The universe, a web without a spider
spins endlessly to Einstein-Newton laws.
Or does it? Would a hunting god not hide her
own young, her own intentions, and her jaws
until the prey approach, relax and pause?
The death we witness never is our own.
Immortal qua experience, we hone
our skills as if we have unnumbered years;
while in the web, invisible, alone,
a something waits for which no prayer atones.
She counts to eight by twelves
by using cube roots.
The judges disallow that
so she invokes
summing up its primes
and winning the prize
for non-universal physics.
I have nothing to say. I write that down assiduously.
I used to think I’d be a writer when I’d themes
and wisdom, from experience. But, invidiously,
I’ve learned nothing matters as much as it seems
it will before I chase it hard and jealously.
The ending of the chase keeps best in dreams,
and here, in winter sunlight, by the sea,
I am happy saying nothing, merrily.
He tried to step on the wind. When that worked he was off to the races.
He went for a walk on the edge of the known constellations.
He saw there was more everywhere. He headed home star-burned.
He forded the stream of forgetfulness more times than he noticed.
He drove down gaunt angels who said they were seeking a chauffeur.
He upended, defending their honour, dire mendicant beings.
He ended up writing down fables his words turned to fact.
I hear old news: each new cicada’s song
repeats scraped notes with no change I can hear.
Fidelity a million years can’t wrong
rings through the muted trills that reach my ear.
When dinosaurs watched forest birds appear,
cicadas sang this song. These are the notes
that serenaded Celts who shaped these moats
in years when Rhône and Nîmes had Stone-Age names.
While I react to terror’s newest ‘votes’
cicadas string their chants on ancient frames.
I’ve read a plane’s been downed, all fliers dead;
each death a tragedy surviving news
that seeks and signals madness, till it’s read
and superseded. Widows take first views
of loneliness, and red-cold rage pursues
newly-childless parents as they wait,
unseeingly, at the arrival gate
for this, another flight that won’t arrive.
Cicada song and human news both grate
upon my ears, and ask why I’m alive.
I walk alone into the careless wood
and claim some shade, sit on a rough-stone wall
I share with ants and katydid. I should
find peace. It’s hot. Cicadas call
in rhythms in which angry bombers could
imagine calls to action; or a parent might
hear announcements cancelling that flight
her children should have missed. They’re dead.
Old news. Cicadas stop their song at night:
the silent time that we survivors dread.
Here’s why the other human beasts abhor us.
It’s a common trait we have from common parents
so common we have other mannerisms
like war and murder our kind traces back
to when we were one family razing cane,
each of us thinking he or she is able
to get out after setting fires in stables.
We’re sure we prosper sponsoring insane
wars somewhere else, feel we evade the pack,
and packs of lies, and sponsored barbarisms,
each certain it’s the other who’s the tyrant,
and the only god’s the one who roots for us.
The hearts and violins they’re passing out
don’t hold a candle to the ones we burned.
The fountain has cracked. Red rust leaks from the spout
beside the pool where once our bodies turned
as one creating underwater sun.
The courtyard where we danced is sharply paved
with broken glasses. We broke everyone.
The vineyard where in spring we misbehaved
has been cut down. I find the blackbird’s nest.
The broken glass reflects the empty shells.
I try to smile, pretending it is best
that you’re not here to hear the muffled bells
that toll the march of autumn through the plain
as the shells give up their colours to the rain.
presented June 2001 in The New Formalist ISSN:1532-558X