Between Fulmination and Adoration
after the music installation at Descanso Gardens, “The Sky Beneath Our Feet” by Peter Wyer
for George Floyd
i. there is a reason for the phrase a riot of colors. witness the fury of the poppies
the blood red holly against the wax leaves. a deer scavenges just a breath away—
a dark wound mapped to his flank where the guard hairs did not grow back.
ii. spring does not enter quietly let’s talk about the assault of the irises and their harsh
tongues. let’s talk about the peony held down by the weight of the rock.
iii. azaleas, crabapple, weeping cherry tree (snow fountain)
overcome by roses (their quiet hearts) I remove my mask
and bury my face in their folds.
Rilke said I see you, rose, book half-opened,/
having so many pages/of detailed happiness/we will never read
iv. who can read them? these are not words, nor pictograms, nor kanji. a rune?
from runa—secret or whisper. from Gaelic—secret, intention.
v. I follow the singing toward the forest. trace the motif of a single note to the crown
of the oaks Artahe Arte Areix Areixo
—voices ring the sky beneath my feet
here is the tongue of Eleanor of Aquitaine. the trunk
an effigy revealing the aquiline profile,
bark peeled back to a mushroom patina.
someone has knit her a verb of silk and dew—the veil at Fontevraud Abbey.
what breathed will breathe again.
vi. Sowulo you are the last song
sun seat of the soul—I heard your music in a constellation when
stars kneeled from the heavens
and looked into my eyes
how black the sky
how they hung from invisible strings
something escaped the tenderness
of his body and touched me
* The words ‘Artahe, Arte, Areix, and Areixo’ either mean oak tree or evergreen oak in Aquitanian, the ancient forerunner of modern Basque.
Copyright © 2022 by Lois P. Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 28, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
“After the brutal murder of George Floyd in the spring of 2020, our world was knotted with an explosive tension which permeated our every day. We marched, we held vigils, despite the onslaught of Covid. This poem came from the fusion of George Floyd’s death and the music installation of Peter Wyer at Descanso Gardens. There was something in the primeval vibrations of these ancient runic languages which spoke to both. Dozens of speakers were placed at the foot and in the branches of these centuries-old oaks. Wyer’s seventy-two-voice choir reached across the acres and into our souls.”
—Lois P. Jones