1 Confirmed in their belief there’s still a need for worship prior to Lauds, the street-dog choristers insist on how any three of them form a quorum. However great the din they’re eventually forced to cede their urine-soaked sod to a single rooster, his beak the prow of an imperial quinquereme at the break of dawn. 2 Not that a rooster ever rues the day of days he first lowered the tone by kicking up a fuss. He specializes in splutter and spout. Sometimes the bearer becomes the bad news, as when Augustus would parlay the cult of Diana at Ephesus into the out-and-out worship of himself as Emperor. 3 A rooster will pay cash on the barrel to join the Praetorian Guard but the flanking eagles betoken our throwing off one yoke even as we take on fresh burdens. Left to his own devices, a rooster will don the kind of gaudy apparel more often associated with the bard— the three-quarter-length tuigen or “feather-cloak.” That he has a sense of his own importance is hardly something he’ll deny. 4 That wattle-ear was sliced off a slave by the self-same Simon Peter who’d cover it with a tissue of lies… The blue gel, the iodine, the ice-pack ice. The pigs who’ve had a close shave in the abattoir are in such a daze they can’t tell Gethsemane from the Garden of Eden. 5 The rooster’s claws are tempered by calcium derived from the forearm of a devotee of Saint Francis Xavier going for broke as he sawed the heart from a yucca or agave. The rooster himself would never deign to take a shortcut to Elysium via fermented sap. Beating his breast on a farm is learned behavior but the tendency to stroke his own ego is pretty much baked into his DNA. 6 From the top of the rubbish tip on which he’s parked he rubbishes any duenna trying to pull rank. His hens are rumpled. Raggedy-ass. Most statements issued from his pilaster of slow-cured adobe are followed by an exclamation mark! A sheet of corrugated tin is his main plank. “When oh when,” he blubbers, “will this cup pass?” All bully-pulpitry. All bluster. 7 For it’s very rarely a cup of joy, the cup that runneth over. More a seed-bleed from the agave’s once-in-a-lifetime pod. More a fairground tune from a wind-up toy winding us up for what seems forever. Till the street-dogs have once again treed a god somewhere on the outskirts of town.
They are not real She said from the cellar And slowly unveiled The flat scope Lizards and their eggs That I hang around the neck You will break your legs He warned me And I believed him Ruby edgings around The mushroom-colored stones And the man who told me The women Are like pictures in a book They are not real And so I believed him Despite all the years Finally free In the end of an era She held her breasts On a golden platter Despite the pain And blessings everywhere Eat she said And they ate They did
Gear adrift I say—a phrasal anchor in me & here at the summit no one I know knows what it means. I stay neat & ask What did I imagine better before work before that last time breaking One Tuesday I volunteered & never again The drumbeat softens & I still decline to admit how cowardly & shipwrecked I feel so many miles from the equator How fast can I choose differently a presence I pretend In the darkest sweater I own I'm almost cold
“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired!” She sat across the desk from me, squirming. It was stifling. My suite runs hot but most days it is bearable. This student has turned in nothing, rarely comes to class. When she does, her eyes bore into me with a disdain born long before either of us. She doesn’t trust anything I say. She can’t respect my station, the words coming out of these lips, this face. My breathing is an affront. It’s me, she says. I never was this student’s professor— her immediate reaction seeing me at the smart board. But I have a calling to complete & she has to finish college, return to a town where she doesn’t have to look at, listen to or respect anyone like me—forever tall, large & brown in her dagger eyes, though it’s clear she looks down on me. She can return— if not to her hometown, another enclave, so many others, where she can brush a dog’s golden coat, be vegan & call herself a good person. Are you having difficulty with your other classes? No. Go, I say, tenderly. Loaded as a cop’s gun, she blurts point-blank that she’s afraid of me. Twice. My soft syllables rattle something planted deep, so I tell her to go where she'd feel more comfortable as if she were my niece or godchild, even wish her a good day. If she stays, the ways this could backfire! Where is my Kevlar shield from her shame? There’s no way to tell when these breasts will evoke solace or terror. I hate that she surprises me, that I lull myself to think her ilk is gone despite knowing so much more, and better. I can’t proselytize my worth all semester, exhaust us for the greater good. I can’t let her make me a monster to myself— I’m running out of time & pity the extent of her impoverished heart. She’s from New England, I’m from the Mid-South. Far from elderly, someone just raised her like this with love. I have essays to grade but words warp on the white page, dart just out of reach. I blink two hours away, find it hard to lift my legs, my voice, my head precious to my parents now being held in my own hands. How did they survive so much worse, the millions with all of their scars! What would these rivers be without their weeping, these streets without their faith & sweat? Fannie Lou Hamer thundered what they felt, we feel, into DNC microphones on black and white TV years before I was a notion. She doesn’t know who Fannie Lou Hamer is, and never has to.
I have oared and grieved, grieved and oared, treading a religion of fear. A frayed nerve. A train wreck tied to the train of an old idea. Now, Lord, reeling in violent times, I drag these tidal griefs to this gate. I am tired. Deliver me, whatever you are. Help me, you who are never near, hold what I love and grieve, reveal this green evening, myself, rain, drone, evil, greed, as temporary. Granted then gone. Let me rail, revolt, edge out, glove to the grate. I am done waiting like some invalid begging in the nave. Help me divine myself, beside me no Virgil urging me to shift gear, change lane, sing my dirge for the rent, torn world, and love your silence without veering into rage.
Cinched belt tugged tight around the heart 5 or 6 aerial roots dangling A strangler fig Do homeless ancestors live inside the tree? Child of noise Hold the loosened ends You may miss the moon or fall in love with it Embrace ashes I too am far removed A thirst that wanders thirsting And I could never ask the name of the boy who died A baby boy who died but what could you do and maybe words hang in sinew and care Writer of dead words or living words and life's hammer Encase the host tree and erase it I don't know the folk songs on farms far from here The dead buried and gone To dig the grave Who dug the graves Darling The sea widens for you tonight and deepens
By the stream I dream in calm delight, and watch as in a glass,
How the clouds like crowds of snowy-hued and white-robed
And the water into ripples breaks and sparkles as it spreads,
Like a host of armored knights with silver helmets on their heads.
And I deem the stream an emblem fit of human life may go,
For I find a mind may sparkle much and yet but shallows show,
And a soul may glow with myriad lights and wondrous mysteries,
When it only lies a dormant thing and mirrors what it sees.
For Robert Lowell
This is the time of year
when almost every night
the frail, illegal fire balloons appear.
Climbing the mountain height,
rising toward a saint
still honored in these parts,
the paper chambers flush and fill with light
that comes and goes, like hearts.
Once up against the sky it's hard
to tell them from the stars—
planets, that is—the tinted ones:
Venus going down, or Mars,
or the pale green one. With a wind,
they flare and falter, wobble and toss;
but if it's still they steer between
the kite sticks of the Southern Cross,
receding, dwindling, solemnly
and steadily forsaking us,
or, in the downdraft from a peak,
suddenly turning dangerous.
Last night another big one fell.
It splattered like an egg of fire
against the cliff behind the house.
The flame ran down. We saw the pair
of owls who nest there flying up
and up, their whirling black-and-white
stained bright pink underneath, until
they shrieked up out of sight.
The ancient owls' nest must have burned.
Hastily, all alone,
a glistening armadillo left the scene,
rose-flecked, head down, tail down,
and then a baby rabbit jumped out,
short-eared, to our surprise.
So soft!—a handful of intangible ash
with fixed, ignited eyes.
Too pretty, dreamlike mimicry!
O falling fire and piercing cry
and panic, and a weak mailed fist
clenched ignorant against the sky!
In Memory of Paul Violi (1944–2011) I did not realize that you were fading from sight I don’t believe I could have helped with the transition You most likely would have made a joke of it Did you hear about the two donkeys stuck in an airshaft I don’t believe I could have helped with the transition The doorway leading to the valleys of dust is always open Did you hear about the two donkeys stuck in an airshaft You might call this the first of many red herrings The doorway leading to the valleys of dust is always open The window overlooking the sea is part of the dream You might call this the first of many red herrings The shield you were given as a child did not protect you The window overlooking the sea is part of the dream One by one the words leave you, even this one The shield you were given as a child did not protect you The sword is made of air before you knew it One by one the words leave you, even this one I did not realize that you were fading from sight The sword is made of air before you knew it You most likely would have made a joke of it
I worry that my friends will misunderstand my silence as a lack of love, or interest, instead of a tent city built for my own mind, I worry I can no longer pretend enough to get through another year of pretending I know that I understand time, though I can see my own hands; sometimes, I worry over how to dress in a world where a white woman wearing a scarf over her head is assumed to be cold, whereas with my head cloaked, I am an immediate symbol of a war folks have been fighting eons-deep before I was born, a meteor.
Everybody is doing trigger warnings now, so To Whom It May Concern, I hated God when my sister died. I didn’t know it was coming, but we were at the hospital in a private room for family, and our pastor was there, the one who baptized me, and he said Let us pray, and I kept my eyes open to watch everybody, but listened, and when he said Sometimes God has to take back his angels, I was smart enough to know, I was 14, that he was saying she was gone or going and I loathed him so much, he didn’t see the look on my face, that blazing anger blank heart f-you-forever look, but then my parents told us we were going to take her off life support, and I died then, and after they took away the machines we had solitude, family time the five of us, mom, dad, me, my brother, and my sister. Holding her body she was warm she wasn’t conscious but she could hear us I know it, then they opened the door for other family to say goodbye and I was hugging her back in her bed, my face against her face, my tears wetting her cheek it was flush and her wavy hair, I wanted to hold her forever I was hurting but felt selfish like other people wanted to say goodbye too so I let go, and her head kind of tilted to the side and I straightened it so I was a mess then goodbye goodbye we left there to clean the house for mourners to come.
October where three we-horses mark ground, turn snake our necks inside the guayla circle. My aranci, —etan, childfox out my fourth mouth, you drank then the year went dark & our own flowers & fires & what we thought we were though, still, our faces opened to the whooping of coyotes at the canyon rim, how they throw their voices out, falling, starless veils of lace over our still, black heads. Awake I sit sentried with all my Sight & the purple fennel musting after rain. This hour Become my canyon, become my bottom of the world listening for your breaths—to ward off nonbreath. Parent, my son—My son, a flicker barely born. Already withstand the blanched eye of our grief One morning with our faces crying into the arroyo it answers: Once there were no doors. No doors on earth, not a single one. —so when I listen I still hear you still kicking the ball, laughing as you say the story of endurance. & the women flutter their flickering tongues a flock of sound suddenly aflight to be, for you, both here & further they throw their voicebirds over the births so we are three & simultaneous earths inside your coil of fatherhair to which I press my ear to hear the histories, then the bell Then the whirl The whir of doctors above your beds, your noiseless struggle to be. Stay. Say. You are my Heres & Furthers Daddy, now I join the mothers Remember, when you were a little boy I used to hold you?
Consider the palms. They are faces, eyes closed, their five spread fingers soft exclamations, sadness or surprise. They have smile lines, sorrow lines, like faces. Like faces, they are hard to read. Somehow the palms, though they have held my life piece by piece, seem young and pale. So much has touched them, nothing has remained. They are innocent, maybe, though they guess they have a darker side that they cannot grasp. The backs of my hands, indeed, are so different that sometimes I think they are not mine, shadowy from the sun, all bones and strain, but time on my hands, blood on my hands— for such things I have never blamed my hands. One hand writes. Sometimes it writes a reminder on the other hand, which knows it will never write, though it has learned, in secret, how to type. That is sad, perhaps, but the dominant hand is sadder, with its fear that it will never, not really, be written on. They are like an old couple at home. All day, each knows exactly where the other is. They must speak, though how is a mystery, so rarely do they touch, so briefly come together, now and then to wash, maybe in prayer. I consider my hands, palms up. Empty, I say, though it is exactly then that they are weighing not a particular stone or loaf I have chosen but everything, everything, the whole tall world, finding it light, finding it light as air.
If trees fall in a wood and no one hears them,
Do they exist except as a page of lines
That words of rapture or grief are written on?
They are lines too while alive, pointing away
From the primer of damped air and leafmold
That underlie, or would if certain of them
Were not melon or maize, solferino or smoke,
Colors into which a sunset will collapse
On a high branch of broken promises.
Or they nail the late summer’s shingles of noon
Back onto the horizon’s overlap, reflecting
An emptiness visible on leaves that come and go.
How does a life flash before one’s eyes
At the end? How is there time for so much time?
You pick up the book and hold it, knowing
Long since the failed romance, the strained
Marriage, the messenger, the mistake,
Knowing it all at once, as if looking through
A lighted dormer on the dark crest of a barn.
You know who is inside, and who has always been
At the other edge of the wood. She is waiting
For no one in particular. It could be you.
If you can discover which tree she has become,
You will know whether it has all been true.
for Wolf Kahn
We stand together on our block, me and my son, Neighbors saying our face is the same, but I know He’s better than me: when other children move Toward my daughter, he lurches like a brother Meant to put them down. He is a bodyguard On the playground. He won’t turn apart from her, Empties any enemy, leaves them flimsy, me Confounded. I never fought for so much— I calmed my daughter when I could cradle My daughter; my son swaggers about her. He won’t have to heal a girl he won’t let free. They are so small. And I, still, am a young man. In him lives my black anger made red. They play. He is not yet incarcerated.
I had forgotten how the frogs must sound
After a year of silence, else I think
I should not so have ventured forth alone
At dusk upon this unfrequented road.
I am waylaid by Beauty. Who will walk
Between me and the crying of the frogs?
Oh, savage Beauty, suffer me to pass,
That am a timid woman, on her way
From one house to another!
There are gods
is offered praise
& still cannot
its colors are blue
& black, a cross-
hatch of bruise
like my son’s
like lungs, excised
or autopsied, splayed
open on a cold table
or left in the street
for hours to stew.
is a gun—
is a gun, skin
a shiny pistol,
a demon, a barrel
not to bear but bare. Don’t
into the wrong
is not dark
but a red siren
who will not blow
breath into your open
like a heart. Because
I can see
I believe in you, god
of police brutality—
of corn liquor
& late fertility, of birth
pain & blood
like the sun setting,
dispersing its giant
crowd of light.
I liked Jane’s team. I’d bet money on them but it wasn’t that kind of thing. Too disorganized, plus it was just lunchtime pickup winterball with deflated goal bulbs and not enough of the good knee-gel to go around. The kids were tough. The kids goofed. Jane shone.
She worried that winter ball like a craft, then, like it was nothing, she’d plffft it dead center while everyone else looked sleepy, sidewise, a full surprise every time. Her main move always a low private conversation with the air. Then lightning knees you could never see.
The rest of the team shot sparks on occasion. Tella’s swift half-bank could rattle the shoulder of the thickest bulb-guard, and The Brain (a sticky girl in Advanced Graphmatics) had all the angles. We stood in the stands like snipers, trying to see what The Brain saw but never did till the fluke-score landed from outer space. Jane again, invisibly.
Some girls thought winter ball too mean-streaked, too psychic. My oldest daughter could hardly watch, preferring hockey. They shared a season so it was one or the other in our town. My younger daughter would rather ice-swim, but even in her ice-hole in the lake, her eyes followed Jane.
Our hearts were in Jane’s feet, her hands. All the bills we couldn’t pay, the wishing for electricity and lit-up screens of pleasure, the food gone rotten because no one could bring themselves to eat it—Jane gave us so many more chances to do it right this time.
We couldn’t give our kids the bountiful, bullet-proof homes we wanted, but we could insist on watching them try to win their childhoods back, inspecting their scraped knees before the raw red and pink dappled wounds turned burgundy, into crusts of edible leather.
He courts her with Soir de Paris & braids myths in her hair. To hear time how they need it to be is the sound of dare. His soft-burred tenor soaks her like grapes in wild yeast. A beautiful loser, she takes pleasure in being incomplete. He draws tears from grown men when he plucks his box. She is reckless, never trained, so much a wound clock. They move like movement in a still life picture. She sings behind the beat and leans into the future. Stepping out of sequence as though they’ve just begun. Then again, the start moves back, depending on the run.
In the invitation, I tell them for the seventeenth time
(the fourth in writing), that I am gay.
In the invitation, I include a picture of my boyfriend
& write, You’ve met him two times. But this time,
you will ask him things other than can you pass the
whatever. You will ask him
about him. You will enjoy dinner. You will be
enjoyable. Please RSVP.
They RSVP. They come.
They sit at the table & ask my boyfriend
the first of the conversation starters I slip them
upon arrival: How is work going?
I’m like the kid in Home Alone, orchestrating
every movement of a proper family, as if a pair
of scary yet deeply incompetent burglars
is watching from the outside.
My boyfriend responds in his chipper way.
I pass my father a bowl of fish ball soup—So comforting,
isn’t it? My mother smiles her best
Sitting with Her Son’s Boyfriend
Who Is a Boy Smile. I smile my Hurray for Doing
a Little Better Smile.
Everyone eats soup.
Then, my mother turns
to me, whispers in Mandarin, Is he coming with you
for Thanksgiving? My good friend is & she wouldn’t like
this. I’m like the kid in Home Alone, pulling
on the string that makes my cardboard mother
more motherly, except she is
not cardboard, she is
already, exceedingly my mother. Waiting
for my answer.
While my father opens up
a Boston Globe, when the invitation
clearly stated: No security
blankets. I’m like the kid
in Home Alone, except the home
is my apartment, & I’m much older, & not alone,
& not the one who needs
to learn, has to—Remind me
what’s in that recipe again, my boyfriend says
to my mother, as though they have always, easily
talked. As though no one has told him
many times, what a nonlinear slapstick meets
slasher flick meets psychological
pit he is now co-starring in.
Remind me, he says
to our family.
It’s not that the old are wise But that we thirst for the wisdom we had at twenty when we understood everything when our brains bubbled with tingling insights percolating up from our brilliant genitals when our music rang like a global siege shooting down all the lies in the world oh then we knew the truth then we sparkled like mica in granite and now we stand on the shore of an ocean that rises and rises but is too salt to drink
The hastily assembled angel saw One thing was like another thing and that Thing like another everything depend- ed on how high it was the place you saw Things from and he had seen the Earth from where A human couldn’t see the Earth and could- n’t tell most human things apart and though He hadn’t ever really understood His job he knew it had to do with seeing And what he saw was everything would come Together at the same time everything Would fall apart and that was humans thinking The world was meant for them and other things Were accidental or were decora- tions meant for them and therefore purposeful That humans thought that God had told them so And what the hastily assembled angel Thought was that probably God had said the same thing To every living thing on Earth and on- ly stopped when one said Really back but then Again the hastily assembled angel Couldn’t tell human things apart and maybe That Really mattered what would he have heard Holy or maybe Folly or maybe Kill me
(at St. Mary's)
may the tide that is entering even now the lip of our understanding carry you out beyond the face of fear may you kiss the wind then turn from it certain that it will love your back may you open your eyes to water water waving forever and may you in your innocence sail through this to that
This fireman comes every afternoon to the café on the corner dressed for his shift in clean dark blues This time it’s the second Wednesday of January and he’s meeting his daughter again who must be five or six and who is always waiting for her father like this in her charcoal gray plaid skirt with green and red stripes She probably comes here straight from school her glasses a couple nickels thick By now I know that she can sit (except for her one leg swinging from the chair) absolutely still while her father pulls fighters’ wraps from his work bag and begins half way down the girl’s forearm winding the fabric in overlapping spirals slowly toward her fist then he props her wrist like a pro on his own hand unraveling the black cloth weaving it between her thumb and forefinger around the palm taut but not so much that it cuts off the blood then up the hand and between the other fingers to protect the knuckles the tough humpback guppies just under the skin He does this once with her left then again to her right To be sure her pops knows he has done a good job she nods Good job Good Maybe you’re right I don’t know what love is A father kisses the top of his daughter’s head and knocks her glasses cockeyed He sits back and downs the last of the backwash in his coffee cup They got 10 minutes to kill before they walk across the street down the block and out of sight She wants to test her dad’s handiwork by throwing a couple jab-cross combos from her seat There is nothing in the daughter’s face that says she is afraid There is nothing in the father’s face to say he is not He checks his watch then holds up his palms as if to show his daughter that nothing is burning In Philadelphia there are fires I’ve seen those in my lifetime too
For Frank X Walker FXW: I don’t know how to swim Me: What?! FXW: There were no pools for Black Folk when I was coming up In sleep’s 3-D theatre: home, a green island surrounded by the blue of ocean. Zoom to the heart, see the Couva swimming pool filled with us —black children shrieking our joy in a haze of sun; our life- guard, Rodney, his skin flawless and gleaming—black as fresh oil —his strut along the pool’s edge, his swoonworthy smile; Daddy a beach-ball-bellied Poseidon, droplets diamonding his afro; my brother, hollering as he jumps into his bright blue fear, his return to air gasping and triumphant. And there, the girl I was: dumpling thick and sun-brown, stripped down to the red two-piece suit my mother had made by hand, afloat in the blue bed of water, the blue sky beaming above. When I wake up, I’m in America where Dorothy Dandridge once emptied a pool with her pinkie, and in Texas a black girl’s body draped in its hopeful, tasseled bikini, struck earth instead of water, a policeman’s blue-clad knees pinning her back, her indigo wail a siren. I want this to be a dream, but I am awake and in this place where the only blue named home is a song and we are meant to sink, to sputter, to drown.
say it with your whole black mouth: i am innocent & if you are not innocent, say this: i am worthy of forgiveness, of breath after breath i tell you this: i let blue eyes dress me in guilt walked around stores convinced the very skin of my palm was stolen & what good has that brought me? days filled flinching thinking the sirens were reaching for me & when the sirens were for me did i not make peace with god? so many white people are alive because we know how to control ourselves. how many times have we died on a whim wielded like gallows in their sun-shy hands? here, standing in my own body, i say: the next time they murder us for the crime of their imaginations i don’t know what i’ll do. i did not come to preach of peace for that is not the hunted’s duty. i came here to say what i can’t say without my name being added to a list what my mother fears i will say what she wishes to say herself i came here to say i can’t bring myself to write it down sometimes i dream of pulling a red apology from a pig’s collared neck & wake up crackin up if i dream of setting fire to cul-de-sacs i wake chained to the bed i don’t like thinking about doing to white folks what white folks done to us when i do can’t say i don’t dance o my people how long will we reach for god instead of something sharper? my lovely doe with a taste for meat take the hunter by his hand
And seriously now the guitar is beating me up It is shoving me into the narrow range of its cheerful melancholy And all sorts of feelings I want to have I cannot My feet start to move in exactly the same way They did for so many years each time I entered The tin shack where the dancing occurred Again I see you Luna just as I did When I was a boy once and everything Made a large kind of sense we were being guarded The new wave band with the exciting hair Produced inside us the same faint scent Of oranges that filled the patio in ancient holy Spain We read about in our textbooks We knew someday we would go Together there and feel our song In the narrow alleyways made sense We would sing it and drink each other’s blood Which would only make us grow stronger Sometimes we talked about just going to Panama To watch the ships move through the artificial scar Overlords made in earth to bring the goods we loved We put them in our mouths and on our record players Luna I am losing the red thread I want to rush back out into the street Away from this terrible guitar that is making me feel I’m just a chandelier in the reflections of my own Glass droplets quantifying what has passed Too enervated to keep toiling like a star Luna I don’t mean to say it’s all been a loss There was that class I took on how to ride The carousel holding my nephew But it’s impossible to be positive with this guitar playing There is something inside the tune I can’t alter and this man is singing All these songs about going there To be honest I just gave up and moved I hear my sister yelling in the yard Luna I’m going to bring my head outside To see if I can scare some crows They have bad manners not that I really care There are three of them right now Making me think of you and me and the other one The best evening of my life was when we parked Above that hill and talked all night About the things we would never do Until we grew dark and indifferent As a well in a ruined village The army passes by…
Every day I am born like this— No chingues. Nothing happens for the first time. Not the neon sign that says vacant, not the men nor the jackals who resemble them. I take my bones inscribed by those who came before, and learn to court myself under a violence of stars. I prefer to become demon, what their eyes cannot. Half of me is beautiful, half of me is a promise filled with the quietest places. Every day I pray like a dog in the mirror and relish the crux of my hurt. We know Lilith ate the bones of her enemies. We know a bitch learns to love her own ghost.
Soon my father will lose his wedding ring but before that happens we take the path along the cliff-edge past the sign that says Danger: Keep Back because the waves below have undermined it, and the next big storm will be enough to bring the whole face down. I know this but I can’t help looking down and noticing how each wave throws a ring of pretty foam that’s nothing like a storm round fallen rocks forming a sort of path for someone who might find themselves below which no one ever would, my father says. It’s much too dangerous, my father says, new rock-falls any time might tumble down and injure them, and while the sea below looks calm, a quickly-rising tide would ring and terrify them, devastate the path, then drown them just as surely as a storm. I hear him out about the calm and storm and fall in line with everything he says, continuing along the cliff-top path until it leads us in a zig-zag down onto the sea-shore where a wormy ring of sand recalls the tunneling below. My father says the North Sea is below freezing almost, thanks to a recent storm, and so he eases off his wedding ring because the cold is bound to shrink, he says, his fingers, and his ring would then slip down and vanish like the dangerous cliff path. He turns around to see once more the path, the dizzy fall, the rocks, the waves below. He thinks his only choice is to set down on one stone of the many that the storm has carried from their North Sea bed, which says a lot about the power of storms, his ring. It slides down out of sight as though the storm has also switched his path to run below. This neither of us says. He never finds his ring.
[Artemis speaks] The cornel-trees uplift from the furrows, the roots at their bases strike lower through the barley-sprays. So arise and face me. I am poisoned with the rage of song. I once pierced the flesh of the wild-deer, now am I afraid to touch the blue and the gold-veined hyacinths? I will tear the full flowers and the little heads of the grape-hyacinths. I will strip the life from the bulb until the ivory layers lie like narcissus petals on the black earth. Arise, lest I bend an ash-tree into a taut bow, and slay—and tear all the roots from the earth. The cornel-wood blazes and strikes through the barley-sprays, but I have lost heart for this. I break a staff. I break the tough branch. I know no light in the woods. I have lost pace with the winds.
First, above all, I live forever. And thereafter redecorate paradise in the majesty of the Roof Nightclub, DJ Lucifer, at predawn hours terrifies the floorboards to give way to Apollyon’s abyss, reflecting scarred light on the wall. The mirror alive with tremors. Herons bring news of consolation. I rebuke them for my brilliance and enrich uranium in my cove across Navy Island. The hospital vanishes in the fog, so I arrange rain to restore magenta ginger lilies where my mother walked to born me. Malignant fireflies at Christmas; sorrel then sorrow, such is Kingston, there funky carols seethe asphalt with famine. Forever ends. Never a moment holds ‘still-here,’ when sand murmurs through my fingers. I number and chant down stars, ellipsoidal as fire ants with, “I think I will be killed once I die!” and again return the Super Ape, to conquer the Roof Club, rip off Apollyon’s hell fence; skin him; dance thundering subatomic dub music, until my rage yields settled coral. A million embers of eyes split from coals to see me loom out the shadows’ sunray by the turntable wearing a splash crown.