Limbs

What some men seek
in haunted attics, others find
on abandoned trails,
the old man replied.

In the aftermath of an inferno,
amid the ash, baked soil,
blackened granite,
the fire-scalped ridge,
I greeted the naked skeleton
of an old pine with a hand,
and forgetting my brutishness,
broke off a scalded humerus,
heavy with marrow
and unspent fire.

Having taken life, weak with shame,
I avowed her disembodied limb
to be my companion, and timber
   and flesh strode away
through canyon and stream,
   arm in arm.

Oscar Acceptance Speech

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Academy

For granting me this opportunity to thank

Everyone who made it all possible.

To those who gave me a chance to play this part,

In spite of an early critical consensus,

With which I concurred, that I was miscast.

But the auteur, perhaps seeking irony or shock,

Gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Some have accused him of fishing for Oscars,

In the manner that leading men sometimes

Play freaks of one kind or another,

Only they say he’s merely reversed the recipe, but

Be that as it may, I have little concern about the motives

Of artists and gods; and, yes,

Some have protested that by playing a monster in a man’s role

The auteur lacked all nuance and humanity,

But what did I have to lose?

I’m more than happy to play along,

To play opposite the diva, dressed down

In her denim and dirty hair,

Slumming for a trophy of her own,

To be exalted by her complicity to the part

Or some semblance of a man.

Andromeda

Princess of distant Ethiopia,
Prisoner of the sky:

What men say of your beauty
Can only be blasphemy
Now that I see you
Bound to the heavens
Right before my eyes
With beauties and beauties
Intimate as the stars,
and equally untouchable.

Men claim to have seen you,
But speak only of your jewels
Sparkling under your mother’s proud eyes
Between Perseus and Pegasus
And over me, we lie;
You are so obviously near.
My arms would reach out to you,
If I could only tell them to.
They would rescue you from your heavenly chains
If I could only touch you.

I’m blind now, obviously

Beautiful, I don’t know how
Your smile became an ocean wave,
Tumbling everything over
And over with
Crushing saltwater power,
Your eyes, binary suns
Burning through the world, and
I’m blind now, obviously,
But the heat remains,
Washing through your hair
A whispering
Autumn breeze
Through the shivering
Aspen, somehow,
Beautiful.

Sacraments

I am serious about my religion.
I don’t take its sacraments lightly.
They may cause you discomfort:
A long walk, a trusted companion, an open fire.
I cannot imagine a relic, a book, or a doctrine more sacred.
Perhaps you doubt them.
Perhaps I doubt yours.

A walk through a wood
A walk through a world
A friend
“Man’s best friend”
A crackling campfire
“The most tolerable third party”
A sworn companion
The Logos fire
Henry David Thoreau
A boiling star

Kissing the Killer

Nevada Fall (Ansel Adams)

Nevada Fall, Merced River

Throughout the lowlands singers sing
of your deep, feminine soul;
How reclining, you roll down your bed
amidst your veils and embankments;
They marvel at your fluent, accommodating ways,
how you slip through the world,
flowing around every obstacle,
rounding every edge, and
polishing every turn.

You compel us, it is true, down to where you lie.
Your eyes are limpid pools—it is true what they say,
and it is rumored far and wide that you mirror
the soul.

But the footing is treacherous around you. Your tender loam
gives way beneath our fingers and toes,
but your glistening bones are more hazard still.

It is true what men say, but I know you better yet.
I know you,
murderer.

The bones of old trees and bush
lie tangled in your arms.
I see your work.

Yesterday you might have been
merely a pool, and another, and another;
hung upon a sparkling, trickling necklace
virtually breathless and still
patient, accommodating
womb of a myriad, humming
vampires;
Algae multiplying,
colonizing your thickening blood.
The next day, you might be only lichen and bone.
Dry, white, crumbling bone, anchored deep within the earth—
or deeper still.
But now—
Now!

You gallop across mountains and vandalize
the sleepy canyons, tearing away the flesh and
leaving more bone drying in the sun,
your locomotive snarl,
your hissing, boulder-cracking roar!
Undulating waves, rolling and smacking,
sucking in air, mist storms exhaling!

Water the tyrant.
Water the destroyer—butcher, leveler,
Fury: skull-smashing and bone-snapping—sinew twisting;
Too murderously quick for suffocation; utterly

ruinous and
Beautiful kiss me.

Gateway

When I was a young Redbirds fan, bouncing from coast to coast, I learned that I could pick up KMOX, Jack Buck, and Mike Shannon just about anywhere at night, though never in California.


When once I was a child in the west I was looking east,
and when a child in the east I looked west,
ever aiming through that Gateway;

and I again was on my road west
when Lady and I were again children,
basking in the wonders of commerce and truth and trivia
in fashion magazines and such vivid things,

in a moment without motion,

I looked up to feel a warm breeze from the eastern ocean,
but there was time passing in a vision

of a Gateway
rising on the horizon
over the River I could never cross completely

and in the Gateway beckoned a City
and Lady greeted the City—warmly
as though he were expected
as though they were old friends
and I followed her through the Gateway
and I cannot cross that River
and she sat in the lap of the City
she kissed the City
and before my eyes she became the City
and those eyes last saw her in the Gateway
and I continued my steps west
and I thought how strange that City had always been so friendly
how the City and I had always been such friends
but now she is the City and I cannot recognize him

And years from home I am touring Topeka
Columbia Lawrence Independence
pre dawn hours thinking on the shape of things
side walks car lots front yards thinking on the shape of things
not half sleeping in the park dodging cops and moon and
dreams that she is gazing at the sun
setting on the Pacific
that she is squinting for my silhouette on the horizon
and I am not in California
I need to see the sunrise

and her Gateway

and think upon the shape of things.