nthposition online magazine

In the name of the tyrant, Apache tears, Those Greek warriors & Dragon Hill


[ poetry - march 04 ]

In the Name of the Tyrant

What did we suffer for? why did we flee
our houses as if we had been hostages at our own
tables? Even free, we were not free, we kept
breaking down in thrift stores, our eyes
tearing in bins of glasses taken from the faces
of the dead; disoriented and dizzy as crows
swarming the corpses of our own hearts,
in the aisles of the department stores
filled with the glitter of plenty, we kept
spilling coffee on ourselves. Why
are we forever afraid of bathtubs, of water
hitting us in the face like the invisible
stoning of an anonymous crowd, why does buying
makeup make us feel guilty, why do we
eat our food like thieves? Why do we
sneak our friends in the backdoor
and make our love climb up a tree? Why
do our lies nest within one another like
diminishing dolls? Why do we jump
when the smallest child pushes open a door?
Why are we afraid of the whistling of teapots?
Who's coming in to read over our shoulders
our most secret thoughts, who's clinging
to our roofs like a demon? Why is his cheerfulness
even more frightening than his anger? Why does my hope
burn like the scar of a burn on my breast? Why are you
an eye floating in a pool of dead water, blue, and unable
to breathe? Why do we keep asking why
when we're really asking how do we know
how to stop it if we never understood
why it began? How can we unravel so much
violence followed by so much lie? How will we know
when it's ever over? or believe
it will ever stop?


Apache tears

In the rock bins of my childhood, every tourist stop
sold Apache tears - obsidian drops, smooth and velvety
in the hand, obdurate, until, held up to the light,
then each became a smoky being, a cloud pregnant
with rain in that desert - with the story of the beauty
of grief, a tribe of Apache (really no more than
an extended family) who were trapped at the edge
of the cliff, by the Mexicans some said, others
the US calvary, who all leapt to their deaths
rather than being taken captive, and the tears
they shed before dying turned to wild stones
at the base of the cliff. I don't know how many
tears I bought and lost; a galaxy of darkness
in those bins, and yet each time, I looked through
that landside of sorrow, thinking if I found
the right one and held it up to the light,
I could see entirely through it. If it's ever possible
to see through human suffering: beyond knowing
in any climate and any time, there are those who are turned to stone.


Those Greek warriors

though they went home periodically to their wives
and engendered children, spent their lives
with each other lying on the frozen ground,
beneath a single blanket, on a sword's edge
with each other, until their blood poured out
and flagged one parcel of earth as theirs. As if death
were the heart's heroic kingdom, not without
convenience to the warrior state, for who
would fight with more fury than the lover
who faces with grim and terrible actuality
the beloved's death, not death by messenger
or asleep in a distant villa, but the blood
of the beloved spattering one's face,
each clotted with the other's gore? Disembowelling
makes dying sweet for those who cannot
Œdie' in sweeter moans, shining like Patrocles, not
in the radiant arms but the armor of Achilles,
granting Achilles a godlike fury, so many for
the loss of one he never murmured in his arms:
sleeping together every night and waking
every morning, men, pregnant, laboring with tanks
and machineguns, burning flags and funeral pyres.


Dragon Hill

To love is not only to gaze at the other, but
to gaze through the other,
so wherever love sends me, I look.
                                 Among the painted
locust, the blue-footed booby, the lava lizard
whose skin still burns with the earth's interior
         Buddha returns, as a land iguana,
                                 wearing the same mysterious smile,
to sit in a small cave hollowed out of lava,
his skin like living rock.
                                    In the Galapagos,
isolation has made infinite variety
          out of one monotonous cry. A laboratory
in evolution, we call it, the defunct eye of the tuna
against the bottom of the boat.

Here the earth is not your body but the heaven you think
            you could be -the shimmering patina
of the lightfoot crab, the happy angles
of the frigate birds shadowing your furrowed head,
          and Buddha in a lizard's visage, wearing
the spiked crown.
                      Human, animal or divine...
there's a large blackness in the center
of the iguana's forehead,
                        murky as a galaxy
coalescing, a new face forming, and in the depths of the new
cells, a third eye, its eyelid closed, dreaming

the heart's refrain: Out of so much,
so little; out of so little, so much.