Letters

It’s 4am — You write to me
from another land, another sea,
the city is waiting, your voice
upsets a structure of shadows.
The wind blows everything around,
I feel as though I return to being
a creature of flesh and blood.
It’s so hard to pull the soul away
from the body, like an ill-timed
offering — now words
stitch them back together
by a single thread. I think
I saw you through their fine lines
painting wisps in a red house,
a photograph upon my eyelid,
turning the winter pallor to amber.
It seems a fire lives in the lining
of our skin, after the destruction
of things, after the death of others,
a frailer but more persistent
flame burning upon the ruins.
It never tires and rises
like a lucent question,
somewhat unanswerable,
amazingly quiet. It’s 4am —
the words are gone or far,
I simply wish you were here
or I were drunk, or something
like — going to St. Petersburg.

The Breach

I walked through the night
to some place unknown
when I could no longer see
on any map any road,
waiting for the sun
to blanch the cliffs —
their quiet, untold past.
My sextant lost under
the hard stars, I began
to long for you on that
path, wanting to call
the darkness a lie,
wanting the curve of
your back as a halt.
Still it was too early
to know, but not for
that stone inside me
to crack — a chalk
whiter than my skin
and my bones, your
words came cutting,
cutting bright. It was
not on any map,
that line not mine,
and I tried to ignore it
I don’t deny, yet
it kept running,
running into chalk,
as if ceding to rain
and also, to light.

The Favorite One

For Charles Pictet

There was a scent of lemon, cedar,
almonds in bloom filling the air
long roads of dust waning away
—  It was all about the wind,
everything dissipated,
everything was like breath.
And the sky was warm as blood
at dusk, since to forget someone
you loved felt like the slaughter
of a lamb. No one could tell
if God foresaw that pain
in the finitude of all things,
or if pain came as a surprise
with black draperies, flowers,
cries —  If he howled himself
to the center of himself then,
growing roots of Silence.
Had he dreamt, in his retreat,
that one would listen closely
to the wind — believing
it carried more light
than sorrow, when crossing
the frontiers of a body ?
Had he dreamt of Abel before
he came with that beast,
had he seen him leaning
on her neck, whispering
her low, nonetheless
—  letting her go ?
“This is for you,
this is my full heart”,
said the youngest, and
that echo cut through
the very stone, the willow trees,
the streets of all cities,
the high offices full
of secret arrangements,
the knife of Cain and the
constellation of The Snake.
The night filled with perfume,
humming a pact timeless as air,
and God held on to this tune
—  beyond all repair.

Girl Blue

They have all gone
the dear ones, like birds.
And no trains ever come
from those blue regions,
no plane fly there.
Absence has become
a solider season —
Spring, a violent effort
of the imagnation.
All these letters
I have sent, they
twisted my heart
into a curious shape.
I’ve gone to war.
I don’t want to talk.
If someone ask, just say —
She’s gone for a walk
or something equally
bizarre.

A Scream

Was the sky blue. Or light-bleached.
An answer wrapped in the rags of its banner.
Or forever sealed in the sun.
I don’t remember.
Had Silence ever desired a house.
The synagogues were closed.
The churches were closed.
I walked for hours, down
down to that door —
no one called me in.
It was a simple shelter,
an empty oratory
in an empty city.
Outside stayed the battering
of wars and all the gibberish,
inside — an echo
and the arch of the covenant
floating in a golden fresco.
The red enamel squares
forming the archangels’ wings
sparkled as scalpels,
the stones, in the walls,
annuled them by tender ocher.
I fell there, more than I knelt.
Watching the mute
vault. Yet I cannot
tell if it was bluer or redder.
Attention, they say,
taken to its highest degree,
is the same thing as prayer.
Attention is poetry.
But I didn’t come to pray.
And this is not a poem.

Enough of these calls.
Enough of these words.
I could have screamed down
a thousand shrines,
I could have stayed there
forever, howling like a beast,
all I got was silence.
So many sufferings,
secrets, having gone
through so many lungs,
stomachs, mouths.
And all we get is always
Silence.

Only sometimes,
past these walls,
past these stones,
however frail and perishable
— a breathing and a beating
of a heart to disturb it.

Anti-Destiny

To Rimbaud, Van Gogh and all the others.

When you will have lost everything,
the private ground on which you stood,
the sweet geometry you had learned,
the roots, the roads, the maps
leading home,
when the ways to seek God will be
obscured, when the muse will bring
only a false flavor of laurel,
when you will find no escape
in carmine wines or drugs blue,
and yet, will keep on breathing,
then maybe, all the shadows
will combine into light.
When all the music, the paintings,
the books will be of no use,
when so many people
will have entered your life
to teach you loneliness, when
the marble of statues,
empty of complaints,
will watch over you
lying on park benches at night,
when tears will be
proportioned to thirst,
then a wound will open
in a late ray of sunshine.
To heal this wound
that never closes
will become
your only ritual
your true creation.
You will go out solitary,
unanswered, breaking
against the world —
but your song will blow
the prisoner’s window,
and its clarity
convey
your anti-destiny.

Sarah’s Laughter

And then,
it was so beautiful. She had a new,
brusque laugh that broke into crystals,
an unexpected, young laugh,
exempt from bitterness.
Not the one she served
to the lone, late passer-by,
the Angel of the Incongruous Promise,
not that old mockingbird chirp.
As though it had always been playing
somewhere, through the years of despair,
and came back from some corner of the city,
some olive grove, to vibrate now
on every leaf and run clear as blood
in Isaac’s veins.
Her laugh like a flag in the sun.
Her son — all seasons of doubt
and renouncement at an end.

Hagar, in the shadow, paused
like the one note of silence.
She knew Sarah’s winter-face,
the barren one, Hagar held
the past in her lap.
She remembered her howling
the night she begged her to warm
Abraham’s bed. Eyes and mouth
red. Now these tears
were forever immured
in Ishmael’s laughter.
So on the day Isaac was weaned,
when draperies color of cream
and crimson blossoms hung
all around the house,
Sarah turned to Abraham and said :
“Get rid of that sound Ishmael
makes, God hears.”
and Hagar became the ache in the empty,
and Ishmael the sharp,
displaced memory.

A grey silent sacrifice
on a grey silent altar.

And then
it was so cruel, God had a new
brusque laugh that broke into
pale dusty mirrors.
“Listen to whatever Sarah tells you”
he said. And it was like
listening to the sound of falling rocks
or letting the rain after
all these dry years
carry back the voices
of the faithless.

Two Postcards from The Sea

1

There are days still so full of light on the shore, in the sand, in the forest  paths leading to the ocean, and the water is cold but never quiet. Swimming here feels like training for a fight, a fight that is always lost, the waves are incredibly strong, the current stronger, and the exhaustion complete. I lie down on the sand, trembling but not from the cold, trembling like muscles and flesh tremble under one’s hand, under the weight of memory, and the sun, and the loud breath of the air, everything around me seems to tell what I’m sensing. I’m having a cigarette, fire in my mouth, fire in my belly.  There are only two things I can’t defeat, the ocean. And memory .

2

While America plays its horrible show, with fat politicians trying to make believe something will change this time, when nothing will, the ocean, here, changes from pearl grey to green, then to blue in a few hours. Each day washes the small lusts and deceitful pettiness of the world away. I emerge almost new, bitten to the bone by the sun, or washed pure by the salty sharpness of the rain. Yesterday the sky was riveted to the water as by an invisible anchor, payne’s grey, one of the finest blue colors, and not a soul showed on the beach for a long time. I lay there in the crashing noise of the waves with the feeling that no matter what the ideas or conduct of others, there is a unique beauty to life, given in openness, in wind and light. I almost forgot about the dirty daily fight. I buried its dead weight in the cold sand.

Later seagulls began to squawk in the distance. Two dogs appeared, big black dogs, one running full speed towards the birds, the other imperturbable, a branch keeping his jaws opened, walking ahead of a man. So the man smiled, passing by, saying hello, and the dog stopped, convinced his trophee should be buried at my feet. I got up as fast as I coud in a sudden storm of wet sand and overflowing joy – the dog jumped as a puppy in the snow – my eyes fixed on the other one, mad about birds, splendid in his stride. “He’s a real beauty”, I said. The man replied saying his name was Thor. I said “No, not this one, not the materialist, the other one, running over there, the idealist.” His name was Malakov, he couldn’t call him back. Good. I didn’t want him to.

Today nothing remained. The sun was high and almost burning my skin after a swim. The deep blue grey disappeared. There was only the lactescent foam, the shattering pale green of the waves, the trembling silver of the light. I felt my bones turn to clear emeralds. The ocean separating the world from everything that is not oceanic — vast, undefeated, transfiguring, proved this world imaginary. I closed my eyes and found the face of the person I love. Then I fell asleep.