Sunday, May 14, 2006

"Striking Ash" (long poem for my mother, 1927 - 1982)

Striking Ash

If I sleep at all
it is safe past the death's
head of wolves' hour
after the final chink
in the sky closes
when entire worlds shift
predawned and dusked
I dream
if I dream at all
when the utter
silence of you gone
gushes out
when the sentries
of the past ignite
birds into flutterings
of love

love is the standard key to open any lock

how is it that death
should become inconspiculous
how is it that death
is so inconspiculously
a bludgeon
a photo
a report
some words
your hair
where there
was once
your light

'til a mean luck wrenched you from my hands

I walk a brief circle
around out house
slack before the spent
frame where we lived
listless as shells

as if no one else can hear or see in this bright house

as you mother
dreamed of somebody
you could be
frugal not fragile
taking the measure
of handed-down shoes
so when the slay
of the land
taught you to beg
and pray
you laid down
your arms
bit the quick
of nails
and began living
the intricate pass
of the blinding stitches
of those who labor
in waiting
in labor
for love of

til a wicked luck refuses the link

your father's depression
house housed the
pawnshop you hated
the violin he forced you
to play you scraped the horse
strings up and down
the worked spine
cursing that old man
for never knowing
his girls' hands
could settle like birds
whitling ivory

nude islanders stirring surf and ebony from a wooden world

for never letting you
come down hard on the key
that would open your life
your Pandora's box
broken into from birth
you dreamed of knowing
Chopin and harmonizing
wind with a music so welding
it wedded with a lilt
worn with the utter loneliness

of that place you heard you could play

in the backroom where
your father never goes
where the beaten
marimba is stored
you used it clean
a wooden substitute
for humming out
the trapped voices
hammering out the battered
chords of thieved lands
your mother's gift
her hands answering
the questions Chopin
leaves you

love is the common bludgeon to jimmy any window

grief is never civil
it comes to your door
at the thieves hour
like a social worker
from the sixties
it comes crashing
in to yards
of four roses
and checks
through the curtains
to see who's sleeping
in your bed
and do you
the benefits
of the poor

what could I have done with you shaming me past my senses?

you are gone
and still you are
dragging me with you
islanded here
sleepless child
helpless before the tow
past colored treats
past doll's heads
past dripping wrecks
drunks or the kittens
purring in the bush
usher me anywhere
I learn
why we come here
striking ash
off what we've loved

because love was what it was we put out trust in time

between seeming and seance
words and science
this is what lingers
snapped shut in the heart
and fated
all that infant
you waited all your life

as I now wait for you

time doesn't heal
it cuts the cord
we become ourselves
or a final fling
absent from the source
a fish in air
air in a globe
of tears

in a light that boils and burns

did we love our mothers enough
as the air
does the time ever come
when we hand our mothers
the china we are
and say mira

look what you have done with blood and air

did I love you enough
ask the page
this clipping of you
this brief and always gift

hustling grief past its prime

ask the air
this science
where I find
evidence of you
a soot
irrevocably spoken


from DRIVE: The First Quartet


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