Between the Earth
a mountain bears each passing
drought or storm and remembers when
the desert was a sea: so long ago now, far
from the dry trails winding
over the saddle where
the winds make their way between
past and future. There’s an itch
in every canyon
and patience in the rocks
balanced on light, while underneath it all
a darkness grinds
and from it come the white
rivers passing through
roots to each living stem and the stars
stacked in a saguaro’s core.
From Speech Scroll:
A ringtail climbs down from the stars
to the edge of a roof
where he finds
a wooden beam extending
to a hook on which
a glass hangs
filled with earthly sweetness. He makes
of his body a question mark
that asks for truths
only known among animals. He’s
agile and can balance
on a breath, right side up or
upside down, with a universe
of sound compressed
inside his ears, and eyes only
for night, when the galaxies
above him are thick enough
to stir with his tail.
Wind whistles in a mountain's ear.
The sun weighs nothing
on a swallowtail's wings. Morning
shadows slip down
a grassy slope and dissolve
in the creek. The darkness
inside an old mine
is minding its own business
and remembering the past, while
the forest is a song. A redstart
in an oak tree flashes its wings
to ask the time, and a Hermit thrush
answers Eternity. The ore
still in the earth says nothing, while
a woodpecker drumming
hard into an ash says Don't
be romantic, it's work
being part of this world.
The sky’s lonely emperor
signals for another day to begin
and his armies raise the sun
to its place on the horizon. He’s had
a quiet night, feeding
starlight to coyotes, now
he stokes the fires that bring
on summer’s heat. It’s very much a game
to him, setting record highs
for certain dates: one hundred and nine, one
hundred and twelve, one hundred
and brimstone. He sometimes
sends a whiplash of lightning
just to tease the Earth and promise
storms only to withhold them
while he courts solitude
with his only company the lion
he leads through Heaven on a leash.
From Unmapped Worlds:
The Mystic, Hildegard
Hildegard has a silkworm in her heart.
Her soul is thread.
Ecstasy is a tangle
and the worm spins a world
around the branches of her lungs.
silk on her transparent hands,
tightening the spirit
on the flesh. She is invisible,
having bound herself entirely
in the silkworm’s joy.
Her skin is light.
She is a spiral
drilling the sky. The worm
works on. Even
small creatures must be fed,
and from the floating heart
it chews a daily ration.
The soul streams endlessly
within us, but silk
is our own flesh grinding
in the teeth of the mystery.
For the train without fear
of darkness, for the journey away
from the cold, for a seat
among the chosen, the passengers wait;
and for forgiveness, for the late departure,
the ticket inspector and confessor,
for fires to burn down in their cities
and for their sentences to be repealed.
They sit while the second hand
skirts the edge of the clock,
waiting for a place in the overcrowded carriage
with a suitcase full of ashes,
for a cure, for an end
to injustice, for the international
express, for the rain to stop,
and they wait with their eyes closed,
with half-eaten sandwiches
wrapped and saved for later,
with no reservations
and yesterday’s newspapers crumpled unread.
They wait out of habit
with timetables in hand,
tired of war, of weak coffee
and of listening
for the voice in the loudspeaker
to announce the outbreak
of compassion and delayed arrivals.
Their patience is immeasurable
as the faith of heretics.
Painting by David Chorlton
For David Chorlton’s books, most are available from him directly. Email DavidChorlton@centurylink.net for the following titles and postage information:
Unmapped Worlds (FutureCycle Press, 2021) $16
Selected Poems ((FutureCycle Press, 2014) $18
Speech Scroll (Cholla Needles Press, 2020) $12
The Inner Mountain (Cholla Needles Press, 2021) $12
For Reading T.S.Eliot to a Bird (Hoot ‘n Waddle, 2018), $16, contact:
Reading T. S. Eliot to a Bird (hootnwaddle.com)
For Shatter the Bell in my Ear, translations from the poetry of Austrian poet Christine Lavant, $18, contact:
Books from Bitter Oleander Press