Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Death is an Ordinary Moment

Many of the events of this past year have made me more deeply aware of the mysterious and fragile space that marks the difference between life and death.

Death is a moment like any other moment in time, inescapable in its approach, while it also strips away everything except that which really matters.

More than once I have found a way to speak of these things in poetry (for another poem, see HERE). I cannot "explain" or interpret my own poems. I have some sense of how my imagery strikes me, but poetry by nature is concrete and particular. It permits (and sometimes demands) that not all the loose ends be tied. It also insists on the freedom to dialogue with the reader's own perception and imagination.

So I won't pretend that there's any easy accessibility here. I hope there is something evocative for those willing to be patient with the author's efforts.

This poem is serious, even grave, but it is not sad. It is not sad! On that point of interpretation I must insist.

We Fall

(for C.V.G.)

We fall, we fall, we fall
with fingers still breathing,
stretching away the air,
then curling tight into knuckles,
burrowing holes down to the skin;
with lips straining shapes of words
stuck behind the throat:
so many words summoned, suddenly,
to a single silent note of strained,
inaudible song.

We fall, we fall 
with large hard stone hands catching limp shoulders,
cradling everything in moist numb shadows,
nearly sleep,
but for the raging fire beneath the breast:
it burns and burns,
burns beyond bearing,
an explosion of uncontained fire,
the blazing furnace of a bright star 
glowing down on pools of crimson water.

We fall, we fall
in long lush fields thick
with riotous wild green grasses
growing up
tossed in shivering breezes
or standing in still dull air,
spiked shadows cast against
the face of the sun.

We fall
and break the warm earth
where roots wind down to the dark,
and worms bend thin throbby bodies
exercising elastic muscle,
and fungi spread slow poison
beneath their pale soft sponge clusters.

We fall
into water,
melting streams of water rush over
thirsting, burning bones.
Water pours through the cracks
of broken cartilage,
and the stubborn fire shrinks and hisses
and fades into a gentle light.
Tense fingers exhale, soften, float free,
borne away beyond reaching
or grasping.

Rivers burst, overflow;
we are flushed hollow and deep, and buried beneath
bare trees soaked in floods of liquid clay.