I found your Himalayan chronology:
a comprehensive set of cores
from a ski area in Kashmir.
I know you were there in 1973
and you likely felt the stay of November,
before snow slams down
the airplanes -- mountain-shine
through long blue needles, shadows
and cores fresh on the snow in stripes.
I can picture the measurement, later:
Ashok bringing in tea, sweet, gingery,
goat-milk thick and held far
from the calipers. You drank
the first half in 1790 between the earlywood
and latewood. In 1600, you remembered
the rest of it but it had a skin by then.
The oldest pith came from a seedling
in the year of Babur’s first arrival,
complete with court painters to capture
wild Hidustani beasts. (There’s a moment of privacy
before uploading data onto the Persian vellum
of the internet like a miniature painting
before the gold leaf.)
Dobiwallah, please take my socks;
these ragged trousers and shirts;
and the shalwar kameez I bought
in the town upstream of here
between one bus and the next.
Beat them clean for me. Hurl them
into the cold waters, against
sharp-edged volcanic rocks -- don’t let
the fear of crowding, the stupid words
spilled as answers to strangers
stay in their cloth. Hammer it out.
If a button comes off the shirt,
let it float all the way past Agra
(if they let such a tourist
so close to the Taj Mahal for free).
Let it come to Delhi and be gathered
by a hand glad for one more thing
the river brings. I will follow.
In Futureworld, I won’t need
to take a single step; I’ll squeeze my eyes,
and then (perhaps not gingham-dressed,
but flighty just the same), I’ll land with
gentle bump upon your meadow.
You’ll wonder who I am, this tiny
braided thing - feet first, nose high -
and if the light is right, you’ll won’t
sweep at me or snarl.
In Futureworld, you won’t need
to read my mind, for we will be connected:
silver nets that stretch elastic,
visible to all.
The man with the Greek name
Guides us along with his accent
Taken from a youth in Australia
A woman’s voice from Georgia
Interrupts to ask about payment,
If we have to fill out invoices still,
He answers, yes, and the man
With the Midwestern tone
Tells her it was a good question.
I participate in the meeting
By following the drift of cursors
Over the system we are dissecting,
In Seattle a distant woman curses
Over milk and coffee spilt,
Then apologizes for the words,
No further questions come
So the Greek-Australian continues
To demonstrate how to save work.
We come to the end of the hour
And everyone announces
That they are going back to work,
Then I talk, with an American voice
Despite an Italian last name,
Typing in the shadows of the capitol,
Saying goodbye and pretending
Along with everyone else
To be half-master of the online device.
This is the story of the past century,
A march against boundaries
So we might be perplexed together.
Except for the order to which they belong,
I do not know the names of the butterflies I follow.
Some words like Lepidoptera delight by their flutter
Demulcent, evanescent, ephemeral, fenestration, moraine.
I do not pin them down or make demands
If I find a word to love, I explore with drunken wonder
Under the covers the convolutions of its typography.
If I am a lover of words, are words my lovers?
Lenticular, gravisphere, arête, paternoster lake.
Who am I with this one? Do I associate with another?
With some, I procreate, turning tender thoughts their way,
Giving birth in springwater. But words can be undisciplined.
Perhaps not innately bad but brought up to slip one by.
Split estate, water rights, the elk harvest in the fall.
Blame their fathers, who act without shame.
They engineer the tongue to click, to claim
through contrivance, to make it stick. Question these words,
call them into account, bust the teeth of despotic jaw
Eminent domain, terrorist threat, hegemony, original sin.
Codified perception is the jail of tiny laws.
They encourage you, these maps –
as if the vast windy plains, the broken cliffs
the indigo refrain of night could be caught
in lines on vellum, tamed by topological
assertions – even dragons drawn
into ebony warning marks. Here Be…
Compulsive cartographer, the world
does not exist to be defined by your pen.
Adventuring just to pin down – what?
You can not tell them anything
who have not travelled here.
Sparrows know more, even, than you –
know in their hollow bones that lines
do not exist, anywhere, that passage
from one place to another comes
in the pulse of a heart, the beat of a wing.
Lessons from the place of the surfed wave. Places change over time: they ebb and flow, they flourish and decline. Places are not stable but constantly changing, processes of convergence may seem to endure but are always becoming something else. There is movement, re-emergence and divergence. There are mergers and emergings. We interpenetrate, coalesce and form; yet do so only temporarily. This is place as transient convergence.
desde esta brevedad,
observo al silencio sumergirse
en la tierra
para después brillar
desde la giba
de un floripondio,
bocina del sol,
como si se tratara
de la ágil consecuencia
de un mar pasado.
It’s where I was born and where I grew up.
I’m just going through the motions.
No one there knows me now.
You talk with no one.
It is for old times’ sake.
We get out and stand around.
I tell you a secret even I don’t know
Showing you the succession of great-greats
On tombstones that begin to begin in 1753.
Family, order, class.
By summer’s end the boys in these towns
will molt, farmer’s tan and all, into men.
A tiny mass of Latin rattles in my brain;
Wasps scribble on the surface of a pool of water.
Genus, species, variety.
In the old kitchen we cut onions from the field.
Some places you never reach.
We eat in silence. You say you love the food.
We are both crying tears we don’t mean.
The gulls and I watch
the rusted hull slowly return
to the One Who Made Us All
as tourists take pictures,
children play captain
in the storm that brought her here.
I try to conjure the day it happened
but the sun is too warm,
the air too soft.
Instead, I think of Pop
who never liked the sea.
Perhaps he remembered
his drowned grandfather
or fourteen days in steerage.
I think of Cape May beach at sunrise,
where we drank beer and hoped
the fish weren’t biting,
remember running out of gas
in the middle of Peconic Bay
with a storm coming up.
I think about the cove where the gulls
and I ponder the rusted hull
and wonder how it is
that we came from the sea
yet cannot return to it
lest we drown
or wind up wrecked upon the rocks.