The Call

C. Dale Young - 1969-

                       in memoriam Cecil Young

I am addicted to words, constantly ferret them away
in anticipation. You cannot accuse me of not being prepared.
I am ready for anything. I can create an image faster than

just about anyone. And so, the crows blurring the tree line;
the sky’s light dimming and shifting; the Pacific cold and
impatient as ever: this is just the way I feel. Nothing more.

I could gussy up those crows, transform them
into something more formal, more Latinate, could use
the exact genus Corvus, but I won’t. Not today.

Like any addict, I, too, have limits. And I have written
too many elegies already. The Living have become
jealous of the amount I have written for the Dead.

So, leave the crows perched along the tree line
watching over us. Leave them be. The setting sun?
Leave it be. For God’s sake, what could be easier

in a poem about death than a setting sun? Leave it be.
Words cannot always help you, the old poet had taught
me, cannot always be there for you no matter how you

store them away with sharpened forethought.
Not the courier in his leather sandals, his legs dark and dirty
from the long race across the desert. Not the carrier

pigeon arriving with the news of another dead Caesar
and the request you present yourself. Nothing like that.
The telephone rings. Early one morning, the telephone rings

and the voice is your mother’s voice. No fanfare. Your
father’s brother is dead. He died that morning. And your
        tongue
went silent. Like any other minor poet, you could not find

the best words, the appropriate words. Leave it be now.
You let your mother talk and talk to fill the silence. Leave it be.
All of your practiced precision, all of the words saved up

for a poem, can do nothing to remedy that now.
 

More by C. Dale Young

The Philosopher in Florida

Midsummer lies on this town 
like a plague: locusts now replaced 
by humidity, the bloodied Nile

now an algae-covered rivulet 
struggling to find its terminus. 
Our choice is a simple one:

to leave or to remain, to render 
the Spanish moss a memory 
or to pull it from trees, repeatedly.

And this must be what the young 
philosopher felt, the pull of a dialectic so basic 
the mind refuses, normally,

to take much notice of it. 
Outside, beyond a palm-tree fence, 
a flock of ibis mounts the air,

our concerns ignored 
by their quick white wings.
Feathered flashes reflected in water,

the bending necks of the cattails:
the landscape feels nothing—
it repeats itself with or without us.

Night Air

"If God is Art, then what do we make
of Jasper Johns?"  One never knows
what sort of question a patient will pose,

or how exactly one should answer.
Outside the window, snow on snow 
began to answer the ground below

with nothing more than foolish questions.
We were no different.  I asked again:
"Professor, have we eased the pain?"

Eventually, he’d answer me with: 
"Tell me, young man, whom do you love?"
"E," I’d say, "None of the Above,"

and laugh for lack of something more
to add.  For days he had played that game,
and day after day I avoided your name

by instinct.  I never told him how
we often wear each other’s clothes—
we aren’t what many presuppose.

Call it an act of omission, my love.
Tonight, while walking to the car,
I said your name to the evening star,

clearly pronouncing the syllables
to see your name dissipate
in the air, evaporate.

Only the night air carries your words
up to the dead (the ancients wrote):
I watched them rise, become remote.

Blood

Someone has already pulled a knife
across my chest, and the rope has already
gripped our wrists drawing blood.

I am naked, and I cannot be sure
if you are as well. In the room, the men
come and go, yelling blood bath, half-blood,

blood-bitch. We never hear the word trueblood.
In my dreams I am dying all the time.
We are bound and gagged, blindfolded,

but still I know you must be the one
lying there, the cool anodized steel table
beneath us, the two of us side by side.

Lying there, my shoulder blades ache,
and there is blood collecting in
the corners of my mouth. But then it happens,

just as it always happens: your fingers
suddenly twist into tiny shoots, your arms
break free as you accept the shape

of a tree, the leaves sprouting, the delicate
bark rising up from your skin's surface.
Try as I might, I never seem able.

On the telephone this morning, I again
keep the dream to myself. Half-blood
becomes half-breed. Blood-bitch

becomes blood-sister. But blood never lies,
does it? Blood carries so many secrets
one can only hear its murmurs in our arteries,

its incessant monologue, in the quiet
night's bed just before sleep. Blood says
You are more and, sometimes, You are less.