blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



Fahrenheit Meditation

Must it be this way, the air no longer wet, seamless,
            no longer ours, becoming the cicada's path
from night-blooming cereus to creosote,
                      the summer of moth larva rolling in the rice jar?

If so, let the heat rise over these desert mountains,
            rot-filled, and cover this city.
If so, begin with sadness, sadness,
                       because it is a good place to start,

because heat is a sadness of its own,
            though I cannot begin to define it,
except for that first awareness as a child,
                       that dim ache of the wrist, on a night like this,

years ago in a different south, the silent acknowledgment
            of a thing so spread out and weightless it becomes a landscape
of radio towers across the fields, red lights flickering
                       beyond the marsh's conspiratorial hum.

Ask me and I will tell you of the flowering tobacco leaves
            of my youth on fire in the night, lit by lightning,
the sweet wind pushing the flames
                       toward the tree-break and into the stables

where my father sat on a three-legged stool birthing a foal.
            To see night burning is to see God, or a minor version:
angelic palette, grub-white cataracts of summer.
                       To see Father is to see night long for the sea.

This is how we live within us,
            concubined to the land.
White peacocks aflame can sing the song
                       of flight, I think, of rain and June:

ash-plumed amniotic sac:
                                         manure shoveled into the cantaloupe rows.

Alexander the Great, after observing the depths
            of the ocean from a glass barrel said Sir Barons,
I have just seen that this whole world is lost,
                      and the great fish mercilessly devour the lesser.

Call me lesser then, I don't mind it.
                                   Call me lost.

This morning an airplane lifted over the city, the ghost
            of a pale child's toy, and left this desert behind.
A cactus wren danced mid-flight with a cicada,
                      danced, yes, but truth, too, and even a certain perfectness,

both catching the last breath of early light,
            both filled with a promise,
to not give in, to die in this air a truthful death,
                      in this land that should never have been ours.

The hunger of fire becomes a landscape of its own,
                                              an alternate world: to harvest, to harvest.

My father mutinied the mother mare
            and took the foal to the marsh, delicate like a kite,
and drowned her.
                      So what if the moon sang of its rising then?

I was courageous, wind-strong,
            I grew to fit that brackish air,
three-syllable morning
                      through the pines.

Later, he walked the fields with me in his arms,
            over the roasted copperheads, spun me
through that black sea, a smoke sail tied on
                      with handkerchief dabs. This would be our life.

Black: it hurt to look at it. Empty: I had to love it,
            and he held my wrist against a stalk blue as plum,
still smoldering, so I couldn't forget,
                      so that heat stayed with me forever.

For Adam and Emily Chiles  

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