three poems by Carolyn Srygley-Moore

 By the Light of my Lamp

We have begun fighting again; the scared light of my lamp, one bird

            amongst a multitude of birds, starlings crashing up from the trees, one,

                                    stillborn, watching. I’ve read that everything ends, but it’s mythos,

memory is vapor, hot, roiling over deer-timbred fields, details inked on the permanent

            w ind . Nothing comes to nothing, ash is to ash as soul is to ash, as is

                        the sovereignty of timelessness, red poppies, fragrance over the mountain

rock. Frostbite, then, of your mortal hands – mortal my ass. We draw the map as we go,

            the reality of perception, theatres of peace as of war.  Pinch yourself, & what is

                                    gone. My role, the optimist, you say, I cannot have “one of those

nights,” weeping for myself, trembling for the children of Darfur . Monsters mingle

            amongst us, the contract extends well beyond my death. This is not the first

                        apocalypse. I made my first dollar pimping someone else’s hope,

placing myself amongst the single-celled plankton, not yet winged. O one gnat, now,

            one gnat amongst a swarm, flight cutting at air like iron, I hear it: one

                                    gnat, observing like Buddha. The word, the word of God,

you’ve found it in me for myself, found it in us both: remembrance, rebirth, dreams

            perverted, filthy dreams. Tell me…the murmur of cocktail parties, sun

                        in scotch, the voices in the mirror are a separate truth. We are fighting

again. Having tea together atop an anthill, we will remake the ways of the world. To be

            a part of something bigger, this is the hunger of jihad. But all good news

                                    is not propaganda, truths are rooted in the sensual world,

rosebud, the river I was raised by: my God, to touch the ribs, your ribs, the bone

                        of which I sprang. Water. To realize the world. 

Like Milk

I could disappear in this, the stucco frost turning the wheat stalks teal,

I could disappear in the fact that nothing much matters, not even the fact

            that you cannot hear me – because laughter always arrives like milk,

                                    like the fig trees of modern Gethsemane

gashed by randomness, by lightning, by the judaskiss-pitted barrels of wooden

            muskets, yes, laughter arrives like the blossom of beginning to see…

I come to the soldier who has chosen to ride the backs of rockets instead of

            sparrows, chosen to witness what even the soothsayer should not see,

                        I approach him

to cradle him & find him cradling me instead, his rough skin soaking up

            my grief like a lit paper lantern, he is not no-man’s-land as my father was

                                    space bound by barbed wire on his return

from the second World War, the noise of void hammered by winter sun…I want

            to believe in mortality (Dad taught me this), that this is it, when the truth

                                    of being human, all-too-human overwhelms my joy

at the grace of the human hand, & I am suddenly aware that I sleep so I again

            can hang out & listen to Bob Dylan with the dead, I sleep

                                    so I can recover from violent awakenings, how I have

waded again & again into the unfathomable moon-pull sea, a current

            that carries smashed Halloween pumpkin shells & Eastern fans

                                    of arsenic oranges opening…The ship heaves

like a houseboat, the compass needle settling into the groove as the shoreline

            deepens like fright’s voice & majestic sculptures pepper the jagged

                                    line, an artery drained of blood, the chasm that is

the cleft of my imaginings, where the soldier who is not dying (it is worse

than this), who is cursed to the amputee’s chronic ghost pain

                                    of eternal life, cries out in Mozart’s staccato, & laughter runs

like milk, like a disembodied knock at mourning’s door.

Looking Forward to Old Age: for you

Taking for granted the oncoming luminosities of old age

            of gnarled fingers grappling the octaves of Chopin / the white lotus opening

                                    we found work in various underground cities

as exotic dancers, our faces hidden by our hair as eyes lurk within bark of trees

            we sketched over again in the winter rain

                                    our endings our beginnings blurred as treerings

knowing there is no gap between longing & desire there is no difference

            between possession & identity, the elliptical stutters of all endings

                                    like the body we leave behind in dream while it is battered

by time, only to inhabit it once more on waking

            I remember you running to my door, or were you floating

                                    across the university’s all-night library

wisdom piled around us, canned candy in a ghetto seven-eleven

            where we got wasted in the bathroom writing coded notes to eachother

                                    on filthy walls: promiscuous light, nefarious shadow

seeking the concentric luminosities of old age

            I knew you could not see past the orb of yourself, could not see me

                                    or the cancer that now takes you away like a child’s sailboat

or a silvery dolphin to swim with on your voyage

            as the planet revolves & spinning

                                    hesitates just once while you shave your long blonde hair

shave your head to the perfection of a freckled tulip bulb

            knobbed & rounded & of this earth

                                    because like a mass of energy Beauty never dies

Can I slip my tongue in your disembodied dreams & share with you the horror of

            goodbyes said or left unsaid, I tell you now that only now I think of you

                                    though once I left you a message in the all-night bathroom

in the code of the Rosetta’s invisible ink

            (are you a fire-eater, are you a dancer)

                                    a code meant to be left untamed

even as we were just then learning how to run away

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