Listening to the music of the body
and the music of stars,
by a starfish-blotch of cream in coffee
shaped like a neuron cell body
or a supernova, either way
floating on a brown lake sunk in a deep white well
stained by thin brown rings,
concentric thoughts in a season of fire
just beyond the flickering of my eye
like a novel that hinges
in small part on the dubious proposition
that a man could kill himself by simply
holding his breath.
Another storm last night —
thunder explosions and rain
bulleting the metal roof.
I followed the trail
of red-brown feathers
through the long wet grass
but didn’t find the rest
of the rooster. Maybe a hawk
took him, more likely a fox
or a lone coyote. This world
is an over-ripe apple cleaved
into predator and prey.
The morning sky is latticed
pink and blue. When
did I become a man
who sees every blessed sunrise?
You won’t need your eclipse glasses
if you drive a thousand backroads miles
to the path of totality in the sand hills
by a train track in a field of wild sunflowers
as the western sky turns over itself
from blue to pink to black, a breaking wave
of darkness rolling over you – crickets
and frogs are singing! – and for two minutes
you look up in wonder at the dark side
of the moon and the halo of sun flaring
around it like windblown hair on fire.
You don’t really see the moon
because there is no reflected light,
just the shape of it blocking the sun.
You don’t see the black bear, either,
but you can tell it came last night
from the garbage strewn in the aspens by the lake,
torn and scattered like so many fucked up days.
Depression can be like this sometimes.
You don’t always see the black beast
or even smell it, but you feel its presence
in the shape of the absence of light.
Even dying is easier in the dark, you just stop
breathing in your sleep. Living again is harder –
sudden gasp unclenching the fist of your throat –
the pain that urges you onward.
They said it would be life-altering
when that midday darkness rolled over you,
but the past is resolute, a book you have read
all the way to the last word of right now,
and the future is just the vague outline of a bear
shambling in the fog that you drive through,
westward, in a race to see an eclipse.
Wooden beads sliding on wires
held in a bamboo frame.
When someone dies, we slide
them off to the other side.
A binary abacus is used to explain
how computers manipulate numbers.
My daughter would understand,
she’d say it’s switches, either on or off.
Before beads on wires, they were simply
stones moved along grooves in the sand,
Hence the name, from the Greek,
abakos, a board covered with dust,
Perhaps from the Hebrew ʾābāq (אבק),
for dust, in the post-Biblical sense
Meaning sand used as a writing surface,
but it makes me think, again, of dust to dust.
Kids these days don’t even know
what an abacus is, the ways we subtract,
All the rough calculations of on and off.
Calculating-Table by Gregor Reisch: Margarita Philosophica, 1503.
I dreamed of finding dead birds —
the hens we lost last summer,
and our favorite rooster —
perfectly preserved in the snow
I was shoveling off the driveway.
I proceeded with caution,
more archaeologist than gravedigger,
uncertain of what lay beneath
each drifted form, probing
the outlines of the proximate future
in each measured spadeful.
Then I asked you what to do
with the newly uncovered fowl
but when I could not hear your response
I shouted, “I can’t hear you
when you turn away from me,”
and immediately felt so sorry
for raising my voice unnecessarily
that I woke up suddenly
and thought of all I had to do
with so many bodies to rebury,
so much blood and bone and feather.
I am on the road away from you,
watching for bald eagles.
They complain about the food, lack thereof;
they talk and they talk of the unfairness of afterlife;
how the old dead have their heads in the clouds;
how no one listens to them anymore, and never did.
The old dead shuffle with their hands
where their pockets used to be, humming
like wind in the pines behind the red barn,
unable to speak with their dry mouths filled by dust.