DEDICATIONS, PLEDGES, COMMITMENTS. For the past. For my own path. For surprises. For mistakes that worked so well. For tomorrow if I'm there. For the next real thing. Then for carrying it all through whatever is necessary. For following the little god who speaks only to me. --William Stafford
Friday, May 19, 2006
From a jet's cabin
in strong sunlight
at thirty thousand feet,
I cannot see where mule deer
nubs of antlers-in the velvet
doeskin, buckskin, fawnskin
stroll across fallen barbed wire fences,
smelling the cow's saltlick
in the greensward.
But they are there:
rumps, undersides and neck patches white,
tails white beneath, blacktipped,
I cannot hear their muted footfalls
in the grass,
but they are there,
like dim, ancient pictographs
scratched on citrine canyon walls
in rude attempt
to hold motion still.
The Fasten Your Seatbelt sign
is off. I am free.
Ascending in some transfigured
leaving behind a white contrail
like a slip-knot lariat,
I think of those deer
leaving hoof prints
in an early frost,
foraging unfenced orchards,
fat with ruddy windfall apples.
All these male
Bodies grown out of
My own female
It is done
One running in a field
Throwing a football
One whose brain
Is his joystick
Another blows music
Into his grandfather's sax
Two are half-grown
Still bone of my bone
All of them too big
For their Adidas
All of them
Strange as baboons
Sometimes I touch
Their weight and fists
Their unwashed hair
Their faces in their
Loud savage joy
And I claim
Their sprouting bodies
As my own
This moving rush
Of feet and hands
Doing all my undone
Sextant and chronometer
under her fibrillating wings,
the ruby-throated hummingbird thrashes
the air over the Gulf of Mexico,
pectoral muscles anchored
on the keel of her breastbone.
The saltwater underneath heaves up
its blowing waves
toward an overcast sky, but the bird
is drawn by magnetic cues, by inner sun,
by occult moon, by pulling
The stars plead,
You remember us, don't you,
and our mysterious markers:
Polestar to the north where
the Little Bear roves in the tight arc
of the Big Bear.
The Crab and Bull, Waterbearer,
Dragon and whitehorned Goat
roll on all night, luminous
circles inside circles.
Her vision is acute. She continues.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Because you hold the circle of earth
in your hands, a world within a world
where it is always safe
with its wreaths of pansies blooming,
a line of red-roofed houses
is preserved under orderly clouds
like ropes of pearls.
You keep them safe. By day
you light the sun,
and you know there are rabbits hiding
in those round hills, small beasts
with silken fur and great dark eyes, like yours,
and snails curled in grass. By night
you call the moon up over the rooftops
and count your folded sheep among the stars.
You do not dare to breathe
lest breath burst the bubble of existence,
the lights explode and darken,
and all the rabbits die in their warrens,
the fierce faces of the pansies
burn and blow away, and you yourself
grow old, and older yet grow blind,
and forget which of those window-lit red-roofed houses
was your own.
(painting by Ivan Rabuzin)
The hunter's moon
rolls like an orange marble
around the vast ringer
gathering light as it goes,
shedding a red October gloss
on the leafless aspens.
in the dark leaf pile
the black bear rambles,
his black silk belly full,
his throat prickly
with bear songs
magnified within the flat plate
of his skull,
his delicate nostrils
to catch the first delirious scent
The mountain leans
The pond is silver-rich.
The water sparkles
with spindlelegged wirewalkers.
The fisher spider
without breaking the polished surface.
Inch by inch she skims,
carrying her eggs gently
in a silken sac,
waiting for her spiderlings
Soon she will be
a thousand times richer.
(Photo by Steve Warrick, Single Moments Photography)
The Great Bear slumbers
In a cave of stars,
The Little Bear, Aries the Ram.
The wind is a still sea.
The horned owl hangs
In chill air, feathers scarcely stirring.
He floats like a swimmer
Above the white bones of jackrabbits,
Over the winter burrows of field mice.
The mountains breathe
In the dark, a sleeping breath
Of hawk and fox,
Of wildcat and beaver.
The pond is bleak, the shallows are ice.
Under the hill,
In a cave of granite and quartz-crystal
The black bear sleeps,
Patiently entombed in his deep
Let him sleep. Let them all sleep.
Let them savor the brown earth-smell
Of their dreams.
Let them cling to the dim runes
Let them range far, light-years distant.
Let them dream of spring,
Of moving water, of light,
Of the beautiful sons and daughters
Of air-splitters and tree-dwellers
Let them dream.
Things are different this April day
in 1909, when Albanian soldiers
at Yildiz Kiosk refuse
to surrender, when the last burials
of the men who fell for Schefket Pasha
took place eighty years ago; this day
a boy can drown in a swill barrel
with no help near,
and while the walls of Yildiz Palace
are being razed, burnt, blown to bits,
on the other side of the world
firemen in a junk-shop blaze
are attacked by rats, hundreds of rats,
rats used to the comfortable disorder
and piling rot of old gingham, old wallpaper, old oxfords,
all of them bargains before the blaze,
and the rats.
And fearing she is losing her mind,
the young wife of the manager
of the Rock Island Hotel
throws herself under the wheels
of a passenger train
bound for Denver and points west,
falling with the grace of the six hundred
Albanian soldiers also falling
in Constantinople, with the terrible grace
of the child falling in a swill barrel,
and no one near.
What difference does it make
now, that theirs are only a few more
lovely faces incised with pain,
and that the next morning
the city under seige will be quiet?
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
I wear breath in a bag
around my neck
like Russian garlic cloves
to ward off the Black Goat:
a perennial charm to keep
lungs pink and budding,
the diffuse root hairs of alveoli
and taproot of the heart,
the Witch's Hammer,
anchored against erosion.
The secret of eternal life: breathe
or the medicine wears off.
But breath has portents
of the poison in it,
like dust upon the lips.
Whoever gave takes back,
and the charm returns home
to its mother, the lily.
photo: Enthroned Black Goat
Ritual Live In Thy Flesh)
In this book
there was a picture
of fair mad Ophelia,
floating face up, trailing daisies:
on another page
The Rape of Lucretia,
startled hand to throat,
round breasts fallen over her bodice
like white May pears.
Somewhere, dark Othello
and that poor Jew Shylock
protested in blacker pentametered despair.
The pictures drew me.
The words were only partly
understood, underscored by my
splayed young fingers across the page.
Now I trail ink-stained daisies
of my own, sing mad songs,
demand my pound of flesh,
stare blindly across the spaces
between years, and wait
for whirling obsidian waters
to have me,
to carry this ash-black body
and cut it into stars.
Painting: Echo of Ophelia by Im Elbenwald
I kept right on going on
a sort of human statement..."
What presence here
as in utero dictates?
Decide, it says, to be something!
But I am a fish
in terrible waters,
blind in the dark,
milky eyes like white oysters.
Water breaks over forceps
grasping at my crowning head
where the skin bursts
bruise-red and wrinkled.
I would decide, I say,
if I could see a light somewhere.
Here, where I am
there is never enough.
I would forgive my eyes,
for one ray
bright as a furnace.
Come, my blind sister, my other birth.
In our black hunger
we eat hope
like sacraments. In our mouth
they become something
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
gin in the veins
tonight I fly on brittle bones
out of this skin
this old pain
my top and bottom
sleep waivers like mirages
in a white fossil sea of aspirin
that dulls the saw
between deeper jacknifed vertebrae
this great grey sleep of bone
sucks me dry
Monday, May 15, 2006
Soft summer thunder
drums distant and brings
a wild velvet rush
to the red hawk's wings,
and the black pony Night
rides a dark warm wind
where the new moon skates
at the shadow's end.
Sleep warm, sleep dry
in a buffalo skin
on the Black Pony's back,
on a dark warm wind,
and the corn stalks ripple
and the squash blooms fold,
and sleep runs easy
like a swift dark colt,
and sleep runs easy
like a swift dark colt.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
The night the Arcade burned the air turned red
as blood, a midnight mummy-shroud of smoke
wound up the sky, an ash and cherry cloak
that so lit up the glass, the house, the shed
containing all the Gypsy's magic strings
that moved her wooden hands, her ruby rings.
Oh, fire! Fire! forever in my head!
She should have known, that lady in the box,
and played a lucky card to break the locks.
She should have felt the lick of doom, have known
the itch of ghostly flame that was her own
undoing. I watched for a penny card,
some remnant of the cindered holocaust
that showed the Gypsy's fingerprint, unmarred
and pointing where the Exit sign was lost.
Friday, May 12, 2006
1. UNEXPECTED GUEST
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
Papa fixed his eyes on Polaris
poked the spitting fire and believed
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
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
3. MEXICALI ROSE
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:
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
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....
It never rains in sunny California
and it never rained where I come from
winter and summer it was the same,
our flat forced grass was coaxed
out of the sand with promises of sun
sun and more sun.
Reality was chapped knees, chapped lips,
too-small oxfords with the toes scuffed out,
Roy Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers
singing "Happy Trails...."
During the war they shot cats
that ran wild and thrashed in the bamboo stand.
There were sunny California Januaries when wind
rattled layers of loose wallpaper
on bedroom walls, and worn checkered oilcloth
covered the kitched table.
Night was an alien thing.
Snakes climbed dark folds in my windowcurtains
while voices murmured from lit rooms
on the other side of the door: Deuces wild,
they said. Here's another chip
to sweeten the pot.
Grandma Josie, dead from diabetes
at thirty-four stood quietly in the dark
on my side of the door, whispering
with urgent intent.
I could hear the voice but not the words.
Now, no dreaming here
I hear the words unravelling clear
Beware the body that betrays.
Beware the body...
I keep diaries in my head
At night I write on sealed pages
In dream codes--a sort
Of dot-dot-dash Morse himself
Keeps them private
Old loves recur
taller than they were
dressed in dimestore suits and ties
I never saw them wear
And my father
Who never heard of Neruda
Gu Cheng or the Cultural Revolution
Rocks calmly on the porch
And speaks to me of bread and milk
I'm sick he says
And wants to say goodbye
As if he were not already dead
This is a book
My grandchildren will never read
From pages carelessly left open
The key is not in my hand
Not even in my pocket
Never will my children say
Mama tell us of Olden Times
And turn these pages that open upon
Old rooms that suck me in
Like Alice through the glass
This world is mine alone
Where the voices and the windows
The old mingling of bodies
And the landscapes are buried
Is one raw nerve exposed
And aching to go
Where I never can
To grasp the fleeting things
That would disappear
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Plodding Taurus I am truly
bull-necked round lover
of things round
rocks apples earth
I would be fire
water or air
would burn or fly
or be mutable
but for that bovine genetic code
or that particular
All mouth and skin I am
alimentary canal and reproductive
system wanting most
to stuff things in to feel
to fill every void
loving plow and furrow
that never last
but must be had fresh
Plodding Taurus I am stable
stubborn sensuous slow
tied to the trough
while the zodiac wheels overhead
envious of the archer's arrow
the lion's midnight arrogance
and the virgins crown of stars
yet satisfied that earth
is full of seeds and precious
- ► 2012 (33)
- ▼ 2006 (34)
- Joyce Ellen Davis
- 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.