In the Wilderness Between


Besides the Aegean and perhaps the sequoia canopy
that like a pagoda spikes low cloud and
wounds heaven, I have yet to swim a sea mysterious
and woven by cantankerous doubt
as the double-edged sword of these teething waves,
of promise’s whispered quietude,
proffered by this first love
that succeeds so many falls.

In the wilderness between my two reflections,
which are named for their lakes
and surrounding mountains of tree or sand,
between the windows in my room,
between my heavy eyes, I have stumbled
upon a barkless tree, a sunless river,
a moment naked beyond embarrassment.
I have stumbled upon what I spent youth rebuilding:
an open sky, a hard rain, a dying and a flowering.
And like an undiscovered corpse knotted in tall grass,
it hid from the world’s steps but, no,
did not flee my change of season.

There is no perfect poem
apart from a mood, a desperation.
There is no beautiful thing
in itself, but cast down through limitless
and varied hand tricks of red, bold plays of light
that could as easily be darkness
or sea foam green or the uncertain color of ink.

I write her as I do Oklahoma,
without reference to the barren solitude
and muddy riverbeds and faceless midnight howls
but with eyes like a train and a fear
flashfloods will pause my course.

I traverse her with rail spike fingers.
Yellow zippers of pure energy attract us
to them. The black sky strikes whitely
into a premature day, and just before
night’s reaffirmation, in that shuddering glimpse
of tomorrow, words are a superficial embrace,
and I relive my ancestral mistake:
doubting the purity of silence.

We have traveled together beyond our scars
and weight coattails us still
like a newfound devil, like a well-tongued cancer.

Each manger, though primordial in structure
and its leap into life,
drags unknown reflections into the brush
where strangulation and suicide shade themselves,
into the sea where self-drowning
and awe’s frozen amassment arouses.
Our manger is a windowless room
decked in mirrors and tableaus
that would face water and mountain
if it had a door.

Each day we write our door,
compose our windows from grand statements
stripped naked again, made our own,
and never has claustrophobia lined so great a cell.

Reality has used us up and spat us out
but still each bloody wound kissed clean
absolves us of histories.
She can never be sea
nor enigma nor childhood nor death
nor a compass’ wavering balance.
Would that I find my virgin in her,
my final absolution, but, of a different water,
we also cut darkness and glacial cold,
warmed by burlap and obdurate strength.

The perfect poem, our uncertain moonlights
and confident fingers, is the physical body
we circle with our own.