Is the total black, being spoken
From the earth’s inside.
There are many kinds of open.
How a diamond comes into a knot of flame
How a sound comes into a word, coloured
By who pays what for speaking.
Some words are open
Like a diamond on glass windows
Singing out within the crash of passing sun
Then there are words like stapled wagers
In a perforated book—buy and sign and tear apart—
And come whatever wills all chances
The stub remains
An ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge.
Some words live in my throat
Breeding like adders. Others know sun
Seeking like gypsies over my tongue
To explode through my lips
Like young sparrows bursting from shell.
Love is a word another kind of open—
As a diamond comes into a knot of flame
I am black because I come from the earth’s inside
Take my word for jewel in your open light.
“The Ten Best Issues of Comic Books”
X-Men #141 & 142
Phoenix: The Untold Story
What if. . .? #31
New Mutants #1
New Mutants #2
Marvel Universe #5
New Mutants #14
Secret Wars #1
“A Brief History of the Passenger Pigeon”
Not to be confused with messenger pigeons, birds sent behind enemy lines in war, but think passengers as in birds carrying suitcases, sharing a berth on a train, or traveling in bamboo cages on a ship, always migrating on a one-way to extinction. How would extinction look on a graph? A steady climb, or a plateau, then a precipitous cliff at the dawn of humans?
Nesting grounds eight hundred square miles in area. Skies swollen with darkening multitudes. Days and days of unbroken flocks passing over. Ectopistes migratorius.
And the last of the species, Martha, named for Martha Washington, dies in a cage in 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Forget clemency. We are the worst kind of predator, not even deliberate in our destruction. Our killing happens à la carte, on the side (side of Dodo?).
And because the nineteenth century did not enlist a battlefield artist for extinctions, there are no official witnesses to the slaughter, just participants. If you could somehow travel back to this scene, through the would-be canvas, you would run flailing your arms toward the hardwood forests and the men with sticks and guns and boiling sulphur pots to bring birds out of the trees, as if you could deliver 50,000 individual warnings, or throw yourself prostrate on the ground, as if your one body could hold sway.
“November for Beginners”
Snow would be the easy
way out—that softening
sky like a sigh of relief
at finally being allowed
to yield. No dice.
We stack twigs for burning
in glistening patches
but the rain won’t give.
So we wait, breeding
mood, making music
of decline. We sit down
in the smell of the past
and rise in a light
that is already leaving.
We ache in secret,
a gloomy line
or two of German.
When spring comes
we promise to act
the fool. Pour,
rain! Sail, wind,
with your cargo of zithers!
“Dead people don’t like olives,”
I told my partners in eighth grade
dancing class, who never listened
as we fox-trotted, one-two, one-two.
The dead people I often consulted
nodded their skulls in unison
while I flung my black velvet cape
over my shoulders and glowered
from deep-set, burning eyes,
walking the city streets, alone at fifteen,
crazy for cheerleaders and poems.
At Hamden High football games, girls
in short pleated skirts
pranced and kicked, and I longed
for their memorable thighs.
They were friendly—poets were mascots—
but never listened when I told them
that dead people didn’t like olives.
Instead the poet, wearing his cape,
continued to prowl in solitude
intoning inscrutable stanzas
as halfbacks and tackles
made out, Friday nights after football,
on sofas in dark-walled rec rooms
with magnanimous cheerleaders.
But, decades later, when the dead
have stopped blathering
about olives, obese halfbacks wheeze
upstairs to sleep beside cheerleaders
waiting for hip replacements,
while a lascivious, doddering poet,
his burning eyes deep-set
in wrinkles, cavorts with their daughters.
The smashed weirdness of the raving cadenzas of God
Takes over all of a sudden
In our time. It speaks through the voices of talk show moderators.
It tells us in a ringing anthem, like heavenly hosts uplifted,
That the rhapsody of the pastoral is out to lunch.
We can take it from there.
We can take it to Easy Street.
But when things get tough on Easy Street
What then? Is it time for realism?
And who are these guys on the bus
Who glide in golden hats past us
On their way to Kansas City?
“Anecdote of the Prince of Peacocks”
In the moonlight
I met Berserk,
In the moonlight
On the bushy plain.
Oh, sharp he was
As the sleepless!
And, “Why are you red
In this milky blue?”
As if awake
In the midst of sleep?”
“You that wander,”
So he said,
“On the bushy plain,
Forget so soon.
But I set my traps
In the midst of dreams.”
I knew from this
That the blue ground
Was full of blocks
And blocking steel.
I knew the dread
Of the bushy plain,
And the beauty
Of the moonlight
As sleep falls
In the innocent air.
“A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts”
The difficulty to think at the end of day,
When the shapeless shadow covers the sun
And nothing is left except light on your fur—
There was the cat slopping its milk all day,
Fat cat, red tongue, green mind, white milk
And August the most peaceful month.
To be, in the grass, in the peacefullest time,
Without that monument of cat,
The cat forgotten in the moon;
And to feel that the light is a rabbit-light,
In which everything is meant for you
And nothing need be explained;
Then there is nothing to think of. It comes of itself;
And east rushes west and west rushes down,
No matter. The grass is full
And full of yourself. The trees around are for you,
The whole of the wideness of night is for you,
A self that touches all edges,
You become a self that fills the four corners of night.
The red cat hides away in the fur-light
And there you are humped high, humped up,
You are humped higher and higher, black as stone—
You sit with your head like a carving in space
And the little green cat is a bug in the grass.
Within this black hive to-night
There swarm a million bees;
Bees passing in and out the moon,
Bees escaping out the moon,
Bees returning through the moon,
Silver bees intently buzzing,
Silver honey dripping from the swarm of bees
Earth is a waxen cell of the world comb,
And I, a drone,
Lying on my back,
Getting drunk with that silver honey,
Wish that I might fly out past the moon
And curl forever in some far-off farmyard flower.
“Time Does Not Bring Relief; You All Have Lied”
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,—so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.