What in other places they called chinooks
had come and gone so many times that I
had grown wary of believing spring would come.
But then, one evening, a shaven-headed man
in modest, humble roughcloth robes came down,
into my rooms, wordless, fingers joined
together around a secret, a lotus formed
from his palms to bear it, and he smiled at me,
the gleam of the secret illuminating his smooth crown.
He unclasped his hands, and showed me what he’d borne
down from the mountainside, what he’d found
blooming, a harbinger in the corner of his cave.
Let them come, I thought to myself, and held up
the fife to my mouth, blowing melodies on.
They’ve come like this before, I’ve seen such blooms
that have been carried in the hands of such men,
offered as proofs and demonstrations of things
that I do not believe exist upon this earth.
My song was sweet and thick and slow; no words
can bend such as it did; no words could capture
the twists of its winding route from breath to bones,
but by the end it had taken a body in full
and stretched its legs, and sat upon my floor
glaring at me balefully.
Alone with this melody I sat, eyes closed, listening
to the breathing of stars, the clustering plaque within
my mind, an organ that slowly was sloping towards
the world’s deepest core, towards its own slow nuclei.
I was becoming mired in quicksand already at my throat
and my eyes were shut, and I did not open them.
Time passes, even when no one mentions it. Especially then.
A perfume. The flicker of a bloom into my nostril
clasped my throat shut. It was a reminder. And
I heard the voice, the first one… and then another.
The sounds of bare, plain feet that have padded stones
and road and dusk and continued like the tones
that spilled from my flute what felt like a century
before, the reedflute now set across my lap.
My eyes closed, I raise my hand among them, dozens,
feel their brows stretching upward into smoothness,
the warm skin of their heads that feel each breeze
even when I cannot. I feel the petals of their hands,
and I know something of what they have come to say,
even without them opening their hands to reveal it.
It is not enough to say that I heard laughter,
without saying how it felt to hear it and be unafraid.
May 11, 2004