AFTER TERRIBLE THINGS.
I should like to name them all
but they have lost the lists.
I should like to read each name
set into a mountain side or written
on slate or carried by the living who
can never bury the faces and voices
and who could still find the hidden
places and see in their own hands
something that reminds them;
thumbs, finger nails,or the way
a pencil is held, a smile grows.
I should like to have this courage
when we hear of the new terrors,
when we know of the powers of
ignorance and the colour of denial;
old men who never talk of where
the voices have been hidden,who
have changed all the names,who
dread the discovery of memory.
This is me. I am sitting in an alone.
I do this every day to know that I am alive.
There are voices,on and off. There is the
noise of my own voice to tell me that I am.
Stand up. Take a glass of water. A glass of
something stronger would be better,perhaps.
Sit down. To write the letters and read the
letters;that do not exist. To enter other lives.
To be other things. To disturb the wisdoms,
consequences and contribute to the riddles.
The postwoman comes from Canada and
says she wants to see how others do it.
Do what? She giggles when she should be
on her way. In her sack there are thousands
of words and hundreds of voices and a few
faltering silences where we have to read
between the lines. The lines where we run
out. The lines when we cannot say. Between
the necessary words and the slippery whispers
and the assumptions that make our lives mean.
She comes through rain and snow to tell us
that we exist and must communicate and tell
the other voices what our measure means.
Do not go silent. Do not go dumb. Do not
ignore the light that persists through dreams
and damnations and the coldness of dawns.
The wake up light. The begin again light.
The trees and birds and breaking from sleep
light that dances to dazzle and cracks the
dream coil and fastens a notion that you
are still alive. Survivor. Travel man. Narrator
who can tell another story of forced to. Ready
to sing or scream and speak with many voices
Listen;there is nothing to hear and little to say.
Listen;it is not worth the words and the ideas
that give birth to the words and the silences
that also sit down at the table to stare at us.
This is me. I am sitting in an alone.
The wind tells me that it is winter still.
The radio tells me where other people are.
The grass and stars inform me about time
and seasons and a few birds before they
continue epic journies driven by impulse.
I hear the voices from outer space and
the voices speaking from diaries and
testimonies,sermons, journals,letters from
the beautiful dead. The library in my head
keeps repeating what must be meaningful
and honest and therefore set in white bone.
Take down this; take down this. The voices
of fathers and stories of mothers and the way
we made things up. Every story changed by
the story teller. Every beginning revised by
the voice of experience. Every ending made
new by the journey already undertaken so
that it is always meant differently. The way
we hear the old as new. Listen; I can hear it
now as I sit alone in what is not silence.I can
hear it on the other side of meaning and truths.
I can read it in the sentences I almost know by
heart and in the gestures of grammar and syntax.
Who are you on the other side, in the winter orchard,
on the blank sheet,when the radio voice has ended?
What are the words becoming in the white grass?
What am I to say when they catch me here, alone?
All winter I have been writing this down
as a journal against doubt and confusion.
Wind, dead birds, rain like nails,the orchard
noisy, the sea sounds closer and closer,grass
approaching the back door, the postwoman
telling me that she left Canada because she
was so alone and now she is returning.
She wonders who it is who writes to me.
Letters from angels and those who were
once my students and a mad sister and
the lady in Australia who cannot leave
her parrots and the letter I never ever open.
All winter with the radio voice and what the
words say about the world and the deaths of
entire cultures in the name of religion and
what people think their gods say to them.
And all the time the fables of light;lichen
held,deep in the hedge, caught in orchard,
stone, trapped on surfaces of
abundant nature of it and silence of it
and held strength of it,its mending power,
the water depth of it, its constancy, the leaf
yield to it, its flows and flowering and bind.
All winter I have held this in mind as the
reason why we persist and make our stories
and believe in something beyond and keep
recording things that surpass the ordinary.
This is the music of our minds. This is all
we have to tell. This is what we have made.
BE VERY AFRAID
The President walks with great confidence towards the place
where he likes to tell us about the state of the world and his place in
history and about how people love him.
He likes the way the garden looks and the neatness of the trees
and the way the windows bounce with sunshine or snowsheen and when his dogs
runs across it makes him feel a family man.
Even when the man, who always does, does it again,
asking him about bombs and the price of lives and does he
know that another war is being lost.
When this takes place the President needs to focus
on his voice; it's about tone and body language and not letting his voice
get too high. When this takes place he needs to think of roses and grass
and not sand and shit and body bags. The man who always does this has
a job to do and a family and a book to write and
the only real problem is that he reminds the President of a short arsed
preacher he once tangled with or was it a teacher called Withers or was it
his father discovering the dead puppy? The way there were no words that
would hide or heal or halt. The way the creature ruined it all. The way his
father didn't need to say anything else. That silence that stays with you for
the rest of your life and huddles down with you at death and remains there
as you approach the next place, the next life,the next questioning.
I am looking at the door and it sees me looking.
I am waiting for the silence on the other side of the door
which is filled with dead moths and grass and old words.
I am here and the door waits to enchant,capture,eat me.
I can either wait here until it changes its music or knock
and see who will welcome me or simply enter and meet
the faces on the other side;perhaps a brother who died
or a mother twenty years ago or a father who told me not
to speak of poetry or the teacher who said I should always
look for the silence that followed the words,the shadow play,
the faces of people moving away from the great event and
able to make a space for the extraordinary as if there were
now an extra star in the sky, a rainbow in every orchard,even
an angel waiting for something that might never be intended.
I am looking at the door and it is looking at me and we both know
that in order to break the ordinary one of us has to make a move.
Perhaps the wind will do this for us or a stray cat or a stranger
or a messiah or a blind boy or the moment itself which we will
never understand, its own language and cool grass and urgency.
I am looking at the door and looking at the way the door is closed
and wondering now if it is a matter of words or silence or love.
And if the door suddenly should open,and if there should be faces,
and if there should be people who know my name,what gifts will do;
rain, whisper of winds, the memory of names, forgiveness and flowers?
The poets are doing their dirty dancing thing again
where we can see them. There are two over there as
I write this,seated in deck chairs at the roof garden
and of course there are several at the cafˇ making
each glass of wine last a long time and wondering
if the good lookers will notice them or might they
also be poets with windmills in their head and the
essential ache of loss? The man at the newspaper
stall composes his headline poems each day and
we all know that the retired postman has written
down our lives and that one day we will have to
read his hand printed anthology and contribute to
the production costs. Meanwhile there are poets in
the garden centre and on Sundays the organist can
be seen scribbling on a pad during the long sermons
that wind themselves in and out of parables and loss
instead of confronting the major issues such as why
is there so much rubble in outer space and what do
the dead do with music and whose idea was pain?
And late into every evening the poets have to stare
at the words that have been born and struggle with
the urge to revise and resist more attractive titles
and the voice in their heads that says they are saying
nothing new, they need more disturbance, they need
to jump up and down a bit more and dance dirty so
that their neighbours stay up later in case they are
about to miss a miracle, an attractive madness,and
each garden becomes a dance hall of grass and stars.
THE NEW YORKER
If not beautiful bitchy, if not secure stubborn,
and all the worlds words can make in between.
Ghosts of good fortune and the down and out
and music from places we shall never visit so
that each week we can discard and discover.
The discomfort of recognitions and attritions
and the constant reviews of other people's
dreams and derelictions and essays that are
so naked we sometimes look the other way.
At the edge of the page these small messages
about places to go and what we might do to
become real, the jazz of fashion, slick travel,
images of the beautiful dead and tired singers
who whisper warnings from vanishing villages
and castles in the jungles and trashed empires.
Each week voices of those who have buried
things or dug them up, the patriotism of those
who have survived fire and ice and neighbours
who smile at the camera as they talk about the
voices at midnight and even atrocious babies.
Turn the pages, a bit of this and that;the fiction
of our living and the poets taking up space to
do their dirty dancing again with broken legs.
© David H.W. Grubb