Tell Me What You See, Mistress Moon

Mistress Moon, I feel your million-mile stare
over my shoulder as I cross the black plain
of night, but my weak Earth-bound eyes only
see the dumb grin on your pock-marked face.

You are the shape and heft of light and its absence.
In your wax and wane we know death and birth
and the mighty tug of sea-tide and womb-blood.
Tell me what you see in your blue-white sight.

Mice scurrying across the wind-spun snow,
the red-eyed wolf, the faint glow of my heart,
more ash than ember? Can you penetrate
the caul of deceit that smothers me, beneath

to the field of tiny stars tattooed across my chest?
Have you missed your mother these four billion
years, or did you long ago turn your best side
away from her, toward the cold fires of eternity?

Baghdad

Everyone had this strange compulsion
to pause like minarets in the ritual wind
and listen

because they were convinced
that the tautness could not go on
indefinitely

that some day something had to happen
that much was certain but what form
the release

might take could only be guessed at
and lying out on the roof at night
under the stars

I strain my ears trying to imagine
I hear perhaps in the direction of
Arbataash

the faint sound of voices calling
but it is always the presence
of silence

broken now and then by a sleepy rooster
crowing on some distant housetop
or a cat

wailing in the street below or a truck
far out on Mosul Road
backfiring

bang bang
it coasts down the long hill to the Tigris
fertile old giver of life.

February-March 2003

I-17, South of Flagstaff, 1995

10 p.m., starry sky, autumn chill,
winds buffet the van like waves on a lifeboat.
Returning from the film about Neruda,
warm inside our craft, filled with poetry
and the sad rhythm of miles. You beside me:

talk of love, of a certain face, of the subtle
slurred sound of Beatrice, of your sister’s first kiss
and when I floated on my back in the pitiless sea.
We know we are editing our words, our thoughts,
our dreams, our lives, and we acknowledge this

and more. And then there’s this: How do we
polish the sacred surfaces, as Neruda writes,
to reveal the dove who is born of light?
How do we, with our hands, make the world every day?
Mile by mile, with a firm grip on the wheel?

Exit 298, adrift in the balmy space of words,
I watch you slip away, your red hair floating on starlight,
into the cool, deep ocean of night.