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.”
What’s worth forgetting is last year’s
Incarnation. For instance, starve--
Don’t eat those Rand-McNally maps
From Babylon. Instead, carve
New gulleys. Then there’s the river of fire.
It burned all your laundry. When you forget
Everything old, you will hear
The future on a clarinet.
I’m not a kangaroo who flings
Himself across the outback. How
Deeply does he reflect? Maybe
I’m a nut on the bough.
The nut contains knowledge of
The sap and roots and soil. The tree
Is tall, from Arcturus you can see
A fraction of its canopy.
Sometimes, it helps to read a book
And chase the dog out of the yard.
Moses himself is buried where
The polluted stream under the scarred
Ground flows. The polluted mountain
Puffs itself up, but not the mind,
Not the tendrils that descend
In the dusk. Your eyes are blind
Until you remove the suppuration,
“I will send away the northern foe,
To a land that is dry and desolate,
Where his stench and his infection flow.”
Elijah said: “Turn to God,
Or turn to see that what you call god
Is the foul stream itself.” And the people
Looked beneath the clean facade.
The fake nice guy, he’s got a picture
Of Gary Cooper on his wall.
He says he’s him. And the guy who gives
But wants to be given, straight and tall
But shakes up his children, who worships at
A crumbling temple of himself.
From himself, he sees himself,
From the liquor to the shelf
Of bread. Once, it got so bad,
He was so sick of himself, that he died--
That’s how it felt—it felt good.
It was silence amplified.
Yaacov David Shulman