Today's poem is by Richard Jackson

While You Were Away

Sleeves of sunset hung empty over the brown hills.
Ice from the North Pole kept floating this way. Locusts
sprouted like seedlings. I was floating under the ice
in my dream, but you never saw me. The windows were
boarded up. Later the clouds argued, then left in a huff.
There's a hidden tax in everything we say. I meant
for this poem to glow in the dark like one of those
old statues of saints. My father kept one on the dashboard
to guide the way. But aren't we always lost? Desire
punches a time clock that always reads the same hour.
There's a suspicion that today is really yesterday.
That crickets dream about being reincarnated as pure
sound. The bees wake as the sun hits the hive.
The sky is filled with late and clumsy birds.
Somebody's always ready to pickpocket the past.
There's a gap in the narrative the way a river
suddenly slips underground but flows on unnoticed.
Now they think the vegetative state has some neuron
activity. I worry that most of my own memories are
water soluble. There are places inside me so remote
the inhabitants never see each other. The worm never
sees the robin. White tipped reef sharks catch a prey
by sensing the electric impulses in its muscles. Auto
cannibalism occurs when the Hutu militia of east Congo
make their captives eat their own flesh. Feel free to add
whatever you want there, but it won't make it any better.
Every war is reincarnated as another war. Even Paul
retreated to a cave in the Taursus foothills when things
went bad. He preached about love but nobody has
ever really withstood its test. Some of his flock never
returned. A species stands beyond, wrote Dickinson.
Almost every species of small bird comes to my feeder.
Maybe everything is a test. Like how I am going to get you
back into this poem. I'll git you in my dreams, Leadbelly
sang to Irene. This was going to be a Valentine poem
because today is Valentine's Day, which replaced Lupercalia,
the Roman fertility feast, but that was before the daily news
broke in. And before tomorrow had already forgotten us.
The great love poet, Leopardi, never knew a woman.
Modigliani loved every woman he met, and painted them
in order to leave them. Queen Nefertiti's eye make-up
stopped infections, but its lead base drove her mad.
She wanted to be born again as the brightest star. She read
her future in the cloudy hatchery of the Milky Way.
If space weren't a vacuum we couldn't bear its decibel level.
The Hutu slaughter women who learn to read, and joke that
it's a form of reincarnation. They think they live on
the dark side of the moon. The sky is gnarled with clouds.
There's a low fog covering another war in the foothills.
The stars are no longer the gods we took them for.
The moon is a turtle that needs to right itself.
I don't really know how to tell you all this. It's as if
I were left at the doorway of one of your dreams.
If only these words wouldn't conspire against me.
But even Love is an unsolvable equation. Leadbelly
kept singing because his own song never worked except
in his dreams. I'm still floating in mine. I don't have
any Faith in a solution. You can't just turn off the news.
It's getting late—best to guess None o f the Above.
All we have left is the astronomy of Hope. The hills have
their own geometry. Paul said we devour our own souls.
Maybe it's just the way the days grow up and leave us.
It all comes down to the same thing in the end, which is
what everything has been pointing to since the beginning.
When you're gone, you see, all these worries spin around
like those childhood tops that zig zag until they bump
into something that stops them, like this, for example,
another simple mention of you, if only for later reference.

Copyright © 2011 Richard Jackson All rights reserved
from Asheville Poetry Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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