To the AU Librarians
Dear friends: I’ve changed my mind, back and forth,
about how to write this farewell, what to say,
how to address you, what format to use.
Accustomed to changing countries every
two years, I suppose I’m still on that track.
The new job? An adventure, a challenge,
but it appeals to my missionary zeal,
like many of the far-flung places where
I’ve worked. I was christened Methodist but
raised Missionary Baptist, so there you
have it. Well, for some, this may be farewell.
A fond adieu – I wish you well in all.
Others, for whom fortune grants our paths a
2nd crossing – I say – until the next!
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a poem. And I am torn about posting today as the original form of this poem was split up into halves for August Postcard Poetry Fest and if I post it now, I wont be able to use it on a postcard next month. Oh what the heck? It is Hart Crane’s birthday, after all.
More context. In real life, I am undergoing a transformation/transition from librarian to archivist. I feel a bit like a caterpillar, but that is material for a future poem!
There are no spirits lurking in the aisles
And corners. Just cartons of documents,
Details of lives. Whether well-lived or ill,
These papers tell the story – marriage, birth,
Land acquired, taxes. Death. It’s all there.
No need for the rattling sound of zombies –
Ghosts of events yet to come – in graveyards.
Might this be the judgement we fear? The words
And deeds, archived records we leave behind
Won’t deliver us to any heaven –
Or hell. It’s just a mirage, this image
Of hereafter we’ve been trained to accept
As truth, the certain object of our faith:
Dried, folded, faded, in a dusty box.
(I borrowed the idea of Facebook Street from Victoria Chang, a West-Coast poet whose poem appeared today on the poets.org site. Still a draft.)
I’m selling my flat on Facebook Street.
Maybe I’ll rent it out – rents keep rising.
Too many bugs in the place, laying eggs
in every crack and crevice. I tried Raid
to smoke them out – they just laughed and scurried
about. Let’s not even discuss the rats
down in the basement, walking on tip-toes
at night, eating pages from my old books.
Yes, I’m selling – maybe the Orkin man
can clean it out, make it habitable.
Again. Maybe the next guy can rent it
out, clean the smell of smoke off the walls,
the stains of piss and ashes I found
under the carpet on the parquet floor.
Bless us, our lady of the hidden rivers –
rivers that flood and ebb – like tides –
flowing out to the sea and back
into our hearts. Surrounded by a soft light,
our lady wears a cactus cloth, a clam shell
from the oceans that mothered
and blessed the secret rivers. Our lady likes
the latte we serve her – decaf expresso
and Colombia mild roast – creamy,
frothy, smooth to the taste. We’ll see her again
with Mohammed’s daughter. The three children –
Jacinto, Francisco, Lucia – witnessed the vision.
They are blessed. Later, it’s a long bus ride
and a longer walk up a mountain path
to Montserrat, to stand in line to see
the glass-encased statue of the black virgin.
We kiss the hand that holds the sphere.
It’s worth the pain to be with her again.
Bless us, our lady of the hidden rivers,
hear our prayers, soothe all our pains away.
(Guadalupe – Wadi al-Luden – Hidden River)
The roots of love
“We’ll meet again and then we must decide upon the hour
When we’ll allow our destinies to intertwine and flower.”
From Sonnet #8
with a nod to Deleuze and Guattari –
Over the passing years our love has grown:
a mass of tangled roots beneath the soil.
Only an expert gardener would appreciate
this rhizome, how interconnected at every point –
each node drawing nourishment from the soil
surrounding it – every connecting root as essential
as the adjoining nodes. No prior unity defines us –
there is no original order to regulate or codify –
we name this love. Errant roots sometimes rupture,
break or fail, and remake their connections
in multitudinous combinations, always seeking
progression, insuring survival, feeding
this intertwining flowering, a map and tracing
of a secret underground geography.
May 1, 2017
Who gets to write the poetry,
that is, the first-hand account,
for what it’s worth, describing
the next nuclear holocaust?
I studied the ethical and strategic
dimensions of the last one at Army
War College. I confess it was neither
poetic nor convincing and perhaps
the world would be much better off
if soldiers and diplomats studied
peace more and war a whole lot less.
But back to the questions at hand.
How long does it take, post-delivery,
for the ashes, debris, and remains
to cool enough for the victor
to march in and measure it all,
to assess the damage accurately?
for the searing heat to dissipate,
for the bright flash of light
to soften to a gentle glow?