by the light of their own bodies.
What a world of darkness that must have been
to read by the flaming hearts
that turn into heaps of ash on the altar,
how everything in the end is made
equal by the wind. Timothy Liu, excerpt from “Vox Angelica,” The New Young American Poets (Southern Illinois University, 2000 (via apoetreflects)
The weeks stood still in summer.
The trees’ blood rose. Now you feel
it wants to sink back
into the source of everything. You thought
you could trust that power
when you plucked the fruit;
now it becomes a riddle again,
and you again a stranger.
Summer was like your house: you knew
where each thing stood.
Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain. Now
the immense loneliness begins.
The days go numb, the wind
sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves.
Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.
I do not mean the symbol
of love, a candy shape
to decorate cakes with,
the heart that is supposed
to belong or break;
I mean this lump of muscle
that contracts like a flayed biceps,
purple-blue, with its skin of suet,
its skin of gristle, this isolate,
this caved hermit, unshelled
turtle, this one lungful of blood,
no happy plateful.
All hearts float in their own
deep oceans of no light,
wetblack and glimmering,
their four mouths gulping like fish.
Hearts are said to pound:
this is to be expected, the heart’s
regular struggle against being drowned.
But most hearts say, I want, I want,
I want, I want. My heart
is more duplicitous,
though no twin as I once thought.
It says, I want, I don’t want, I
want, and then a pause.
It forces me to listen,
and at night it is the infra-red
third eye that remains open
while the other two are sleeping
but refuses to say what it has seen.
It is a constant pestering
in my ears, a caught moth, limping drum,
a child’s fist beating
itself against the bedsprings:
I want, I don’t want.
How can one live with such a heart?
Long ago I gave up singing
to it, it will never be satisfied or lulled.
One night I will say to it:
Heart, be still,
and it will.
That is, darling, your turn will come.
I’d walk out on myself if I could.
I love the distant glow in the nighttime desert sky
like a worn yellow spot in the dark
everything might still slip through. Charlie Smith, from section 1 “Outside Las Vegas” of “Late Days,” Jump Soul: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton & Co., 2014)