"Since flesh can't stay, we keep the breath aloft. Since flesh can't stay, we pass the words along." --Erica Jong

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A COMMUNION OF STARS (for my father)


There were nights on the Mojave
so bright we could watch the evolution of stars
above Five Fingers rising from the desert floor:
Bootes, Cassiopiae, Orion's Belt
with such an outpouring of energy and magnitude
that they will consume themselves
in only twenty million years
measured not by photocell upon a telescope
but by the naked eye

We used to sit and watch the sky
for signs and wonders
and now we know these happen
with predictable regularity
high above chaparrel and sage
watched by hawk and packrat

Papa burned brush in the woodstove
and the fire shot showers of sparks
like stars
Papa fixed his eyes on Polaris
poked the spitting fire and believed
in miracles

Before the moon
before the stars
before the earth even
was Papa with a pocket full of sweets
nothing's sweeter than an outcropping
of good silver-sulfide ore
the music of the gloryhole
harp enough for him
a pennysworth of carbide
lit in a tin hat like a star

I am an unexpected guest
at this festival of lights
a stranger out of time
grown large unwieldy unrecognized

Once as a child I tried to fly
upward from the valley floor
arms outstretched
a thousand tiny filiments of wings
flew about my sun-haloed hair

I didn't know then
would be my wings


Not that it has a meaning
outside of this odd smile I find
a certain peace of mind

a rat came every day to eat from Papa's hand
lunch shared from a tin pail
a ham sandwich apples chocolate a thermos jug of milk
the dry rock they sat on hot
where the sun beat

under the earth is the sound of water running
see there where the wall is wet
water rises to meet cracks in the rocks
it does not freeze in winter
nor evaporate in summer but remains
sweet and cool without disguise

Face to face with the rat
eyes blinking from a mask of fine white dust
this gentle man and the rat
without greed without avarice
found this rare circle of breath
wide enough and room enough for two

In the purity of noon
nothing was wasted
ants found the chocolate crumbs


Papa played the saxophone. Of all
his music he played Mexicali Rose best.
I'll come back to you
some sunny day....

The desert wind blows from the west
In the wind I sometimes hear a slurred voice:
Stop crying....
I think of all I did not do
and did not wish to do
and wish to do now

The last notes are departed
the reed split the keys stuck
the saxophone lies on a shelf in the dark
of the closet behind a box
of almost forgotten dolls
Some night
splitting the universe in two
in a cave of stars
the flooding Pleiades all white about his knees
his pockets filled with little bits of sweetning silver
he'll take it up again
and every earthly thing will change
their dreams aroused to his slow music
a long lost voice

Mexicali Rose stop crying
I'll come back to you
some sunny day....

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About Me

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1. In dreams I am often young and thin with long blond hair. 2. In real life I am no longer young, or thin, or blonde. 3. My back hurts. 4. I hate to sleep alone. (Fortunately I don't have to!) 5. My great grandfather had 2 wives at once. 6. I wish I had more self-discipline. (I was once fired from a teaching position in a private school because they said I was "too unstructured and undisciplined." --Who, me??? Naaaahhh....) 7. I do not blame my parents for this. Once, at a parent-teacher conference, the teacher told me my little boy was "spacey." We ALL are, I told her. The whole fan damily is spacey. She thought I was kidding. I wasn't. 8. I used to travel with a theater reperatory company. My parents weren't happy about this. 9. My mother was afraid that I would run off and paint flowers on my cheeks and live in a commune, and grow vegetables. I once smoked pot. ONE TIME. 10. I don't drink or smoke. (Or swear, much. Well, I drink milk, and water, and orange juice, and stuff. Cocoa. I love Pepsi.) 11. Most of my friends are invisible. 12. I am a poet and a writer. All of my writing on these pages is copyrighted. Borrowing (without acknowledgment) is a sin.