THE WORDS ARE MERELY THE PERFORMERS
The words are merely the performers,
the jugglers and the acrobats, the fire-swallowers.
The fat lady with a moustache behind
her flap of tent. The Parsifals, the mottled clowns.
The Crips and the Bloods, the red rose and the blue,
the Mafia dons. Thought is not verbal expression.
The word, tree, can’t read. And clever’s a boor shy
of being intelligent. Keats was right when he wrote
how much superior humour is to wit though
he didn’t live to see very much of it.
And Whitman, too, when he made his exit
from the learned astronomer to witness the stars
as if the beauty of reality could speak for itself
and the science of shining had nothing to do
with starmaps. Things are words, labials of the moon.
Abstractions merely the ghosts of the senses
trying to get back to the earth before the dawn comes up.
Things teach us their names like a dynasty of kings
on the stairs of Incan temples. Generations of stars,
the demotic of light, the patois of their mother tongue.
And the way they relate to one another,
in a thousand different grammars, river reeds rooted
in tributaries all flowing into the proto-nostratic
of the one mindstream like sacred syllables of the rain.
The rain says wave, wet, water, and everybody
goes skinny-dipping in the womb of W
hanging on for dear life to an umbilical rope
at the local watering hole. Ever measure the red shift
of a consonant to determine whether it’s going away
or coming toward you? Are your vowels truly edible
or just the wax fruit that pose for your still lives?
In the Beth Luis Nion Druidic tree alphabet
apple trees ask the most questions about how
when, who, why, where, taking their Q from Latin
like a suggestion from a patron of poets. Horace,
perhaps, like a quarterhorse in the stables of Maecenas.
I can hear the windfall that drops from the tops
of the black walnut trees. I understand the semiotics
of the diadems of the stars setting fire to the hair
of the willows in winter plunging their burning tresses
in the river to put them out like matchbooks
in the hands of delinquent boys. Cruel arsonists
of their prankish joys. The fire gods come
looking for fire. The water sylphs hiss like sibilants.
Point is. As long as you’re alive there’s a conversation
going on all the time that you alone are privy to
even when you’re listening with your ear pressed hard
like a seashell to the walls of your skull. The silence
is riddled with the voices of things like space
is saturated with the red wavelengths of the heaviness
of our eyes, dying like the memory of old stars
that once considered us friends, after we finished crying.
The silence is startled by the sudden outburst
of a nightbird and the dark is seized by a longing
to step out of the shadows and reveal itself reciprocally
like a lighthouse calling out from its widow walk
to an empty lifeboat in the fog, drifting aimlessly
without the oar of a verb, or the rudder of a participle
trailing in the wake of a maritime moon, mute
as the bells of an unmoved sea to say three bells, all’s well, all’s well.