I would like to have met him—
I did meet him—in a messy place, where
Tables are dull and cluttered
With dullnesses, pottery, unfired,
All their tragic hopefulness
On display, their mess irremediable.
Where the windows are rain-clouded
And the walls can’t remember their
Last color—it’s mottled so, and chipped.
Above this rises his face, all
Brightness, all elegant despair—
His clothes of such strictness, solid
Quietness, solid colors. He has the despair
Of the man who can fix anything with cheer.
He is weary of cheer, the quick fixes.
He wants to make something
That looks resolved. He
Cannot resolve me. Let us sit
At our messy long table not far from his
Perfect house he built as if with clay also;
Let us make
I will build mine
Faster and higher than you, I say,
And he smiles only half
Way, his head dips low,
Showing the beautiful line where
His barber whoever he is trimmed his hair
Where I will never touch.
His hands are all around
His clay and he is only himself
All himself and the quiet of clay;
And I think I am not here
Until he turns his head completely:
Is that what you
Thought? That you would
Be much faster than me?
Yes, I say. He looks away
And works the clay again, all of him
Shaping the clay, not just his hands,
His shoulders, even his feet somehow
Involved, and I must go.
I am extra here;
I need the dirt trail
And the dipping heavy branches of trees
To recover from him, the messy exquisite
And the tables waiting for
And for him
SO MANY STARES OF STARS
Or is it Santa who taught us to
Cherish what is secret and in packages
And found? Instead of loving things as
They are, in normal state? Is Santa one
So in love with life and death he teaches us
We must rise to see? That somewhere
There is package which will cure us, love us,
Know us? Somewhere a sailor with the key?
There is the tent flap, there is the doorway,
There is opening of the garment. There are
Shoes and treetops and unfinished things.
Rejections: desolate, resolute. Appropriations
Of darknesses and findings. Jewelry which on
Some will glow and others, founder. You wait.
Who’s your best father? Santa has outdone him?
Yes, and no. You, we, forgive Santa and fathers
Because they’re weary; their hair has gone
To white. Someone must glow at night with
Brilliance-trill of red blood, white-of-
Moon and dark configuring shadow of
Death. Santas, fathers, you lead us, you
Rudolph-men: graceful movement from
Life to flight, then flight to death, then
Back again: traces, reins, harnesses of
Reindeer as delicate and strong as
Existence: connections of unliving with
Living. Your life-flight stakes us star to star.
So many stares of stars! So many—
We are glad, at last, to fade.
A HEDGE BETWEEN TWO HOUSES
After reading his Irish novel I still knew a hedge needed
To be planted between two houses. I thought of her the
Character choosing between Brooklyn and Galloway. Her native
Ireland tried to keep her, yet she went back to America. Forever.
It would have been a finer life in Ireland. Irish sea brings
Tumbled bright surprise bouquet of wind and water to your hands;
American wind whips things from your hands. Her mother wanted
Her to stay and when she saw her mother needed her and a man
Needed her she should have stayed; even an empty house was asking
Her to stay. But we are jealous of ghosts; and her dead Irish older
Sister-ghost was whispering. Was it sister-ghost who whispered
She should go? Sure as rain in morning was regret sure to grow,
Sweet like beauty of a building very old, cordoned off by sunlight,
An Ireland seashell castle: waiting for but not demanding adulation.
I plant the hedges; there are four, and they are narrow. Space
For them barely large enough. They’ll give me privacy, quiet, a
Place to sit with no eyes on me. But if I were her, that girl, I would
Not sit by a hedge without imagining Ireland gentle and loving
On one side, and challenging, abrupt America on the other, and
Wondering later what role judgemental ghosts have in decisions: do
You listen to ghosts, or store ghosts away, or laugh at them? Most likely
Ghosts are really only sad storage of compulsions; you make that ghost
With your thoughts; that ghost’s unreal. But this ghost, her angry sister,
Had glow of disagreement: if she tells you something’s over, you guess it’s true.
Keep something to remember, dead Irish sister murmured. A beautiful souvenir.
ONCE THERE WAS SALT AND PEPPER; AND GOD
I saw a florist’s van, newly painted, was sad for group
I used to run with. They never really knew elegance
Of a vanished name: never knew, even wondered, what
It’s like to identify with frail stalks and colorlessness
Which will always come bright in spring and stomp out
Ghost histories. In their God’s future-garden was color, bloom,
Man. Dutifully I dreamed of Man, actually only one of them:
If he was not there, unknown another. Women stairstep
Our elective process: all we ask is intent eye and laughter
And a dream, somewhere, of a steady, sturdy house, with
Fireplace, and evenings. And travel to the places where we
Could have been more free, our vine and bloom could’ve grown
Even more bittersweet, tall, triumphant, intense. If only every
Girl could see her maiden name on florist’s van; you so young
Would see where you wanted blooms to go, and grow, and know;
You’d smell languid sweetness of low upwelling breezes,
Differences between winters, summers, up-breeze of dream life,
Dark down-breezes of cold and truth. Look, flowers for you:
See this: paper so green and waxed, containers holding
Striving, proving, winning flowers, too many messages
In their range of colors. That churchly group so keen to prove.
Like un-nourishing bakery, false-friendships gang, that group
Of church-hearts who could supplant any garden with their
God’s local gardening—their shield their distant King Deluxe,
Far-exile son, reachable by prayers, offerings, sanguine meals.
Branded, named, catalogued: such distant brand, all-purpose God.
So. Once there was Salt and Pepper; once there was table-God.
Once I belonged to towns. No more; my boat and
My garden and flowers are my own, all my own; I had
The fortune of plain name, necessary dream of perfect
Man; But now so much wiser, thrice-fooled, at least, I need one
Whose thoughts his own, no false colors: and so his vine.
WHILE EDISON IS IN BRUSSELS
Don’t worry, Edison, I’ve seen
The film with Westinghouse in it and Tesla.
You do come to light fully and dully shining, the man
I love. But India, India, I tell you, you robbed.
It did not need your lights. You stole
Its era of lanterns-glow. All human history, Edison,
Is history of containment and natural travel of glow.
Liquor, around ice cubes, melting.
Tops of bodies of water. Eyes!
Fire! Cups! Shining is all we have!
After your proclamation India really did need electricity,
You moved on to be with your scientists in Brussels.
I stay at heel of blue mountains, India, working on
Manuscripts, painting distracted paintings, thinking of
Light made by man versus light made by planet and Star.
Think of why actors, actresses are called stars.
Churchmen and their holy star of Bethlehem?
Churchmen, never mind them their stained glass;
Churchmen: they sleep with green eyes beneath
Beds, their magic trapped fireflies of pending war.
Where you are in Brussels you are facing
Startled expressions: they were not sure you
Would come back, make them listen to repeat.
You keep your voice low and dull: you’re like fabric
Made almost invisible. Like slubbed silk so much less
Tiring than silk with its sheen.
I want the music of unsatisfied equations.
In kitchen’s windowsill filled with light and shadow
I place one new flower a day. That new film at the movie
House is about you, Edison, and Tesla and Westinghouse.
General Electric and alternating current and direct current
And the popularity of power. You’ll see it, say what’s missing,
But won’t tell me for days. We’re running out of storaging
Time. Electricity’s grief and sorrow is entrapment:
Niagara keeps dropping a new curtain of water;
The paddles of windmills keep obeying new wind.
Do you think you could count all waterfalls in India, keep
Record of how many loves Hedy Lamar had?
Not us, no: fireflies countless.
Rebecca Pyle‘s poems are in Indian Review and The Penn Review and The Chattahoochee Review. She writes essays and stories, paints paintings, too, many appearing lately in Muse/A Journal and Tayo Magazine and Bridge Eight Press and The Menteur and Belletrist. Rebecca Pyle was named for the Brit novel and film Rebecca, the novel continuously in print since its first run over eighty years ago. See rebeccapyleartist.com.