poem index

Prayer To Escape The East

Christopher Buckley
Ash ascending the altitudes of dawn--
and all along these tarnished clouds 
have refused to accept our suffering. 
Down a side street, the wind goes on 
tuning its violin, a pizzicato off
the thin strings of hope, a melody 
of dust.
       If you knew anything 
as true as a bird's magnetic heart, 
where wouldn't you be instead of here, 
looking out on the blank grey measure 
of another year, a street lamp 
at the outpost of dusk?
                     All the old failings
circling in the moth-spattered light, 
ones you've held on to so long now 
they just about shine, like the sparrows 
in evening's rusted trees--
                        almost the same
birds above Rincon or Malibu, the trees 
still simmering in that '60s, slow, 
Pacific sun, the glassy waves repeating 
their incomplete sentences about the present, 
and the past--surfboards spiked upright 
in the sand like totems for the last city 
of gold.
       And looking off
in that lost direction, back that far west, 
the string section in the palms picks up, 
and who's that on Coast Highway One, 
blond as Tab Hunter or Sandra Dee 
pulling up to Trancas in a convertible 
Chevrolet?
          If there were angels, 
why would they come forward now 
to acknowledge another complaint? 
And what small comfort could there be 
in their terribly bright memories 
of everything?
              It's the same future
waiting there regardless, unthreading 
through the blue eucalyptus--your guess 
as good as the birds', singing their hearts out 
for nothing but the last crumbs
of daylight pinpointing the small space 
of their lives?
               What use asking what more 
you could ask for. You might as well 
look out there to where they said 
the big picture was and watch the credits roll 
before the bandages and plastic bottles arrive 
on the tide
           with the grainy underbelly 
of industrial light. What's left to contribute 
to the dark? The echo and chum of the waves? 
Only that to confirm the eternal at your back. 
So why not
          pick up this dust-colored feather, 
carry it to your rented room and open the glass 
doors above the river, unclench your fist and let it 
float out in the and direction, as unlikely as luck.

From Star Apocrypha by Christopher Buckley, published by Northwestern University Press. Copyright © 2001 by Christopher Buckley. Published 2001 by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved.

Christopher Buckley