ABSOLUTE ZERO This earth is not solid ground. This swell of black water an hour before dawn is the mind and body twisted through the gate of grass. Pollen drifts off the poplars. On all the edges of all the rivers and the puddles of still water mirroring the voice of the sky, the sky burns, yellow. My skin is cool with late snow, drifting at 5,000 feet, settling only as a taste of wet cold. All night I sat among the peach trees in the starlight, lighting smudge pots to drive the frost from the mixed cold of smoke and perfume. Now my hands smell of diesel oil. It wonąt wash out. This is the form I have brought back from the night ‹ a form that calls forth the world but has none of the world within itself: a jazz riff, shrill electronic music, the haunting transmutations of the song of birds. In this shimmering world of forms, light is glimpsed outside of vision ‹ the algebra of incompletion. All night the wind blew through the valley. Now, the cold, owl-feather stars fly above the troughs of the mountains. Peach trees stand in that gravel, rooted, unable to move, as the cold sweeps over them out of the high country of the Nickle Plate. A few hours ago, the night thickened on the benchland. One by one I bent to the tin pots of diesel with a match, leaving a line of orange fires behind me. Nothing more. I sit before my window over a cup of alfalfa tea, to warm myself. Mauve and leaf-wilted light flickers on the ridges. I have not thought of words all night, but I think of them now: day by day, year by year, I have been moving into the structures of the earth, until now in the vast sub-atomic distances between one word and the next, the raw wind blows off the snowfields of Apex Mountain, smelling of granite and steel and stars. Just inches from me the first wind of the world rattles the glass in my windows. Tonight I will pour diesel again into the black smudge pots in the blue of dusk, and as the shadows sink down then vanish into the soil I will wait again among the prunings and the first purple shoots of the grass for the cold. And the cold will come. I think I got it all wrong with space and time, with mallow leaves and scorpions, with mountain bluebirds resting for two hours in the spring apple trees then evaporating into the hot winds on Haystack and on Granite Mountain: time is this earth. As I stand before the bedroom window, before closing the curtain, the skies tower over me, huge, like the eye of the sea, in the clear, shadowless light, in the hours of dark inky shadows and a low fire burning along the horizon, a yogic mantra for slowing down the breath, an exultation.
|The East Village Poetry Web