In his chest a red ship skids and thuds.
He arrives with a scrape of wood
at the new and unintended vision.
Error lifts the bright hairs on his skin.
His eye veers, here among the green
dimensions. His wish for a wick of road.
There must be a forward somewhere
in the tall, wet, unspent curves of rock.
His map makes a noise like wings,
a bird-high wind of law and prayer: A hope
that the size of the accident just might
excite the queen as much as being right.
She owns this wilderness of lights now,
he says as he bows toward God or goodness:
Bellowing suns without a fixed location
and a heat appreciated best from far away.
He will harden here among the rocks,
the fire-colored veins. Look up and shake a gravel
of bright stars over his story. Scar with his tools
whatever is near and gleaming and unsafe.
Everything I ran from now twists open like a flower
in an ordinary place that suddenly bares
its steepness, the blank odor in which it hid.
The road was silent in its odd, curved lines
but it was fierce and jointed like a tiger.
It bore its glowing marks with no intent.
A mark I too wore innocently, like a skin
of stars, its pattern invisible to me
but strange and beautiful to others.
I ran in fear and light
with a turning, tumbling eye.
The distance changed, and the perspective.
I entered the cold blue canyon,
the different distance of the watchers
for whom the lesson and the loss sing.
Far from me, their fingers
will find a melody among black keys,
a sun in the forest of burning gods.
EASTER ISLAND HEADS
What was it like to wait without rain
or leaf among the silent truths?
To stand listing in the winds’ chalks
the many smallnesses of dust?
Black granite gods, tall and taller
in the light as final as a mountain:
The powder of vision is on you, dry waves
of colors, the lost whirling of the builders.
Is it good to remember all the reds and blues
that fasten for a moment like the tides?
To breathe the light like an animal
beautiful in your sorrow and your duration?
You cannot see him in the world.
Look instead for those who slow around him:
His tap of blue-white poison
loosening the body’s inks.
Look at his picture thick with edge:
hood, blade, blackness. They say it means change.
The dark in it comes of the confusion,
the cries and falling around the change.
The change itself is just a moment,
the cut abstract and painless, a shadow.
It is powder, a soft fluttering.
It curves in air, a flare of moth.
See how he holds the hearts that come,
all of them laboring, bumping like camels.
The surprised, who arrive bad-tempered, spitting,
speaking only the language of heat and burdens.
So many: misshapen, beautiful, vicious.
Most come slow to the transformation,
touching both the shadow and the earth.
He widens just a little as he waits.
Patricia Nelson has worked with the “Activist” group of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her book, Out of the Underworld, is due out this year from Poetic Matrix Press.