the purpose of flesh may be to keep the skeletons from bruising each other
I UNDER THE MAUD MOON 1 On the path, by this wet site of old fires- black ashes, black stones, where tramps must have squatted down, gnawing on stream water, unhouseling themselves on cursed bread, failing to get warm at a twigfire- I stop, gather wet wood, cut dry shavings, and for her, whose face I held in my hands a few hours, whom I gave back only to keep holding the space where she was, I light a small fire in the rain. The black wood reddens, the deathwatches inside begin running out of time, I can see the dead, crossed limbs longing again for the universe, I can hear in the wet wood the snap and re-snap of the same embrace being torn. The raindrops trying to put the fire out fall into it and are changed: the oath broken, the oath sworn between earth and water, flesh and spirit, broken, to be sworn again, over and over, in the clouds, and to be broken again, over and over, on earth. 2 I sit a moment by the fire, in the rain, speak a few words into its warmth- stone saint smooth stone- and sing one of the songs I used to croak for my daughter, in her nightmares. Somewhere out ahead of me a black bear sits alone on his hillside, nodding from side to side. He sniffs the blossom-smells, the rained earth, finally he gets up, eats a few flowers, trudges away, his fur glistening in the rain. The singed grease streams out of the words, the one held note remains-a love-note twisting under my tongue, like the coyote's bark, curving off, into a howl. 3 A round- cheeked girlchild comes awake in her crib. The green swaddlings tear open, a filament or vestment tears,the blue flower opens. And she who is born, she who sings and cries, she who begins the passage, her hair sprouting out, her gums budding for her first spring on earth, the mist still clinging about her face, puts her hand into her father's mouth, to take hold of his song. 4 It is all over, little one, the flipping and overleaping, the watery somersaulting alone in the oneness under the hill, under the old, lonely bellybutton pushing forth again in remembrance, the drifting there furled in the dark, pressing a knee or elbow along a slippery wall, sculpting the world with each thrash-the stream of omphalos blood humming all about you. 5 Her head enters the headhold which starts sucking her forth: being itself closes down all over her, gives her into the shuddering grip of departure, the slow, agonized clenches making the last molds of her life in the dark. 6 The black eye opens, the pupil droozed with black hairs stops, the chakra on top of the brain throbs a long moment in world light, and she skids out on her face into light, this peck of stunned flesh clotted with celestial cheesiness, glowing with the astral violet of the underlife. And as they cut her tie to the darkness she dies a moment, turns blue as a coal, the limbs shaking as the memories rush out of them. When they hang her up by the feet, she sucks air, screams her first song-and turns rose, the slow, beating, featherless arms already clutching at the emptiness. 7 When it was cold on our hillside, and you cried in the crib rocking through the darkness, on wood knifed down to the curve of the smile, a sadness stranger than ours, all of it flowing from the other world, I used to come to you and sit by you and sing to you. You did not know, and yet you will remember, in the silent zones of the brain, a specter, descendant of the ghostly forefathers, singing to you in the nighttime- not the songs of light said to wave through the bright hair of angels, but a blacker rasping flowering on that tongue. For when the Maud moon glimmered in those first nights, and the Archer lay sucking the icy biestings of the cosmos, in his crib of stars, I had crept down to riverbanks, their long rustle of being and perishing, down to marshes where the earth oozes up in cold streaks, touching the world with the underglimmer of the beginning, and there learned my only song. And in the days when you find yourself orphaned, emptied of all wind-singing, of light, the pieces of cursed bread on your tongue, may there come back to you a voice, spectral, calling you sister! from everything that dies. And then you shall open this book, even if it is the book of nightmares.
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