Tuesday, September 19, 2006

New Century Calendar    


Mistress of a darker day
what prayers can I offer you
knowing that I’ve gone my way?
And of the slippery day
when we first met on your couch,
I drink to your touch
under increasingly fluorescent light.
Who is singing now, while shyly
whispering some archaic come-on
in the ear of the guitarist,
and who is missing from this Atlantic foam?
Of the light I have told you
how I sang one night to a crowd--
I ask you to seize the onrushing
commotion of memory, say, those wicked
tourists and their funny way of talking.
For in my evening travels
I’ve followed the sky as far as I can go--
let not the absorbing darkness
fool you into thinking of me
absentmindedly, when you’re
at work, dreaming of a better world.


Builder of cities,
living where the plains meet the Rockies,
the vivid, red Southwest bursting
from atlases like the geraniums on your porch,
the struggle of the Northern Plains barely reached you.
But by now you must’ve read
of the natives Lincoln hanged in 1862, and how
their cold ghosts haunt the dreams
of suburbanites building pretty homes above
the confluence of the Minnesota.
There, where steam still drives parts of my Twin Cities,
I’ve finally had a chance to meet my doppelganger
in the deep woods bordering my neighborhood—
white oak, crimson maple, and buckthorn being
my constant reminders of a world beyond this, obscured
and possibly unknown to you.
Right now, thick, ugly geese,
while fleeing to Texas are making drafty V’s in the sky,
and everything rising is like smoke: my breath,
the acrid fumes of the northern
sawmills that sleep from time to time.


In this whisper land, I for one,
hear its loneliness, the hard ground
freezing deeper every day, the water reduced to ice,
the grass finally undone, trampled and
shoved to the side, covered in mud.
I know it won’t be this way
when we meet under the stars,
which turn differently up north—
through the boughs I’ve learned
to count constellations as the clouds shove by!
And with this love of shapes
I’m at ease with neighbors,
who want nothing more than to see
the Milky Way shine above their homes.
You see, it’s late here,
and the crackle from water freezing
on my bedroom window
insists I sleep wrapped in bundles of thick wool
blankets dyed red and yellow
for the mornings when I’m sitting awake
in the cold, holding my bare feet
steady in the new snow to mark the progress
of my people up North
where no one speaks words I know
with the grace of drying rivers.
Because for me dying means drying out, bones and all,
in some thin arroyo outside of Las Cruces.
When that happens, you can sprinkle my body with salt,
fill my mouth with oranges.


When the phone last rang
I had just changed months
on my new century calendar,
pulling a stiff ply of dates
away from the world painted above it:
yellow roses some months,
other times a serenade or some useless scene
from Aztec history, and the Saint’s days,
all imprinted with a Catholic importance
that tells us assuredly what’s next, what awaits--
The first warm rays of March were gleaming across still frozen
ponds and the mud hadn’t shoved it way past boots or books
left on still banks last summer.
It was that light streaming around me,
over my face and arms that made me sing,
the sudden whipping sound of wet branches,
the painful shoots making their way out
in one warm patch of earth where a sewer grate
commanded the path of water in my suburb.
The way I look at it, I’m still alone,
without the cross, no pal
of the lost who now seek me out
for some solace since I’ve braved
torture, the light, and the midnight sun of high latitudes.


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