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Authors: Michael Collier

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BOOK: Dark Wild Realm
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through eave-height and sun-cower,
      the too much and too little,
            of its thirst;

 

from that was a life's consideration,
      the planted stave,
            the blessed frond replaced,

 

and of the cul-de-sac opening—
      the garden of one concern:
          gaudy mirror for the hummingbird,

 

bright reflection of stifled
      migration and the passage out.
          Of this was the perfume

 

and suffering,
      the blossom trained
            over all contingencies.

SNOW DAY

 

It's snowing and it won't ever stop!
In order for this to happen, the eastern tropics
of the Pacific have had to cool or warm.

 

Now the sun's not rising and the children,
still asleep, dream of weather as a rippling
curtain of northern lights across the arctic sky.

 

Or the children are awake and dressed
but have turned away from breakfast—
all the radios and all the televisions are on.

 

And even when the snow stops we will say,
It fell all day!
Who cares if the sun rose
or the wind turned the trees to glass.

 

That's how snow is, falling, never stopping,
promising itself to itself, changing one day
into the same day, like happiness into happiness.

 

Now the sun is setting and the yard is blue.
And only someone who loves cold
and isolation could live like this,

 

waiting at the window for disturbance,
someone who wants the world buried,
who loves the short days, the deep long nights,

 

and then waking up to see nothing as it was
before the snow began to fall.

TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

 

A lion is devouring a man.
That's how they first appear
when you come upon them
in the gallery, beneath the skylight,
among many other artifacts
removed from the past.

 

But the lion could as well
be kissing the man. The animal mouth
engaged with the throat, a leg
behind the neck, a paw gripping
biceps, supporting him
who in his pleasure tilts back

 

his head and spreads his legs,
but only so far as the lion allows,
for the lover's paw pins
the human foot, crushes
the toes and sandal of the man
who is ravished but not consumed.

THE MISSING MOUNTAIN

 

Cars could reach the mountain's saddle,
a notch between two peaks, and there
survey the grid of lighted streets,
a bursting net of beads and sequins,
a straining movement cruising for release.

 

"As far as the eye could see," though
few cared to look, was across the valley
to the other mountain, whose ridge
stood gaffed with broadcast towers, bright
harpoons quivering out our songs.

 

"Oh, wouldn't it be nice," the Beach Boys
harmonized. And it was. Sometimes I saw
the Milky Way invade the grid,Andromeda,
Draco, and great Betelgeuse bridging
the avenues and lanes, filling up acres

 

of vast parking lots. Sometimes I stared
powerfully into space where glowworms
of matter spun in pinwheels of gas.
What does it mean to be alive?
a voice asked. What does it mean

 

to have a voice speaking from inside?
Once I found a cockpit canopy from
a fighter jet in my neighbor's yard,
where it had fallen from the sky.
No one ever claimed it, such a large,

 

specific, useless thing, like the shoe
a giant leaves behind, like a mountain
from childhood—missing or pulverized—
it leaves a shape that once you see it
overwhelms the mind or makes a cloud

 

that is the shape of what the mountain was,
the sea floor covered with the sea.
"Oh, wouldn't it be nice," I used to sing,
and the mountains all around me answered,
but not the question I had asked.

SINGING, 5 A.M.

 

Yesterday when it began,
I think I laughed myself awake—
so perfect, and clear, so pre-recorded,
so much the birds of the neighborhood
doing what they're supposed to do.

 

And you waking next but not laughing,
not at all, not even aware yet
of how loud the morning was becoming.
But when I turned wanting to face you
and brushed your hip, we came alive
to the air—or the air enlivened us.

 

Well, it was dark. Neither of us could see,
though we were laughing,
which is what astonishment did to us,
even before we felt grateful
or dissatisfied, even before we knew
we'd been waiting—awake or asleep—for the birds,
so early and for what?

OUT OF WHOLE CLOTH

 

                In the mirror above the sink
          an open mouth sings
and a shower curtain breathes.

 

                They're the elected delegates,
          the weave and pattern,
of your own arabesque,

 

                what fills the vessel
          when the vessel's ready to be filled.
Water run over hands, and hands:

 

                a cat's cradle,
          a darn's cicatrix—a star
of the night's mending.

 

                This is the shadow you put on,
          the gown of torn sleep,
zippered and sleeveless, shawl

 

                or towel, skin of your mother
          or father that surrounds you
in the hours remaining.

THEIR WEIGHT

 

Swallows, phoebes, flycatchers,
chickadees, warblers,
and some terns and sparrows
are less than an ounce,

 

and are so little of water,
more hollow than bone,
though of substance
in boughs and leaves,

 

where they perch and fly,
for how little they want
of what matters, bright
and unmistakable—aspiring,

 

disappearing—not of who they are
but of what.

MINE OWN JOHN CLARE

 

He was the first person I knew who spoke to God
and to whom God replied. And he was the first person I knew
who had written the great works of whomever you might
        name—
mine own T. S. Eliot—though he affected no accent
and wore a shrunken Grateful Dead T-shirt.

 

It was not only madness that possessed him;
he had convictions and discernments, fine and fierce—
he rode a tricycle, small as it was,
back and forth from Pangaea to the End of the World
with a stop at the San Andreas Fault, where he lifted it,

 

wheels spinning, over the crack that runs to the center of the
        earth,
meaning he had circled all night in an empty parking lot
until his brother tracked him down and took him home.
He had moods and passions: months corresponding
with Germaine Greer and the articles he wrote for
Rolling Stone

 

that appeared confoundedly under bylines not his own.
Once he spoke of walking three days from the northern high
        country
to the southern valleys, and toward the end, lost, hungry, he heard
a voice telling him to eat the grass.
Grass contains
the secret whisperings of love,
he said. But you had to crop

 

the tips of the blades and you had to be on your knees
with your head bowed and your eyes closed, and your lips made
the bitter taste sweet. Sometimes when he talked like this
he was also crying, because, he explained,
the grass contains wild
       
onion
and other truthful pungencies God requires me to eat.

 

And sometimes—
look at me!
—he'd put his face so close to
        mine
I no longer saw him but the parts that he contained: pores
and blemishes, the cheek's sharp contours, and his eyes,
dark, filmy patches, watery with years of homelessness ahead
but alive, fierce, and, as I pulled away, unforgiving.

ELEGY FOR A LONG-DEAD FRIEND

 

Last night when you appeared,
you brought the sacks of shoes
and folded clothes that stood
waiting in your garage
for someone else to remove
the day you died.

 

Because you were laid out
at the coroner's when I arrived
you couldn't know what I saw:
boots and sneakers, sandals
jammed in grocery bags, shirts
and pants no longer stylish.

 

Months before, what was it
you said? "Don't come around
here again." So why these visits?
Why the burden of this evidence?
And silent as you are,
does your presence mean forgiveness?

 

There was also, you should know,
a flat tire that gave your car
a slouched, defeated look.
I saw it before I saw the discards.
In Dante's hell the souls
spend their time repaying themselves

 

with their own sins. He witnessed
their anguish but was rarely moved,
and Virgil never. Next time
you visit, bring that tire,
wear it like a necklace,
and we'll set it on fire.

A WINTER FEEDING

 

After two days of snow,
sun, and then dozens
of robins landing in
the column-high trunk
of an oak shorn of limbs
but sheathed in vines—
and then a ravaging
of something unseen
that the leaves hide.

 

And that's how it felt
to have made the cold
surface of perfection
reflect the mind's
starving and brilliant
hunger, and then have
the world feed you
not only its remnants
of green but what

 

of winter light and coldness
clings as magnificence—
hollowed, truncated—
stilled by its own death,
undevoured, before
it calls down
the frenzied wings,
the starving beaks,
the ferrous breasts.

SPELUNKER

 

          And you like a tongue
in the mouth of another

 

                and you like a tongue

 

          like a root given back
to the lips, to the petals

 

                and stem of the flower.

 

          And you a flower, a vine
squeezed through the attic,

 

                white leaf and red foot,

 

          splayed ear—a hand scraping
a rock. And there at the bottom,

 

                the shore and the river,

 

          the sky far above,
and you in the current,

 

                in the lap and rush

 

          of the dark, your head
bright with its lamp,

 

its light full of tremor.

THE MESSENGER

from Euripides'
Medea

 

The moment your sons with their father
entered his bride's house, all of us,
who once served you and who mourned
your fate, were heartened. A shout went up—
you and Jason had called a truce.
This was like music to our ears. Suddenly
we wanted to kiss the children, touch their
lovely hair. Overwhelmed by happiness,
I followed them inside the princess's chambers.
We understood: she's the woman we must serve
instead of you.

 

                At first she saw only Jason,
but when the children came into view,
she veiled her eyes and turned away.
Impatient with this display,
your husband scolded her, saying:
"Look at us. Don't revile your friends.
Your job is to love those your husband loves.
They've brought gifts. Accept them graciously
and for my sake ask your father to release
these children from their exile."

 

The gifts astonished her with their beauty.
She agreed to what her husband asked.
So eager was she to wear the treasures,
even before Jason and the boys had reached
the road, she put on the colorful dress,
set the gold crown on her head,
and in a bright mirror arranged her hair.
She laughed with pleasure at the beautiful

 

but lifeless image. Then, as if the gifts
had cast a spell, she stood up, traipsing
through her rooms, giddy with the feel of the gown,
twirling so she could see repeatedly
her shapely feet and pointed toes.

 

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