What the mouth sings, the soul must learn to forgive.
A rat’s as moral as a monk in the eyes of the real world.
Still, the heart is a river
pouring from itself, a river that cannot be crossed.
It opens on a bay
and turns back upon itself as the tide come sin,
it carries the cry of the loon and the salts
of the unutterably human.
A distant eagle enters the mouth of a river
salmon no longer run and his wide wings glide
upstream until he disappears
into the nothing from which he came. Only the thought remains.
Lacking the eagle’s cunning or the wisdom of the sparrow,
where shall I turn, drowning in sorrow?
Who will know what the trees know, the spidery patience
of young maple or what the willows confess?
Let me be water. The heart pours out in waves.
Listen to what the water says.
Wind, be a friend.
There’s nothing I couldn’t forgive.
Full moon rising on the waters of my heart,
Lakes and moon and fires,
Holding her lips apart.
Promises of slumber leaving shore to charm the moon,
Miracle made vesper-keeps,
And I’ll be sleeping soon.
Cloine, curled like the sleepy waters where the
Radiant, resplendently she gleams,
Lips pressed against my heart.
for the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters
One of the women greeted me.
I love you, she said. She didn’t
Know me, but I believed her,
And a terrible new ache
Rolled over in my chest,
Like in a room where the drapes
Have been swept back. I love you,
I love you, as she continued
Down the hall past other strangers,
Each feeling pierced suddenly
By pillars of heavy light.
I love you, throughout
The performance, in every
Handclap, every stomp.
I love you in the rusted iron
Chains someone was made
To drag until love let them be
Unclasped and left empty
In the center of the ring.
I love you in the water
Where they pretended to wade,
Singing that old blood-deep song
That dragged us to those banks
And cast us in. I love you,
The angles of it scraping at
Each throat, shouldering past
The swirling dust motes
In those beams of light
That whatever we now knew
We could let ourselves feel, knew
To climb. O Woods—O Dogs—
O Tree—O Gun—O Girl, run—
O Miraculous Many Gone—
O Lord—O Lord—O Lord—
Is this love the trouble you promised?
“The water” “of the river” “was mild-temperatured,” “the current gentle” “I soon began” “to swim—” “in a moonless,” “starless darkness” “The sky held no clouds—” “no luminous” “spheres existed here” “Yet the sky was” “a sky;” “for the river air” “was fresh & sweet” “Then,” “as I swam,” “the others I contained—” “my companions from the subway—” “weightlessly” “emerged from me,” “looking shadow-like,” “& quickly” “solid-bodied” “began to swim with me” “I never really” “saw their faces” “We swam quietly,” “concentrating,” “our motions almost synchronized” “In the distance sat” “small yellow lights” “where presumably” “the other shore lay” “Partway across” “the river,” “something else, a substance,” “a state of being,” “a thick noxious" "distress” “in the form of” “a gray cloud,” “welled up within me” “& left my body” “from a point along“ “my spine” “The cloud” “hovered near us” “& so we turned onto” “our backs to watch it” “It was full of" "ghoulish faces,” “phosphorescent” “death’s heads;” “one skull grew large” “& open-mouthed” “It had long” “glowing hair,” “screamed as if” “in terror,” “then spoke” “to me:” “ ‘We are dying” “You are killing us” “killing us’” “The cloud exploded” “into greenish flame” “which was soon consumed” “by darkness” “We turned over” “& resumed” “our swimming”
when you send the rain,
think about it, please,
not get carried away
by the sound of falling water,
the marvelous light
on the falling water.
am beneath that water.
It falls with great force
and the light
me to the light.
The water is one thing, and one thing for miles.
The water is one thing, making this bridge
Built over the water another. Walk it
Early, walk it back when the day goes dim, everyone
Rising just to find a way toward rest again.
We work, start on one side of the day
Like a planet’s only sun, our eyes straight
Until the flame sinks. The flame sinks. Thank God
I’m different. I’ve figured and counted. I’m not crossing
To cross back. I’m set
On something vast. It reaches
Long as the sea. I’m more than a conqueror, bigger
Than bravery. I don’t march. I’m the one who leaps.
All the things we hide in water hoping we won't see them go— (forests growing under water press against the ones we know)— and they might have gone on growing and they might now breathe above everything I speak of sowing (everything I try to love).
Then I came to an edge of very calm But couldn’t stay there. It was the washed greenblue mapmakers use to indicate Inlets and coves, softbroken contours where the land leaves off And water lies plainly, as if lamped by its own justice. I hardly know how to say how it was Though it spoke to me most kindly, Unlike a hard afterwards or the motions of forestalling. Now in evening light the far-off ridge carries marks of burning. The hills turn thundercolored, and my thoughts move toward them, rough skins Without their bodies. What is the part of us that feels it isn’t named, that doesn’t know How to respond to any name? That scarcely or not at all can lift its head Into the blue and so unfold there?
We travel carrying our words.
We arrive at the ocean.
With our words we are able to speak
of the sounds of thunderous waves.
We speak of how majestic it is,
of the ocean power that gifts us songs.
We sing of our respect
and call it our relative.
Translated into English from O’odham by the poet.
’U’a g T-ñi’okı˘
T-ñi’okı˘ ’att ’an o ’u’akc o hihi
Am ka:ck wui dada.
S-ap ‘am o ’a: mo has ma:s g kiod.
mat ’am ’ed.a betank ’i-gei.
’Am o ’a: mo he’es ’i-ge’ej,
mo hascu wud. i:da gewkdagaj
mac ’ab amjed. behě g ñe’i.
Hemhoa s-ap ‘am o ’a: mac si has elid, mo d. ’i:mig.