(There are centipedes in the basement,
I don’t want to upset you, but how will we ever
Feel at home upstairs? I mean,
In the living room, we’re charming and clever,
And have been for so many years. It would
Be nice to regain that space, to see
What’s down there, old relics, embarrassing Childhood pictures, bric-brac, debris,)
I think we would feel more comfortable
Upstairs. Throw open the windows and let
Some sun in here, you know, that crisp
Warmth that comes with the first violet,
Then everything is there all at once,
And even as they change, they are all
Still. We are walking through a world
Or a world is walking through us. The thrall
Is gone, a squirrel came through the window
And ate our bread. Across the street,
The pine doesn’t move. It just seems more green,
The sidewalk’s old cracks in the concrete.
From the core of the star everything
Is one: one thought, one value—a flow
Of photons, unending, a flow of truth,
A flow of faith, but what do we know
Here on the bottom, here where larvae
Blend and disassemble, pushing along
As a wriggling worm, avoiding harmful
Surfaces, and yet, this throng
In its urgency is free,
Because every cause is bound to its end,
Because without the dark-winged fungus
Gnat, the shadows would descend,
The soul would decay, but when the sun
Billows light, the larvae do not
Make us squirm, and that blends knowing
The sun and the forget-me-not.
The rain is coming down and water
Is rising from an aquifer.
Two flash flood streams bash together,
Even as they tumble, they’re astir,
White waters thrashing against each other,
Until they soar over the cliff,
Until they land in a seething pool,
Amidst roots of pines, tall and stiff,
And the muscled waters flow
Where the bears fish for trout,
“Happy are they!” who have such a stream,
Until even the frogs in the mud come out.
Rain fell last night, in the morning
Water was bubbling through the rich
Soil. Imagine reclaiming your life,
Including a broken lightbulb, which
Was lying in the sand, and walking
Back from the beach, and the walk
To Brighton Beach on Saturday morning,
All of that was the start of an awk-
Ward zigzag crawl and leap. “I will place
My words in your mouth, I will cup
You in my hand, I will plant galaxies
In the sky, I will flow the Andean up-
Per Amazon in Peru, and kiss
My hills goodnight.” And the river
Is flowing in my brain, the shore,
The cliffs, in pools the small fish quiver
Beetles ride upon leaves, and the vast
Glimmering current surges across
Its land, and the water evaporates
And saturates the fields and moss.
The lab is painted beige. However,
Its large windows allow a lot
Of sun. It’s a dingy neighborhood,
If each person would only tend his plot
Of land or rebuild the mayor’s mansion,
If only the fishing boats again
Were swaying in the swell. The sleek,
Silver albacore flicker, but the men
Have left their boats moored. The silver
Rain will come, rivulets
In the streets, puddles in the fields,
Puckering the sea; the nets
On the boats glinting, the barometer falls,
The pine needles shine, and then the bird
Singing, the stores open, children
In rubber boots and puddles blurred.
The first rule of life is that up isn’t down.
Why not? Well, it’s better that way.
You may think, how much more
You would get done, but anyway
That’s a done deal. Without it,
Who would carry the groceries up
The stairs, or go downstairs to clean
The furnace? There’s a lot you can fit in a teacup
With a good strainer. Well, now things
That are impossible are impossible,
But inside them you can see those wonders,
A star is hiding in a scribble.
Out of the darkness comes light. Yes,
It’s dark to you and me, and to
The mantis shrimp. On an endless ocean
A figure rows in a canoe
The leaf held up to the sun possesses
Veins, a midrib, lamina,
It exchanges gases through the stomata,
Oxygen rises from the parenchyma,
The entire forest is marked by leaves
Heaving a sea of breath that fills
The lungs of toads and seeps into spiracles
And carry the trill of the whippoorwills.
It doesn’t take much, a bitter smell
Of burning branches, the birds still sing,
The leaves are calm, but the air is dull,
And heaven is gone from the evening.
And people roam the trail, they hate
The dark, they smell the bitter air
And hate the hope, they hate the hint
Of morning that the leaves prepare,
If night didn’t come, then day would be
Too bright, so night contains a light
Brighter than the sun, stars and starflowers,
And burning in the eyes of acolytes,
In the morning, the stream will glisten
Between the stalagmites, and outside
Vapors will rise and frogs will lay
Their strings of eggs, and the hawk will glide.
The bear didn’t mind getting stung on the nose.
A direct line linked his tongue to his brain.
Sometimes he romped and licked his lips,
Sometimes he hid in the cave from the rain.
Truck drivers know when everything is right,
The engine, the direction and the will,
The best part of the rolling highway
Rising the slope of the Midwest hill.
When your mind is together with what you want,
You can feel the ripple to your fingertips,
Angels duck into internet cafes
To write that you’ve won two scholarships.
And there was Cinderella. You would hardly think
That there on the hearth she found a ring.
She had to believe that stuff about the pumpkin
She couldn’t believe her own bedazzling.
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.
Yaacov David Shulman