The Stranger’s Song
-for Mahmoud Darwish
The dewdrop that dries up at noontime
Glistens in your night of the rosemary of yesterday,
And a longing that weeps for everything past
And the absence of your image, brings forth a stranger’s faith.
My body of sticks and leaves calls to the hunter
And a bird who carries no stones in your night
And the sky tells a dreamer nothing about the last winter
Or a pair of lover’s rhododendrons in my name or your eyes.
And the sun will be carried away, like a stone
In my old friend’s palm. And violas will cry low
For a beast and its absence in the blood of your night,
Your night of the rosemary of yesterday.
Persephone’s last teardrop has fallen
And I dream of your waiting.
The echo is in the silver of her flute,
And the palm’s ascent without a moon;
A bronze guitar that weeps,
Weeps to the river and waits for no one.
My exile watches the east sun and the west
And falls in love with her faith and her two doves,
And I dream, I dream of your waiting.
With you the road is endless.
Winter has not yet come to the slopes
Of your beauty and my tired feet
Are a chrysanthemum’s sun.
Love is hiding, just as a dream is there,
In front of my eyes, and the last song
Is a stone that torments an ideal.
With you the road is endless.
The more I ask about love and the stranger’s song –
The butterfly migrates with the wind,
A rose’s blood frightens a soldier
And the tears of a stranger’s field of poppies slow.
That my yesterday has split in my body
Keeps my tomorrow close to my freedom,
And the river asks, “how many wars before Damascus;
How many years of peace before the flood?
The sun on the wings of the blackbird,
Here and then gone, and the salt of identity
That wounds the present – what of your ears
And of yesterday’s pain has flown to my song?
You have returned to me as a dove’s image
And an olive tree where Rilke, like a myth,
Suffered the world. And the void’s evocation
Of faraway thunder in you…
The answer, like a clock’s heart,
Still beats in rhythm with the wings of doves,
But the evening sky does not relinquish its blood
To my language, here or there.
And I have loved you.
The sky’s green
And the sun on the river,
Are not a crocus, white on orange!
While I was waiting for you,
The blossoms of the Lenten rose
Cooed in the shade of metaphor
To my blood’s longing behind poetry
And I made room for a thought of you
In my soul’s width and asked,
“The relentless passing of the cloud
In what I see of you – is it my earth
That asks, ‘who am I but the water
That floods my language stranger?’”
For I am no longer myself, and this unknown land
Is the only place known to me.
When I ask how much of sleeplessness
Has found me, I let the salt in the dream
Pay homage to the wind’s direction
Follow my sparrow hawk
On another road so that what passes
Finds its flutes and its alcohol,
And when the fox burns like a butterfly,
Close to my breast, of two swallows
And meaning beyond winter…
I am becoming
The poem’s water, as a mandolin
Keeps its sorrow on the banks,
Even as it plays its song…
Keep me from talking long to you
Keep me from talking long to you,
There where a heavy liquid flows
Like the magenta blood of orchids
And grave orbits pull like metal moons,
Where the sky rustles its straw hair,
Dusting wool overcoats;
And threads of beads loosen like scarves,
Twist and drop on hard stone.
Where flax and caraway, yellow, waiting,
Open a dry sun below cobblestone
And a wounded mirror; (drowsy time
Shifts a little, there.)
Where old curriculums taunt, sullen,
Longing for baskets and blue clay,
And out in the solemn, laughing forest,
Children toss apples and forget their births.
Treading with the utmost care,
Finding my way
To an office building
On the side of things.
A republic of mice
Scurries toward a global sorrow.
We wonder at the new leaves.
Carrying a blue torch
In the district at the end of love,
Flame wounds me,
And my language fills with smoke.
I don’t have much,
That hint of wine
Touches the tongue,
Opens the heart’s waves.
-for Bei Dao
A beginning heaves,
a slow, crashing wave,
rising in the mouth of the bay.
the wing of a gull, stray
in the belly of the sky.
Man hears his own weight
falling like endless heavy snow.
When the lamps go out,
he’s forced to rest,
giving that ticket to darkness;
the night grows purple,
birds call through the snow-stricken branches.
The Deep Skies
The Novelty Act
There is coming to be
a land, that stretches
out with hope.
But space, I think,
the quiet living room,
the slow days,
all I feel is somehow
not a part of it,
as if tomorrow
were the reason to live.
The stillness is aware of you,
down the window, the rain softly drips.
Past the broken lights, do you see,
the brown eyes of the mare, and past that, oblivion?
We were not charged with the building of walls,
the wide eyed terror, our gentle son,
falls over those who sleep with a gentle hum,
we sow in the deep skies our poplars of light.
The Novelty Act
Out in the garden
Tramps the sodden hero,
Without his way;
The ruddy dawn,
Like a drunk,
Clocks and desks,
White fluorescent light
He tumbles under,
With a slight weight.
No one follows,
But there are dreams,
And a heavy nostalgia,
And a cracked mask.
For Jim Krull
the daft and pure
expanse of watering,
this – town is like a swell of music,
panting for warm phrase
Catapult the empty sugar jar
into the sky
for to uncover
is to sing
and you, not daft,
don’t let the other ring.
Raised head for what was true,
old things, not accrue.
Perhaps they are not for sitting,
nor for even glancing at,
those worn-down chairs,
or noticing perceptible movement;
the entire character of their lives
a pure abstraction; things
that if they could, would layexhausted in their yellow folds.