Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Revising the Maps (Dec. 22, 2004)

I write these words and they
seem true but not enough,
not stellarmost or washed
on shores you’re closest to.
One morning years ago
I wrote, “I will not die/
Until I hold you in my arms.”
I had woken from a dream
of a woman standing in a
river who beckoned me
as the fish that had
swum up through her
spread feet. A few days
later I met Becky (get
it) and a week later
I wrote on another
morning, “I will not die/
until I’ve held you
in my arms again.”
Those first lines
and their revision
have masted in a way
my singing for the past
quarter century,
through loves and
their travail, their
loss and all the
soppy voyaging between.
It took a broken heart
to find the truer words,
those valves of massive
waves to wash the
spirit’s droll crimes
full clean. Anyway
the poem I wrote yesterday
about the wilderness
inside each town
had the dull clang
of an ache poorly named,
safe, too known: dead
citizens pressing with
the cold to my window
was a first room of
the next dream, a
first shore where your
traces were the oldest,
most ebbed. Irony is
pointy enough without
a narwhal’s horn
clubbing up the street.
And dead people I
didn’t know in life
cast too little fire
into their mist. So
I recompose the scene
again here in this
chair at 5 a.m, the
morning blackest
in this deep end of winter,
not as cold as yesterday,
one day past the
nadir of the year --
and here I try to plunge
the harpoon yet deeper
into the whale I’ve
camped on all these years.
The wilderness in town
is inside the aging heart
which has found harbor
in another, in rest
and warmth and securer
walls and yet has webbed
feet and finny balls, and
must keep one foot
in sea-water else the
dry world ebb to dust.
It’s the way that wild presses
its salt length against me
through the day, a hoary blue
shade beyond the pane
of life’s safe houses -- the jobs,
the AA meetings, the
tendings to marriage and
home and family. Something
in me breathes at that
window looking out
at the wild world looking in.
There are so many
errancies I could indulge --
troll for strange women
or even just their lucencies
in the wetter reaches of
each day -- but love of
such riding on the rim
of ends is the worst
form of betrayal to
love’s vaster rends,
the deeper wilder life
than mere wilding.
Living it up is one thing
and swimming up that old
river is another; I suspect
that river woman prefers
her salmon fresh as
the last wave from the
astonishing blue sea.
I’ve learned that when
you fuck your muse you
louse up both singing
and the life: to make
love to her and make that
song my wife with all my
harpoons racked and
ready in the prow --
that, I suspect, is as
much of that wilderness
as this suburb of the
great fires can disclose
today, at this end of
the page. Perhaps such
surf sounds distant, like
a shell pressed to the ear.
But today I think it better
to spread that crashing
everywhere we shore in
this lived life; my job’s
to thicken that thin
drowse as best as she
bids me, to write the
poem all over again
with a bloodier heart
and words to prove it.
Who is that presence
mashed against the
window, so nakedly
dripping from huge falls?
Let me stretch my
lenght against her
on this page torn from
that beach which no
boat can ever reach--
the one I swore to
find again and do,
each time my pen
comes to this kiss,
this end.


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