How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not laguage but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.
- Jack Gilbert, Forgotten Dialect of the Heart
What are all the thoughts rattling in your mind when you’re not listening to the answers to questions you ask?
- Jo, Boom
You are not me, and I am never you
except for thirty seconds in a year
when ecstasy of coming,
laughing at the same time
or being cruel to know for certain
what the other’s feeling
charge some recognition.
Not often when we talk though.
Undressing to the daily logs
of this petty boss, that compliment,
curling our lips at half-announced ambitions.
I tell you this during another night
of living next to you
without having said what was on our minds,
our bodies merely rubbing their fishy smells together.
The feelings keep piling up.
Will I ever find the time to tell you what is inside these trunks?
Maybe it’s the fault of our language
but dreams are innocent and pictorial.
Then let our dreams speak for us
side by side, leg over leg,
an electroencephalographic kiss
flashing blue movies from temple
to temple, as we lie gagged in sleep.
Sleep on while I am talking
I am just arranging the curtains
over your naked breasts.
Love doesn’t look too closely…
love looks very closely
the shock of beauty you gave me
the third rail that runs through our hospitality.
When will I follow you
over the fence to your tracks?
- Phillip Lopate, The Ecstasy
One of the most tranquil mornings I’ve experienced in a while. Sunrise— the hour where no sound is louder or lower than the other— they are all tuned down to the same frequency as one sound should not interrupt the other abruptly; a monotonous track of complete placidity.
Cross over, to the plain field
For waters of quintessence unmoving
The callous dogs cackle in an ear
Their eyes, dried and hollow wounds unconscious
Circle around my feet
Reciprocity is a forgotten language
For what parts do not register, we abandon
Caste into unidentified margins of our beings
Into trap doors of the abstracts, we are
Uncompassionate, drunk, and radiant
Cross over to the finch, brown feathered and simple,
Lukewarm to our boiling and unkempt minds,
He asks us,
“How does your heart beat? Is it well?”
- n&c (for k.s.)
Lay with me, darling
We will sweat out the mileage
Mental grain coiling
Into degrees of ecstasy
In a wilderness, in some orchestral swing
through trees, with a wind playing all the high notes,
and the prospect of a string bass inside the wood,
I, or someone like me, had a kind of vision.
As the person on the ground moved, bursting halos
topped first one tree, then another and another,
till the work of sight was forced to go lower
into a dark lair of fallen logs and fungi.
His was the wordless death of words, worse
for he remembered exactly where the words were
on his tongue, and before that how they fell
effortlessly from the brainpan behind his eyes.
But the music continued and the valley of forest floor
became itself an interval in a natural melody
attuned to the wind, embedded in the bass of boughs,
the tenor of branches, the percussion of twigs.
He, or someone like him, laughed at first,
dismissing what had happened as the incandescence
of youthful metabolism, as the slight fermentation
of the last of the wine, or as each excuse of love.
Learning then the constancy of music and of mind,
now he takes seriously that visionary wood
where he saw his being and his future underfoot
and someone like me listening for a resolution.
- Marvin Bell, I or Someone Like Me
This is going to cost you.
If you really want to hear a
country fiddle, you have to listen
hard, high up in its twang and needle.
You can’t be running off like this,
all knotted up with yearning,
following some train whistle,
can’t hang onto anything that way.
When you’re looking for what’s lost,
everything’s a sign,
but you have to stay right up next to
the drawl and pull of the thing
you thought you wanted, had to
have it, could not live without it.
Honey, you will lose your beauty
and your handsome sweetie, this whine,
this agitation, the one you sent for
with your leather boots and your guitar.
The lonesome snag of barbed wire you have
wrapped around your heart is cash money,
honey, you will have to pay.
- Maggie Anderson, Ontological