their handlers,
Who fabricate and exculpate,
So that the good can raise its head
(Can we believe it? Outside this home?
Outside this mind, outside this hand?)
The gray cloud, the polychrome
Fire, the shadow across a planet,
The fire that burns the stones and caves,
(We are waiting for) the light on the pier
And the flame that is glinting on the waves
You can hear the water gurgling
Through the stony hole, and hear,
If you close your eyes, your pulse
Rustle, and view, on the hemisphere,
The earth rising to the sun.
The oil flows slowly, the stream
Flickers with minnow, it is quiet at night,
Through the dark of the trees’ dream,
The next day the drops of rain
Glitter on the leaves and the berries,
The dogs are barking excitedly,
And the grosbeaks are whistling amidst the cherries.
Yaacov David Shulman