Tuesday, August 23, 1994

THE SONG OF PASSING TRAINS


THE SONG OF PASSING TRAINS
           Before there was language
              the dream invented itself again and again
             giving us the binding thread.

Each night trains rumble and growl 
down the Feather River Canyon
like snorting bulls, or fiery dragons.
They do not want taming, but a virgin lap will do.
Real train lights, like moveable stars, 
                                 pulse through my dreams;
my neighbor Sonny and Elvis are jammin’ after hours,
riding the long groundswell and percussion of trains
to the harmonica singing of wheels and tracks
resonating like the mouths of finest crystal;
their curved song reverberates off slate walls.

I dream we clipped the talons of captive eagles,
showed them to the children, 
                   were responsible for their hunger,
the talons making small, dark crescent moons on the floor.
Sometimes the trains are like falling houses
coming barreling down the tracks,
leaving me alone with the eagles and children
(having swallowed the abortant too late)
while the men ride into the west making sweet music.

Too much moonlight on the canyon walls.
It begins with trout and bullfrogs punctuating the darkness.
Then, the deep rumble and moan, thrum and pulse
and the extraordinary singing of wheels—
as if shy angels only practiced with each passing train.
The river answers, slumbering gold in the deeper pools.
What survives are the angry red eyes of trains
dragging us into the well of night.

Each train wails along the canyon walls
of Las Plumas del Oro, stitching them like a shroud.
I stand on the rivershore, the unceasing faith of tides
pulls blood through my body, making love
to the song of passing trains.

8/23/94
Twain, CA



Before there was language
the dream invented itself again and again
giving us the binding thread.
Each night the trains rumble down the canyon
Las Plumas del Oro, the feathers of gold
An occasional fish and bullfrogs punctuate the night.
Real train lights, like moveable stars
push through the darkness of my dreams
and I watch Sonny and Elvis jammin
coming and going over and over again
the long groundswell percussion of pulsing train
and singing wheels, the harmonica
while I stands transfixed in this place
like the orbit of stars
I can only speculate about the other woman
since the train doesn’t stop
it pulls my elastic heart through that tunnel
during that nightly descent with no more awareness
than pushing the air through time and space.
I dreamed we clipped the talons of captive eagles
showed them to the children
but then we were responsible for their hunger
the talons making small, dark crescent moons on the floor
Another train would come barreling down the tracks
with you on it, leaving me here with the crippled eagle
and the children (having swallowed the herbal abortant) too late
while you rode into the west with her
Sometimes the trains were like crumbling houses—moonlight on the canyon,
deep rumble and moan, the pulsing thrum and pulse
then the extraordinary singing of wheels
as if shy angels only practiced with each passing train
the curve of tracks resonating like fine crystal
The river answered with slumbering gold beneath the rocks in the deeper pools
but all that survived us was the red tail lights of the train
like angry eyes dragged into the well of the night
the resonating wheels on the bend of tracks
like the wailing song of your harmonica
fragmenting into raw notes
With each passing train your song came and went
doppleganging the canyon walls
I stood on the rivershore thinking of the unceasing faith of tides
pulling the trains through my body
making love to the song of passing trains

8/23/94
Twain, CA

Tuesday, August 16, 1994

CALIFIA SPEAKS:


CALIFIA SPEAKS:

I did not choose this blanket of grass
or the slow fire of this golden heat.
My trees sink roots deep into my canyons.
They are my children.

I did not choose this deluge of rain,
nor the miners choking my rivers.
Why does the canal run south
for the border when so many
people want to come north?
Why do those red lines on maps
slice me from my first-born peninsula
and why does Baja speak
another language of salinity
the pickled tongue?
The myriad rivers
have lost their mouths

I do not understand this
preoccupation with separate things
when I roll out my wealth for all—
this golden wedding blanket,
this blue sea of the future,
these snowy peaks of the past,
the deep virgin lakes of my sorrow
the promise of my naked wealth
for all to see.

I did not choose this golden hoarde
to steal my hidden wealth;
leaving me vulnerable to the elements—
once my gold was gold enough for all.

8/16/94

Sunday, August 14, 1994

CLIMAX ENDING


CLIMAX ENDING

Language comes to me
unadorned with the hypothesis
of roses before the fading
of summer’s rage.
In darkened rooms we lie
naked escaping summer’s
wrathful eye.
Cool nights offer escape
and I rewrite the poems that carry me
until the neap heat of midday;
words sensuously release the metaphors
until orgasm is the invisible line
a conclusion, an end stop—
to what isn’t written, not even hidden
characters to give away
the secret climax ending.

8/14/94

Sunday, August 7, 1994

DOG DAYS OF SUMMER


DOG DAYS OF SUMMER


not                quite             noon
the temperature spikes                        another ten degrees
hammer in hand                 I can’t get these windows  open

in this august heat I think of how Tennessee Williams’ women
survived                     naked                               summer
regal liz  poor drowned natalie   vivian eternally blanche


in this three-digit weather                 we learn to appreciate
the minute increments toward                              body heat
    we depend upon the kindness of air            through lace
         and window screens                             stripped down
             the long vowels in sentences    into slivers of glass
           practiced stance in cold showers  
                                                               compared it to chi’i
ate raspberry sorbet at midnight               chewed our nails
                                                                    myriad tongues
of fans tasting the four directions                          for breath
  the pale aftermath of sky no white spaces between words           


                    our eyes covetously transgressed
     the condemned lintels            of imagination
                             and the desire for inspiration
                                                          we hung damp sheets
across doorways and windows bared our necks 
                                                                       to any breeze                      
                                                                                                                           .                                                                                 a truce
            said it’s the right kind of night for                a fire           
                                                                             or murder
           doppelganging in the canyons         the siren’s song
                                                          stitched into a shroud


the cats flopped down     blamed us for the heat       
at tailgate parties
we learned to foretell the future in ice cubes       
     we changed the lyrics  
        crushed mint beneath our heels   slept with the tvs on
          hoisted beer skyward                no one ever chooses
                their family                                neighbors or love


when the screen door slams      it’s not hypothetically measuring 
   the temperate distance between yes and maybe


my neighbor                 retrieves his small son from my bed 
reconciles             with his girlfriend
                        they stop by                     grab the ice chest
                                                                                               I crawl inside
                                     fall through the spaces between worlds


8/7/94

This had justified margins and was set up to look like lace. Doesn't exactly transfer here.

2001  Transfer Magazine, #82, Fall issue

Monday, August 1, 1994

Budapest, 1994



I play roulette with numbers for grandmothers from the east that I never had; it’s all in my head. But not the numbers. Say them: 19, 45, 56, 68. Lottery or is it roulette? To be at home and at rest among the rubble. 

Anna Kiss wrote how the fields became sad when they took away the men. The wind told her. After the war everything became unfamiliar to the survivors, and we, all of us alive today, are survivors of war. Shell-shock, our inheritance. László said Anna was once so beautiful, he was shocked, she was a witch, a hagm he said.

Postcards from a massed grave. Franz Josef, WWI, Trianon, and the white terror of WWII. A generation without farewell, we were born into the world old. The politics of winter changes its mind, but the storyline remains unchanged. Snow, a symbol of the old guard mired in the mud, scent of leaves rooms filled with collected shadow mausoleums of the mind. 

Margít Island stripped bare of her trees. The soul scratching on the eyes of death. Sand, groin of the Donau, I can still see the soldiers. Occupation in any country, trees dumfounded by the fall. Escaped breath in winter’s kingdom. 

Who reads the words off dove’s beaks, tulips, summer’s convulsive mouth. We hold our breath for the dead. Beds unmade by the sunlight. We drink Bull’s Blood, I think of Sandor Csóori’s fingertips blooming in the graveyards of resurrection.

Maybe in this forest someone stabbed a girl made of wax. Scorched voice of the candle flame. Who was talking about angels? I have not had to measure my life by the firing of guns, or the bearing of a son. The winter death of my father buries me until mid summer. My weapon is pen, film and paint. Who can speak all the names of the dead?

In dreams I find myself wandering along the Danube, wondering whose life is living through me. Forints in the ash tray. I don’t smoke. Someone said, “Spiders are drawn to music.” They bite me when I move my poetry books, I become ill for the caretaking of words. 

The leaf-hands of autumn knitted the smoke-laden sky’s sweater. I can learn to live with the departure and loss as a way of life. There is no other choice. I have never swam in the warm lake waters of Balatan, nor measured the circumference of Szentendre Island, my notebooks having drowned in the thermal pools of Secheny Baths. 

August, 1994