poems by Carolyn Srygley-Moore

What we confront informs us // for R

What green cat eyes we confront inform our work
how we hammer the horseshoe;          how we weld the stained glass
filled overheaping with stories.
You have looked death in the face          as the body betrays.
I can see you           alone in your room in India       the heat rising in coils of blue
the cat of cardboard set in the window              with green eyes.

I can see you             alone             yet aloneness is not thorough
I have had the shell of solipsism break as death approached & joy overcame me
with inordinate clarity          joy overcame the stealth of the cardboard cat
walking the sill.          This morning I saw a man standing before a pit
staring into the pit             & what did he see but a bagful of treasure
a timecapsule some child built & buried yes               what did he see?
I have stood before the pit & envisioned bodies
I have stood before the pit & seen trains in passing
I have stood.

The abyss is huge even when lined in dirt & rock & root
of tree just planted               of tree withdrawn
into a logger’s dream.         Even in darkness there is direction even in darkness
the weathervane circles atop the farmhouse
even in darkness clarity circumvents          & the river is still
but not without current            the river is still
& we can see through to our banana toes                    to the underground stone
we can see through.

Remembering Beginnings // for Jim

Nibbling time’s cylindrical neck          like love’s nihilist
remembering distances
              he does not remember his own beginning:
slingshot boyhood by the blue            blue reservoir
the action adventure         stacks of comic books his father sold
               when he left for school.         Yet he wakes up
watching his child harbor the same
visions the mother has: the blue doe leaping        just grazing the fender
                   the black swan risen                 from mass graves
breathing song & fire               into each body that lies there.
Heaps of visions.            Inclinations.
He nibbles time             as the grazed doe nibbles
the return to flowers, yellow         buds on the base of the tree.
                  He is the return to forgetting
the woman so desires              claims as her own:
as she reads               lips slightly parted        he touches her
               numbing the crease behind the knee
& it all becomes a Milosz poem         manifest            he is the great composer
she                  the woman in the audience
                         & what is the middleground before
the stately dome of the yellow          backyard tree?
He is the return to forgetting
putting time in his back pocket           with the wallet
he always loses          finds          loses
                again.       Misplaced       small angel whittled of snakeskin
painted with unwatered-down colors
mailed across the ages
                       mailed across international waters
like a whisper             of beginnings
before there was water
                       before there was water indeed.

Permission To Speak Of God Given in a Coffeehouse While Drinking Espresso

God is sitting on the ledge just outside the window ~~ David LaBounty

God is standing on the edge of the abyss
or on the ledge of the towers   as they fall                he is watching
                the flesh-dolls burn.
He is no cut-out cardboard dog        lapping water of the latrine
in a camp of dirty water: I see his shape          obscured
& remember when you first gave me permission to speak of God
we were seated in a coffehouse drinking espresso
you gave me permission to speak              of God.        He is no dirty word
you said       he is standing on the painted windowsill
with anything meant to be on the edge             of things
watching                things.
                              We don’t talk anymore         you & I
there are vast differences between               what we’ve chosen to become.
Writing is a mediation          between this world
& that which we clasp within            like broken lockets           this world
& that which we clasp within.               God is standing on the broken ledge       arms outspread
hands in his trouser pockets          he has no wings
he has no voice with which to sing & sing
                     we must do it for him.
A homeless man who lost all his teeth          when mugged
in downtown Albany        showed me his rigged inner woodland        home
cardboard boxes flaps unfurled
(amazing what towers one can erect with cardboard)       & turning to me
said he loves me.             Is this God I thought
in disguise.           like some reality televised show                  Was this God
in disguise?          We don’t talk any longer
                                       this man & I.

Triumphant Structures

The lithe body of a girl at the edge of the sea
tracing the tide       the moonpull erasure.      her body a cobra
stretching against the skyscape            the scars of skyscape.
I see the shadows of blue Stonehenge behind her
around her               lurking like husks of God            I see
great shadows of myth & dwarfed landscape alike.
One considers the Eiffel one considers obelisks         the domes
of mosques             one considers one reconsiders            triumph
the shape of a child turned twelve            her wrists unscarred:
let us keep them that way.            I toss shells at the streetlights
they sing in the wind                  I toss shells
at my daughter               sleeping hard at the seaside.
What is the escape route needed.        sometimes driving I see
roads leaving the road       bypass         into ether.
That is not necessary.        Her eyes are clear
she knows despair yet manages it          as one manages
clay thrown to the potter’s wheel.      We drive in the city
along bridges crisscrossed           along bridges
that end in the sea              she sleeps seaside my child does
with the television humming cartoons         she sleeps seaside
& Icarus swings toward the sun           melting
the first aircraft           which surely was meant for her
her voice unmuffled                 her laughter carried.

poems by Carolyn Srygley-Moore

A Question of Durability

The durability of red origami sailboats, lit paper folded by my grandfather’s
War-pitted hands – hands I scarcely remember, though I recall the water

Licking my sunburnt elbows. The sun was already going down, swiftly
Down, the green shadows faltering in order to gather me into their nave.
& although I could have asked the passage it seemed, to me then, I was

Already lost to the compass. As you are lost, my friend, who visits then
Vanishes then visits again, as the dead come to visit the grave: I ask you,

Bear the mirror before your face, so my reflection might perish & you
Will visit no more. Yet here you are, again, manhood swimming in light

Glancing off skins of pears: what could be more wondrous than this?
You & I, we have come from the place to which we are going: the here-
After, be it heaven or hell. The priest loans us flowers…True, the instant

Is more invincible than the flung utterance, the pit of which manifests
Indecency, the denuded red grooves of the inward yield. & we fall, to

Fall again, this time grotesquely. To fail better, as Beckett said. & I am
But a poor carnival barker where everything seems, seems…Even they

Who are dressed to kill, even murder itself, the knife blade plunging
In & out of the ribcage where wings beat, as a circle of watchers laugh,
Beer at hand…Seeming, yes, more durable than the red sailboat, than

The grandfather’s hands, the crush of time’s folds & unfoldings. Rely
Rather on the drug deal around the next ride, children observing…

Staying up all Night

on the path to the Yukon
like a denuded man buckled in the passenger seat
my dog’s ashes, cradled in a blue thriftshop urn, keep my company

I spend a sleepless night at a rest area lying on my back
staring up at a browning crabapple tree
hungry for even its bitterness

my eyes & hands ample with emptiness
I twine fishing line round my wrists, twine from a fisherman
long lost at sea

knowing: the spoke of time is a wound

I am wrapped in a blanket on being pulled
from the water
while remembering nothing past impact – told only

I almost drowned
I fork mustard sardines from a tin

the speech of time is hunger
the speech of time is the wound

I stay up all night watching the snowy fields
unfold into a certain liberty
I feed raw shrimp to the dead dog

my daughter nestles singing on my lap

we used to talk all night in the front room on Calvert Street
how we dearly love the ones most
who have hurt us dearly

wanting only to fall asleep finally
as the avalanche launches comets above us

wanting only to be frozen without choice
like the inhabitants of Pompeii

fear is a place
where the landscape dwarfs or is dwarfed

& its muscles are tiny musicbox windows
opening in the body
the neurons entangling like tango dancers

thorned tea roses clenched in their glittering teeth

when I finally fall asleep
I will hear the voices that everyone hears
amidst the sweeping cadence of moonlight

I will be taken away by the green trails of stars
by the snow-tracks of deer & origin’s wolf-howl of my dead dog

by the inventor of water & of war & of HIV

Drawing Lessons

He carried train schedules from the past stuffed in his shirt pocket
with tree petals – & taught me, learn to love the taste
of lemons; it will make you strong, he’d say
            while pruning the lilac’s blooming bough
with erratic swoops of the Shakespearian scythe; & we’d wade
the golden grasses behind a fire-gutted barn where
he taught me how to draw in exchange for yoga asanas.

How weak do you think you really are? he would ask, again
& again; would you succumb to revenge, rage,
hunger – the need for flight? You may be right, he’d say,
            but you are most likely wrong…
For you have dispelled the robbers in your dreams, those
who held your wrists as you tried to fight, those
who held your ankles as you struggled to board the train –

Kidnappers bind our mouths with duct-tape, with terror, with
regret; true, he said, our love may be neither new
nor old, but scatters like stones
            that we may find our way back through the wars
of time, back, back to the sea, mouthing
the lemon wheel crowning our tea.

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