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Underwater Galaxies

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from UNDERWATER GALAXIES

Written 2004
Published 2007 by The Ecstatic Exchange

• The Jaws of Death

• Silver Foil

• Horse of War

• A Visit With Mr. Blake

• Enough

• Poem Written on a Book of Matthew Brady Photographs

 

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THE JAWS OF DEATH

I looked in at the jaws of death the other day
and found they're still full of teeth

Bouquets of roses don't impress it nor delicate sentiments
They're more like amphibious snake jaws that unhinge to take in
the whole body head to toe in one gulp and
then some

No one's ever tossed a note out or car keys at least to
let us know what's going on

Ghosts appear but they tend to be unreliable witnesses
since peevishness often seems to characterize them
or some unfinished agenda

The stable of ghost horses is always full of
restive beasts saddled for use
knocking the wooden floors and whinnying menacingly

I would reach in with a puppet and
see if death gives it eyes to see with
but I fear it might take off my arm in the process

Longboats full of ghostly serenaders by moonlight
come out to meet our colonial ship
but none dare dive in the waters for the
coins that are tossed there

Death's archipelago extends out farther than life's
and every language ever known to mankind is
spoken there

No king presides there except the king of the
One Day and every day before it and after it
all other kings find themselves elbow to elbow with
osslers and looselers hustlers and losers of every livelihood
whistling Dixie and hoping for the best

Only sanctity rings a golden bell whose reverberations
are heard in this world one wave at a time

“Nothing to fear” says the stranger on horseback
and the stranger sitting in the doorway
our only trustworthy informants

God bless every one of us born
that we have eyes to see where we are

and a nose for truth

and a tongue for love in the instant of its telling

4/5

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SILVER FOIL

for Abdurrahman Fitzgerald

Silver foil around everything

Well that's one way to preserve a certain
dead freshness

I prefer the silver foil shook like angel expletives which are
seven million percent pure that bursts out of
everything when you look then look away then

look again only with the heart shaking angelically

Each star is stripped bare that way but also
really each earth-stone each scintillant
corner of things contentedly sitting in space like

sniffing radiant rabbits that chair over there or that
forty-story building but more especially

that halo'd   person coming toward you out of the crowd with a
flower-garlanded goat in his arms and a smile greater than all
Texas

All the promises you made and all the excuses

All the threats against your own person and all the
heavenly delicacies of love laid out on silver platters
each brilliantly shining also like shook foil
served to others without calculation

Until really all our existence is like a sudden
blindfold taken off in full sunlight and everything
rather than being this color or that texture is simply

Paradise bright Paradise dazzling
drenched in the colors of the pure Light
God's scattered through the universe on His

Way to Himself every silvery moment of the

day or nigh

5/2

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HORSE OF WAR

The dog wept to see the horse
and the sky broke down

The horse of war flayed alive
and its backbone broken

Teeth enough in brutal mouths
too many teeth

The dog of life saw burning

The dog wept when he saw

The horse of war flayed alive
and its backbone broken

5/14

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A VISIT WITH MR. BLAKE

William Blake across from me sits here
insisting on whatever it is he insists on and a

great red cape opens up to show an illuminated city he says
is Jerusalem

Not quite the one over there in Palestine
but translucent walls and gates of light as only
Blake can envision

Even pinkish and silvery angels elongatedly
bending above it barely discernable in the
clouds and blowing on long glass trumpets

I look into the lively fire in his eyes those
limpid English blues of his and his

mild-mannered countenance and his almost
whispery elocution of these weighty matters in which

the whole cosmos is swept along in calamitous clouds

and he levels a look at me his right hand raised by his
face and says

“Behold the things we feared have come to pass
but the things we feared the most

may still be abated”

Black horses of smoke whinnying horribly and various
towers tumbling forward

I gaze through transparent Mr. Blake across
wispy ruins that run on for miles hoping he's
right as usual

“Shall I sing you a song?” he says

I nod and he sings in a soft falsetto of things so
elementally near they become distant as if in a
play within a play in the mind

of the Divine upraised finger of light attesting to what among
all these phantasms is real

and of the graves of the terrestrially wronged
who open their stony mouths to
sing with one voice the sweet
mercy of God and their

ultimate rectification against all forms of
injustice including tyrannies theological

and while he continues singing I can
almost see the Holy One's smile like buttery golden flakes
slowly descending over everything

Mr. Blake
your hat

the wide-brimmed felt pilgrim's hat you
wore when you first came here

Your stick
with which you touch the stars Mr. Blake
all aglitter

and the tiny chanting flames you
leave in the air

5/26

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ENOUGH

The dark is defeated
by a sliver of light

6/20

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POEM WRITTEN ON A BOOK OF MATTHEW BRADY PHOTOGRAPHS

Perhaps there's something waiting in the moonlight
to show its face

I'm writing on an oversized book of Matthew Brady photographs
pictures of Lincoln and Walt Whitman
pictures of young men and boys bloated with
arms flung back and fat legs flung forward in
death forever once in the mud and millions of
times later as people riffle the pages of books of
Civil War photographs and wonder as I do how it could have
happened and only about a hundred and forty years ago
bodies in black and white casting shadows on battlefields that are
just rolling green fields now over local hills or down
grassy valleys but then there were

guns focused out of trees on anything that moved and
yells of pain and astonishment when anyone would get
shot no doubt rebel or union yells cut short in midair
heard again now from farther away as bombs and
shrapnel cut flesh and split open organs like fruit
on streets and sidewalks empty lots and blasted buildings
in Iraq

7/10

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