We wanted a story its magic in the key of longing notes we arced like stones from cliffs where we stood the key was carrying the eyes to where the magic was not. Years on a planet would spin us, looking for more of them to name. Here is one, an ordinary song, here is how you survive until the moment when you say back to us here is home and it cuts to remember between places so far full of dead heroes whose spirits won’t quit. We waited, unweaving the ritual to save ourselves. For tomorrow against this siege, and dawn keeps coming so soon.
In here, the past is paper fragments. We gather them up and try to remember. One sings. The song happens in the middle of a room. The occupants of the room are engaged in various tasks. The tune is off, the phrasing disjointed. No one minds.
In here, only new arrivals worry about death. We all did, says a veteran resident. But you get over it. How? We want to know. The resident explains how something breaks. It’s like a levee and you let it because it won’t be stopped. The flow is too fast and the volume too high.
Besides, the resident adds, you can float. Besides, the resident adds. You’ll land somewhere. Eventually. Now, we let it take us when it comes. We float in this narrow strait, washing between shores according to the tides. Paper is gone now, but songs pass through, sometimes.
One advantage to poetry is that requires no heavy apparatus to carry around. Only this body, heavy enough when conscious. Unconscious, the form is dead weight, nearly impossible to move. And yet, when awakened to its fullest extent, nearly weightless. Here again is another advantage to the form. Of poetry, of the body.
Both remind. This is how it is possible to float, vertically tethered and horizontally webbed. In this poem, our feet in the earth may stir the unborn forest. In this poem, someone calls across the sea, Friend. Across and between each continent and each impossible divide.
Friend, this speaker calls. Don’t dismiss me to the murmuring masses you mean to float above. Friend, comes this voice, hold fast to me. These bodies, in the end, are all we may carry, and nothing but their given songs. Put up your sword, friend. Each must be held, or nothing holds. We are going to need both hands.
Here’s an invitation to stomp through the track-lit hallways of an administration building and sing in a waiting room, wailing exhalations of various shapes.
Consider this a reminder not to chase the light too hard, to balance those ethereal divinities with the ever-present nuisances of daily demons.
Against the weight of daggered baggage, here’s the forgiveness of emptiness. Over the round hoop of the ancient zero like an open mouth, weave a nest for the unborn and make it big enough for the recently departed.
A body will reveal its resilience in rest, holding until only spirit is left, leaving calligraphic marks on the skins it brushed.
Song is a mother. She is working in the dirt and it is everywhere.
You weren’t always sure you were writing poetry, only that your words could mean something to the truck driver, the soldier, and the one closing the bar. You had harsh words for critics too quick in judgement to listen to what they were not expecting to hear. With both feet in soil, you celebrated the ancient of ancients, and were not too proud to honor what eluded your knowing.
Prone to embrace strangers far and wide with a gaze bent on honoring how the best of the wonders each carried was in tune with an old and ancient song, you could not stop yourself from humming as it moved through your working bones––that which stains dark and touches soft, with a flair of great loneliness, those also softly treading, searching in the dark.
Over coffee, I noticed that on this day in 1967, the American poet Carl Sandburg died (born 1878), and I decided to spend some time reading a journal article Sandburg published in February 1916 edition of Poetry Magazine, praising the (often misunderstood and maligned, at the time) work of Ezra Pound. I find that a person tends to reveal a great deal by the bend and texture of their admiration. I borrow some of Sandburg’s phrases (italicized) above, praising Pound, and blend these with ideas commonly attributed to Sandburg’s work.
“i hope i die warmed by the life that i tried to live” –Nikki Giovanni
The regent honeyeaters of Australia have been dealing with a serious problem. It started in the usual way––with their massive disappearances, caused by habitat destruction; but this is a different problem, one left to those remaining. Apparently, there aren’t enough mature birds around to teach the young males to sing. The new guys are doing their best, imitating the songs of other birds and sometimes improvising here and there, but the females of the species are listening for some very specific notes. If she doesn’t hear them, mating season can’t go on as usual. The problem is raising alarms among ornithologists worldwide. One solution is to bring some birds in on a sort of contract basis, like visiting professors. Early trials of this method are promising.
Humans have a hard time resisting the impulse toward anthropomorphism, zoomorphism, and most other inclinations toward turning a given fact about the natural world around something applicable to human behavior. As one, I can’t help thinking about all the time we’ve ever wasted teaching anyone anything except with the impulse toward song at the center. Doing or not doing this becomes a matter of species survival. Maintaining protected spaces for development and nourishing of song becomes a matter of fundamental security. Maintaining an ecosystem in order to ensure that an emerging song, when it finally surfaces, will not be drowned in a constant din of noise, becomes a matter of painstaking vigilance, as with the protection of any species of newborn life, anywhere.