Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2022  Vol. 21  No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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back T.R. HUMMER

Persistent Illusions

What next, Lord? Aren’t you bored sick by now
Of seeing the same old spam in the holy inbox?
How many angels can freeze on the edge of a snowplow?
How much moaning and begging can one deity fix?
If winter brings out the worst in us, it’s your own
Numinous fault. I’m reasoning like a human,
But that’s all I am. And what are you but the question
We go on asking into sleet-warped windblown
Midnights? Sentience is out there struggling
Not to feel, while consciousness goes on juggling
The same nightmares against the same mind-boggling
Black-hole-sized ancient ignorance. We pray insomnia
Will yield to melatonin, a pill for blizzards of agita,
But terror is helixed in the heart, a twisted nebula.

The old oak at streetside, straining under a conscience
Of slush, is an idea, maybe, fixed in a mind
Too powerful to be merely conscious.
Those footprints etched in its shadow are mine—
Well, mine and the dog’s. We were alive down there
Briefly, and now are not. From my bedroom window
On the second floor, I look out and consider
The traces we left, how briefly they’ll endure,
Wiped out by different dog walkers, and sunlight, and the flow
Of other ideas as clichéd as this one. The tree
Is a mindprint pressed in prima materia eons ago,
Melting as surely as the outline of my boot, slow
And dense, but shattering in the Godhead’s luminosity, maybe,
Frozen like an old dog’s piss in the golden snow of eternity.

Winter twilight strikes quick and silent, inclined
Like a water snake to deadliness. Beyond banked snow, the river
Too is silent. It has no agenda, not even gravity’s. The mind
Of the Hudson is mindless, distracted by the slow silver
Walleyes that drift almost dead in the freezing current,
Hovering oblivious above Atlantic sturgeon
That hide themselves away in clouds of silt sent
South from Poughkeepsie daily by the Great Design.
Nothing down there speaks, Lord, and nothing in the sky—
Or does the sturgeon call out to you, all twelve feet
And five hundred pounds of her, hanging just above
The channel bed, thinking thoughtlessly
Of spring and the scattering of translucent roe, the great
Mother incapable, we believe, of belief or mother-love?

That idea was yours, Lord. It wandered
In my soul like a fox in a naked willow copse.
I say soul carefully, not mind. The thought meandered
Soulfully. I say fox for how it never stops,
Its rich red flash deathless in willow shadows,
And for the way it echoes copse which echoes
Corpse, which I carefully did not say. Who knows
What knowing knows? I say willow
Because that’s the kind of copse it was, in fact.
I stood on the edge of an undiverging road
Cut through the center of my soul (soul I say,
Though the saying is not mine, that inhuman act)—
I beheld the winter fox at its holy play
With the fresh-killed corpse of a rat, and found it good.  

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