Two for Tuesday: Richard Jackson
Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and lovely, 80 degrees.
Last night around midnight I opened the back door to let the dogs go out, and I stared up into the sky. It was one of those awesome night skies, not because of the stars, but because of the clouds. Huge dollops of cumulous clouds dotted the sky, obscuring the stars, but appearing luminous all the same. Even though it was a new moon, the sky seemed alit with hidden light. I thought of Richard Jackson.
Ten Things I Need to Know
The brightest stars are the first to explode. Also hearts. It is important to pay attention to love’s high voltage signs. The mockingbird is really ashamed of its own feeble song lost beneath all those he has to imitate. It’s true, the Carolina Wren caught in the bedroom yesterday died because he stepped on a glue trap and tore his wings off. Maybe we have both fallen through the soul’s thin ice already. Even Ethiopia is splitting off from Africa to become its own continent. Last year it moved 10 feet. This will take a million years. There’s always this nostalgia for the days when Time was so unreal it touched us only like the pale shadow of a hawk. Parmenedes transported himself above the beaten path of the stars to find the real that was beyond time. The words you left are still smoldering like the cigarette left in my ashtray as if it were a dying star. The thin thread of its smoke is caught on the ceiling. When love is threatened, the heart crackles with anger like kindling. It’s lucky we are not like hippos who fling dung at each other with their ridiculously tiny tails. Okay, that’s more than ten things I know. Let’s try twenty five, no, let’s not push it, twenty. How many times have we hurt each other not knowing? Destiny wears her clothes inside out. Each desire is a memory of the future. The past is a fake cloud we’ve pasted to a paper sky. That is why our dreams are the most real thing we possess. My logic here is made of your smells, your thighs, your kiss, your words. I collect stars but have no place to put them. You take my breath away only to give back a purer one. The way you dance creates a new constellation. Off the Thai coast they have discovered a new undersea world with sharks that walk on their fins. In Indonesia, a kangaroo that lives in a tree. Why is the shadow I cast always yours? Okay, let’s say I list 33 things, a solid symbolic number. It’s good to have a plan so we don’t lose ourselves, but then who has taken the ladder out of the hole I’ve dug for myself? How can I revive the things I’ve killed inside you? The real is a sunset over a shanty by the river. The keys that lock the door also open it. When we shut out each other, nothing seems real except the empty caves of our hearts, yet how arrogant to think our problems finally matter when thousands of children are bayoneted in the Congo this year. How incredible to think of those soldiers never having loved. Nothing ever ends. Will this? Byron never knew where his epic, Don Juan, would end and died in the middle of it. The good thing about being dead is that you don’t have to go through all that dying again. You just toast it. See, the real is what the imagination decants. You can be anywhere with the turn of a few words. Some say the feeling of out-of-the-body travel is due to certain short circuits in parts of the brain. That doesn’t matter because I’m still drifting towards you. Inside you are cumulous clouds I could float on all night. The difference is always between what we say we love and what we love. Tonight, for instance, I could drink from the bowl of your belly. It doesn’t matter if our feelings shift like sands beneath the river, there’s still the river. Maybe the real is the way your palms fit against my face, or the way you hold my life inside you until it is nothing at all, the way this plant droops, this flower called Heart’s Bursting Flower, with its beads of red hanging from their delicate threads any breeze might break, any word might shatter, any hurt might crush.
Objects in this Mirror are Closer Than They Appear
Because the dawn empties its pockets of our nightmares.
Because the wings of birds are dusty with fear.
Because another war has eaten its way
into the granary of stars. What can console us?
Is there so little left to love? Is belief just the poacher’s
searchlight that always blinds us, and memory just
the tracer rounds of desire? Last night,
under the broken rudder of the moon, soldiers
cut a girl’s finger off for the ring, then shot her and the boy
who tried to hide under a cloak of woods beyond their Kosovo
town. Listen to me, —we have become words
without meanings, rituals learned from dried
river beds and the cellars of fire-bombed houses.
Excuses flutter their wings. Another mortar round is
arriving from the hills. How long would you say
it takes despair to file down a heart?
When, this morning, you woke beside me, you were mumbling
how yesterday our words seemed to brush over the marsh
grass the way those herons planed over
a morning of ground birds panicking in their nests.
When my father left me his GI compass, telling me
it was to keep me from losing myself, I never thought
where it had led him, or would lead me. Today,
beside you, I remembered simply the way you eat
a persimmon, and thought it would be impossible for each
drop of rain not to want to touch you. Maybe the names
of these simple objects, returning this morning
like falcons, will console us. Maybe we can love
not just within the darkness, but because of it. Ours is
the dream of the snail hoping to leave its track on the moon.
we are sending signals to worlds more distant
than what the radio astronomers can listen for, and yet—
And yet, what? Maybe your seeds of daylight will take root.
Maybe it is for you the sea lifts its shoulders to the moon,
for you the smoke of some battle takes the shape of a tree.
On your balconies of desire, in your alleyways of touch,
each object is a door opening like the luminous face of
a pocket watch. Maybe because of you the stars, too,
desire one another across their infinite,
impossible distances forever, so that it is not
unthinkable that some bird skims the narrow sky where
the sentry fires have dampened, where the soldier, stacking
guns in Death’s courtyard, might look up, and remember
touching some story he carries in his pockets, a morning
like this blazing through the keyholes of history, seeing not
his enemy but those lovers, reaching for each other, reaching
towards any of us, their words splintering on the sky,
the gloves of their hearts looking for anyone’s hands.
Music by Aleah, “Water and Wine”