Perhaps merely the idea of whiteness draws us,
the way the white lines, the fissures of ice,
the made structure itself disappears inside
the silent depths. Or perhaps the way the wind
dies down to a muffled growl as we slip inside
the white skin of bear, the belly of the moon.
Or the way we are left then with only language,
our voices heard in the white dome of the cosmos,
our stories flickering in the fire, left with merely
these shadows written on the walls of snow. Here,
the trick of permanence, there the illusion of
stilled water, the gift of holding river and storm
quiescent in the rough texture of our hands. No day
now. No night. The vast turquoise sky not changing
to a black mask pricked with eyes. Out of the flames
gods come, spirits, ghosts bearing visions and old
battles. Out of the white nothing, we create the living
light, the universe of blood, a new world
Mornings I go Polish, potato pancakes and dark humor,
sausage and Symborska, laughter like a mountain stream
trickling through blue shadow, Milosz' rooster singing
the earth's terrible rise.
What is a day breaking sunny-side-up without a word?
What is the work waiting, the face coming down the stairs,
the moon melting in the mouth of clouds? What good are
the songs if not to sound?
Afternoons I picnic lightly, lie under an umbrella brushed
with clouds, nibble on greens of watercress, lady fern
and haiku, slices of orange and Basho, the world in
a palm of shimmering pond.
A thrush trills from a cherry tree. A white lilac breathes
a sweet bouquet. Prayer flags flutter blessings to the sun.
I doze, dream perhaps, turn hawk, wing, glide silently,
wantonly through the dusk.
Evenings I dine on halved moons, the darker side of
absence. Through the window, Transtrommer¹s train,
heavy with burdens, waits. Vallejo passes by with
a loaf of bread, weeping.
Dark matter swallows the light, burns with unrequited
desire, night not night but unending shadow, I black hole
to my day. I spoon soup, stew, see a cow still as a boulder
eaten by a dish of stars.
My Mother Forgets I Was Born
in November, that I no longer
have a wife, that green embers
burn through my eyes. She waits
all afternoon sitting on her porch,
turning the pages of a book
she¹s read three times before,
while I teach Yana verbs--past
and present tenses--then tells me
on the phone a day later, "I waited
for you yesterday, what happened?"
I want to say I was there and
she simply has forgotten, that
I am not this son, but the other,
"the lost one" who disappeared
in Brooklyn forty-some years ago.
I want to say I am the grandson
she¹s never met, or the nephew
of Sal, my recently-departed uncle,
or any one but this son who
drifts like flotsam in and out of
her imagination. I know she has
a clear snapshot of me stashed
somewhere, a moment caught
at a family picnic say, ketchup
smudging my open smile,
a sudden gust brushing my
cowlick up--know that between
what I am and what she is
becoming there are still these
seeds of conversations, these
shards of faces reflecting back
what we were and what we came
to remember, our names written
not on the nebulous clouds, but
across our palms, in our lifelines,
in the blood we hold in our hands.
© 2005 r. g. cantalupo