A Cargo of Green Hearts
it is time, the day scorched & burned
deep down to cold dead coal
the season of throat-deep teeth
gnawing away at the holiness of
the sun. time to go outside & lurch
like a smashed train, & howl unclothed
under a moon-hulled nothing then
find a suitable bear
drag its bottomless warmth over
my back and wear it like a primeval
bathrobe all winter. the bear won't
mind and I can withstand
the disfiguring weight and claws
god knows I have carried more
terrible things into and out of life
and life has found me fit to go on
living. I'm done with that
procrastination now. it's just me and
the cold and the damn bear. that is all.
when I bow, I do so palms up
and the bear bows with me, repeats
what I do, an angry shadow, a hateful
twin. nothing gets out alive
no anguish no resentment or suffering
escapes this shaggy weight
this brutal surrender. everything
must go, house and foundation
and the architect that built it.
the bear knows how and I,
dying man, am going to wear it and
let it win.
bless the hand that
should rest on my
abdomen, the finger
that fills the navel
the way space makes
room for a planet.
bless the electricity
that goes out into
night, winter, and
comes back in a century
bearing photons, glass
beads, dead stars.
bless the eye like a
full of hands reaching
for the almost drowned.
bless the work of tomorrow
always the seed of
promise of the rose’s
coming, hope and its
bless the artist’s hand
that will shape a face in
thin air, the unartistic
hand that loves air, the
carpenter that, with
five deft strokes
constructs a face
a vowel, from a stump
and exclaims this, this
wood is what I came for.
wake me up; the ice has gone
out on the river while I
slept like a crooked board
the long nights transmigrated and
now the birds stitch clouds with thunder.
I dreamed of you when I was
a child how you came through
my window dripping with feathers and
maple keys there were sticks in your
hair and you were as muddy
as a dirt road in April had a vocabulary
without consonants you left me a letter
that I am only opening now
sometimes it take us that long
to remember we are only truly alone
when we are without imagination.
what are the parts of a kiss--
shhhh I am tired of explaining
how there must be a yes
without a comma
and another and another. . .
if when the snow comes
I go offline and my
boots are no longer by
the door, if the door
itself is hanging slack- mouthed
in a stiletto breeze
and all the terrible whisperers
have come to roost in my closets
If they say he seemed so
ordinary I don't know what
got into him, if they find
my silouttte staring at
flowerless graves, if all the
fallen leaves follow me
into the hills like sycophants
if I drift like a derelict
across burnt bridges with a
fedora pulled low over my shadow
oh, and the icicles multiply
over my face like the whiskers
of an old man too weary to shave
kiss me, heart and save me
from this fate. let me
back in the door.
I learned to speak owl from
the best hooters and from
bears how to go big and disappear.
from the squirrel, how to forget
what I bury will feed me in
famine when I remember.
hold on, said the bobcat, there
is no waiting like my waiting
my eyes never blink. the moon
taught me; I can show you.
rabbit, the puckerbrush keeps
out the demons, thank you.
chickadee, I am coming back
for more. the fox has been
holding out for me to prove I’m
not a fool. tomorrow maybe
I’ll follow her paintbrush feet
in circles. trout, swim below the mirrors
I’m tired of my silly face floating
by like a dead leaf. osprey, dive.
I waited for dark with the crickets
in their old man suits, oiled my
fiddle, learned the basic lullabies.
someone must sing in the dark.
which brings me back to the owl.
and who are you?
it may be that the world will end
the full rug of it yanked out
for you or all of us or just those
who according to the promise
were supposed to inherit the earth.
the thought may break you
even before you die, draw
an invisible shade over your
eyes so that the light cannot
reach the cellar of your chest
and your tongue wiggles in confusion.
have I spoken plainly enough?
the heart doesn’t die of murder
it dies of suicide. this is
the way the world really ends.
and what have you done today?
this, pretended to be a tree
pretended to be the sky
listen: you are the only one
who can tell you how to die.
and are you alive?
yes, yes! I am not afraid
I have known despair
all my life, on its flesh
my heart has grown strong
my laugh—I don’t ask permission for it.
what does this mean?
it means you work with
what you have, you make
each slap into a song.
friend, I wish for you today
beyond whatever collisions
dodging anvils and smashed pianos
crocodiles and radioactive trumpets
the secret path to the overgrown
garden, the one Frost spoke of
whose sole purpose is to get you
lost, force your feet into circles
circling in and into where the leaves
grow heavy as eyelids and time lays
its carpet of tired minutes on
the cool moss. may you find
the old cup hanging from
the tree where you left it
in better days, the cup
your ancestors made from
oak proof against lightning
and noise and dip it into the old
well that goes right through
the bottom of your heart
through the roots of your heels
and drink and become drunk on
it, and as Frost said, become whole
again, beyond all confusion.
and yet there will be tea
and a little time left to
kiss or forgive in whispers
no matter if the machete is
slid letter-like under the door
no matter if we are reduced to
boiling chicory and propping a two-
by- four under the doorknob.
that I have escaped without a
smashed head in this
quiet life for so long, have made
sweaty love and placed my
jugular on the kind June grass
such a blessing, the reassuring
ladders of mountains the sting
of salt on my lip, the ripening
of watermelons, how red they
were inside, juicy as love too
large for even the Takers to
cart off, when the carting off
commences, such power
how a single memory allows me to
drink the wild bitter root, forgive
the numbest scar, pack dreams
away in the old suitcase like a
sold-out insurance salesman
pass through the dust, the sound
of wheels shattering, the prophesied
gnashing, none of that matters
Tuesday will be a small thing
in the arms of my life smaller than
a warm cup of tea or the
the hint of your kiss, which
by the way still knocks me over
like a gunshot.
Poems are posted here when I'm ready to share them. I often don't title my poems. The date you see above the poem may be the date it was posted here and not necessarily the date it was created. To see more, click on the Archives below.
Unless otherwise noted, all content ©Paul-William Gagnon, Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-NoDerivs license.