Under The Maud Moon

1

 

On the path

by this wet site

of old fires –

black ashes, black stones, where tramps

must have squatted down,

gnawing on stream water,

unhouseling themselves on cursed bread,

failing to get warm at a twigfire –

 

I stop,

gather wet wood,

cut dry shavings, and for her,

whose face I held in my hands

a few hours, whom I gave back

only to keep holding the space where she was,

 

I light

a small fire in the rain.

 

The black

wood reddens, the deathwatches inside

begin running out of time, I can see

the dead, crossed limbs

longing again for the universe, I can hear

in the wet wood the snap

and re-snap of the same embrace being torn.

 

The raindrops trying

to put the fire out

fall into it and are

changed: the oath broken,

the oath sworn between earth and water, flesh and spirit, broken,

to be sworn again,

over and over, in the clouds, and to be broken again,

over and over, on earth.

 

2

 

I sit a moment

by the fire, in the rain, speak

a few words into its warmth –

stone saint smooth stone – and sing

one of the songs I used to croak

for my daughter, in her nightmares.

 

Somewhere out ahead of me

a black bear sits alone

on his hillside, nodding from side

to side. He sniffs

the blossom-smells, the rained earth,

finally he gets up,

eats a few flowers, trudges away,

his fur glistening

in the rain.

 

The singed grease streams

out of the words, the one

held note

remains – a love-note

twisting under my tongue, like the coyote’s bark,

curving off, into a

howl.

 

3

 

A round-

cheeked girlchild comes awake

in her crib. The green

swaddlings tear open,

a filament or vestment

tears, the blue flower opens.

 

And she who is born,

she who sings and cries,

she who begins the passage, her hair

sprouting out,

her gums budding for her first spring on earth,

the mist still clinging about

her face, puts

her hand into her father’s mouth, to take hold of

his song.

 

4

 

It is all over,

little one, the flipping

and overleaping, the watery

somersaulting alone in the oneness

under the hill, under

the old, lonely bellybutton

pushing forth again

in remembrance,

the drifting there furled in the dark,

pressing a knee or elbow

along a slippery wall, sculpting

the world with each thrash-the stream

of omphalos blood humming all about you.

 

5

 

Her head

enters the headhold

which starts sucking her forth: being itself

closes down all over her, gives her

into the shuddering

grip of departure, the slow,

agonized clenches making

the last molds of her life in the dark.

 

6

 

The black eye

opens, the pupil

droozed with black hairs

stops, the chakra

on top of the brain throbs a long moment in world light,

 

and she skids out on her face into light,

this peck

of stunned flesh

clotted with celestial cheesiness, glowing with the astral violet

of the underlife. And as they cut

 

her tie to the darkness

she dies

a moment, turns blue as a coal,

the limbs shaking

as the memories rush out of them. When

 

they hang her up

by the feet, she sucks

air, screams

her first song – and turns rose,

the slow,

beating, featherless arms

already clutching at the emptiness.

 

7

 

When it was cold

on our hillside, and you cried

in the crib rocking

through darkness, on wood

knifed down to the curve of the smile, a sadness

stranger than ours, all of it

flowing from the other world,

I used to come to you

and sit by you

and sing to you. You did not know,

and yet you will remember,

in the silent zones

of the brain, a specter, descendant

of the ghostly forefathers, singing

to you in the nighttime –

not the songs

of light said to wave

through the bright hair of angels,

but a blacker

rasping flowering on that tongue.

 

For when the Maud moon

glimmered in those first nights,

and the Archer lay

sucking the icy biestings of the cosmos,

in his crib of stars,

 

I had crept down

to riverbanks, their long rustle

of being and perishing, down to marshes

where the earth oozes up

in cold streaks, touching the world

with the underglimmer

of the beginning,

and there learned my only song.

 

And in the days

when you find yourself orphaned,

emptied

of all wind-singing, of light,

the pieces of cursed bread on your tongue,

 

may there come back to you

a voice

spectral, calling you

sister!

from everything that dies.

 

And then

you shall open

this book, even if it is the book of nightmares.

Poetry