LEARNING TO SPEAK
As a child running loose,
I said it this way: Bird.
Bird, a startled sound at field's edge.
The sound my mouth makes, pushing away the cold.
So, at the end of this quiet afternoon,
wanting to write the love poems I've never written,
I turn from the shadow in the cottonwood
and say blackbird, as if to you.
There is the blackbird. Black bird, until its darkness
is the darkness of a woman's hair falling
across my upturned face.
And I go on speaking into the night.
The oriole, the flicker,
the gold finch. . . .
It's our job to pull things back.
Peter Everwine was born in Detroit, raised in western Pennslyvania, educated in the midwest, and settled down for decades in California. When not writing his own poems he is translating from Hebrew and interpretations from Nahuatl.
BACK FROM THE FIELDS
Until nightfall my son ran in the fields,
looking for God knows what.
Flowers, perhaps. Odd birds on the wing.
Something to fill an empty spot.
Maybe a luminous angel
or country girl with a secret dark.
He came back empty-handed,
or so I thought.
Now I find them:
the barbed weeds
all those with hooks or horns
the snaggle-toothed, the grinning ones
those wearing lantern jaws
old ones in beards
leapers in silk leggins
the multiple pocked moons
and spiny satellites, all those
with juices and saps
like the fingers of thieves
nation after nation of grasses
that dig in, that burrow, that hug winds
and grab handholds
in whatever lean place.
It's been a good day.
JUST BEFORE SLEEP
In the poem that comes just before sleep,
I am walking out into
the darkness of summer fields,
drawing it close about me.
What I wanted to say
was the silence of olive groves,
the longing of a road white with dust.
I speak an old language, love —
the fields rising and falling,
the small beards of light
nodding over the earth.
I am entering your hair,
LOOKING INTO THINGS CLEARLY
The doctor smiles and comes toward me.
In a room so pure I can hardly breathe,
he opens my robe and touches the fragile
bones of my wings. "I'm glad you've come," he says
and I know I'm sick.
Something is wrong with me upstairs.
A neighbor's mouth tears like a wound, so dark
I think of a spring cupped in black roots.
The phone rings and another village is burning.
My head dreams of escaping into white stone.
"It's almost painless," he says, hiding
his hand behind his blue coat.
Only I can't see him clearly.
When I squint he seems to be
my father sidling through the halls of banks,
he is a bruised face, he is the President,
the drifting blue haze of factories,
of my own breath hovering over me.
I reach to touch him, but my fingers
enter and pass through —
he blossoms around them in a red flower of light,
petal after petal of light opens out:
I'm a window looking into a backyard.
Some men are digging what looks like a grave,
about the size of a child's.
In the lamplight falling
on the white tablecloth
my shining loaf of quietness.
I sit down.
Through the open door
all the absent I love enter
and we eat.
(from the meadow: selected and new poems)
TWO POEMS BY AYOCUAN CUETZPALTZIN
Let the earth last
And the forests stand a long time
Ayocuan Cuetzpaltzin said this, traveling
The road to Tlaxcala
The road to Huexotzinco
Let field after field
Unfold with brown corn
Flowers of cacao
Let the earth last
We live in the country where things go away
Is it like this
In that country the dead wander?
Are some happy there
Among old friends?
Or is it here only that passing a face
We look into it
And speak its name?
( translated by PE from "The Aztec Poems" )
from Collecting the Animals