Friday, February 29, 2008

Uneasy Travelers on the Ghost Trail, 2008

For Mark Lee

When I returned it didn’t matter. Twenty years
in the hardwood forests watching thick
green rivers weave their way in places
I’d forgotten—it was at Lake Nokomis
I saw the comet bear down from the northwest
sky and should have known it’d take a long time
to sort out the future. Now I am here

thinking of a desert home, whether or not
I could stand the small black widows
or even the sunlight—I’ve gotten used to
the thick oak and maple filling most
of the forgotten southwestern sky—
most importantly, there is something here
to keep me from dying. The first lilac buds and viney
morning glories scatter patches of color that conquer the winter.

So where are you today, dear traveler? I cannot
envy one man’s death in Tucson
Arizona, cannot figure if you swerved
to avoid the sun or simply because you erred
in reading a map too closely, to confidently.
I am here on the other side of the country
beginning a ghost song for you—lately,
unsure of the afterlife and whether or not
to be brave, I have sacrificed my only peace
today to pray for your deliverance.

Where we are tonight depends on my life now—
on a clear straight road in central Illinois
one summer I stopped to watch the grasshoppers
flick across thick grass plains. I was on my way
to New Mexico, and had stopped because I could
drive no more with out becoming drowsy.
From far away you meant to call me
on my meanness, what I said one lost day
years before your hero died.
The three resuscitations of Rudolfo N. Carrillo

At first he rolled his eyes—I thought
he was looking askance at paintings
of Manolete on the wall. Then he toppled
sideways onto the floor—we were somewhere in New Mexico,
judging from the light through the windows,
judging from the stone-dry air of the house. I was there
to help his soul out. The morning I arrived,
my father was sleeping on the couch—he looked
like a child. There was nothing wild in his shape
but I could tell he was dreaming—this is the body
that carries the seed, this is the hand that harvests
the hard yellow maize and grinds it to paste.
But I was dreaming too. So in my dream my father
seemed alone in his own mischief. Against
the stucco walls of his own home he wandered
like an empty ship. This was the second
resuscitation. When I breathed deeply
into his very soul I lit a furnace briefly, a pale
glow that didn’t last. Remembering how
it was done, I began to sing—
for the third time my father awoke,
stirred by the electricity of hope he found
in my face. He told me so before he left
the room, before he slept and I left
him to his quiet doom.