Lightning with Stag
In Its Glare
There was a hollow dry gourd hot with energies,
and inside was the thunder of Chinese healing herbs,
and the powers of inexplicable oils & unguents, & pouches
full of insect wings. Later there was the kind of storm
that kills, a real storm, the kind that knows an oak is strong.
There was lightning with a stag in its glare then. And
microorganisms. At the lake, on a canvas beach chair,
someone lovely & stubborn had left a red & yellow plum.
There was a woodpecker too, perhaps a half mile away
in a boisterous elm. And ahead of us, on a sandy hillside,
the Jet Propulsion Lab; the elegant equations there that worked
inside of women & men & machines. And beyond all of this
was compassion. Or the complicities of the wicked. Covenants
to transfer power. Demands for obedience. Great charity. Dread.
Some mornings began with a well-ironed handkerchief,
a whiskey blanc or cantaloupe. Others started with a maple ---
the flirtatious, green-eyed maple that overnight had sprouted
full-blown from the cellar of a power plant burned-down years ago.
The mornings were so flavorful, so unintentional. Mostly
there was cruelty, courtesy, murder & randy love stares.
With or without runway lighting or makeup
the starvelings of fashion walked swiftly among us
looking new in the sunlight's sweep. They were unrecognizable.
Indentured. Redeemed. We were all unrecognized.
All of us were unsure if our names were our true names
or slave names. And soon enough there was rain
over all the Elizabeths. And a skiff embarked across the bay.
But no student at exam time in any school anywhere
would claim this has a storyline or plot. Only now & again
did it make sense. It was when one of us took a turn
as the bird --- that woodpecker in the elm --- out of the tree
the bird would fly & for ten or fifteen minutes then the rest
of us could hear it tapping its beak against an old church bell ---
as if this was what we were born for --- a lifetime that passed
in just ten or fifteen minutes while you tried hard to drill
through an alloy of brain-forged copper & iron and it rang.
--- From Otherwise Elsewhere
David Rivard
©2010Graywolf Press
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