Now all he dreams are ropes,
sees them in the trees at the beginning of
the world: grim slide of vines
through first light
throat-tails dangled, mother-arms,
an instinct of the hand to twist, like a heart,
around what it holds.
Half his heart is a campfire.
Father, he begins, father,—
He stands there and the black gears of night lurch
through sand. On the other side of the hill olive trees
descend into questions, into women, into merchants,
into emperor flesh, into pottery, into bread, into a child’s
mouth, into a waltz, into the printing press, into thermometers,
into sighing gardens, into motion pictures, into
glass, into bedposts, into soup, into car exhaust, into rain,
into glaciers, into unread letters, into ATMs.
Father, the wind. The ordinary life.
He does not understand women,
was given no glimpse or direction. He only
knows the world unfolds from their robes the way
wine spills from a cup.
He knows they sometimes take the form of angels,
and they will take the bruised form of saints,
and celestial bodies,
they are like long roads, the hushed underneck
of a swan, and they reach, wanting
to know you, palms uncoiling
you in ecstasy.
It’s the nightmare again in which his feet
are splinters, and his mother is gasping,
and his face peels off onto linen,
and his father watches him from a night tree,
and there is some great secret he must shove
up the hill, to the sky,
where he is loved, loved
only by thieves.
The world lights a broken man.
And the apparition he sweats beside,
realized into angel, into lamp, how it
bears him as the soldiers push
their way through blackness, through
the olives, thistle, and his dark-eyed heart,
a dinghy tossed in another life’s dream.
Far rain on the ocean, where a father is nowhere
to be found. If grace is the fixed star
we long for, the good disciples must sleep their parts,
hands folded on their hearts like oak
doors. Somewhere at the hillfoot the crossmaker
is roping beams in his shop’s
half-light. So they come and they come
in their armor, mirroring moonlight.
Now the moon opens on his heel.
The moon is the scent of a shy girl’s letter.
When they stand, and they stand, her feather tips
brush the wall.