Master, where are your bones tonight?

Object from the exhibition We call them Vikings produced by The Swedish History Museum

Master, where are your bones tonight?
I heard the coyotes keening as the moon rose;
and the heavy air brought the scent
of burgeoning prairie grasses.
Summer is coming on fast,
and faster every year.

Master, where are your bones tonight?
You went into the desert, again and again, and then
one night you never came home.
We knew why, we had brought you there—
brought your body and your ghost: your life
had already leaked out of you, into hospital tubes, and was gone.
We left you there in the desert,
to reconcile with the Earth.

I had a recurring dream after you died:
Coyote, as a lark, was playing a reel
on a flute made from your shinbone.
His eyes looked sad and he was dancing
a few feet above the earth.
His eyes looked sad. But—you know—
with Coyote, you never can tell.

In my dream, if it was mine,
summer was always coming on fast, and the prairie grasses
whipped in a playful dance
until I woke. And summer came.

I haven’t had that dream in years.
Just tonight, though, the rising moon caught me wondering—
Where are your bones tonight, Master?

 

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The Buddha taught the proper view

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The Buddha taught the proper view:
Not to project essences on things.

And yet: I radiate, knowing it’s wrong to do.
The Buddha taught the proper view.
A stone’s a stone: a bird’s a bird; and you are you.

I meditate on how this separation stings.

The Buddha taught the proper view,
Not to project essences on things.

 

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In the event, there was little for them to say

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In the event, there was little for them to say,
The flowers, so they stood still, swaying,
Not even murmuring amongst themselves.
Meanwhile my mother’s funeral rose up in me
Like a volcano.

They clung to the soil and the rock
For dear life, the flowers, while far below
Suspended like a miracle in infinite space
The sun, too, clung on for dear life—
So small, hot, and bright!

Each flower, surely, had its petaled meaning:
Bridal and Christmas Rose, Red and White Clover,
Meadow Saffron, varieties of Geranium and Thrift.
But on that day, as I recall, they said
Nothing to the point.

A poem could have stopped then and there
Like a cut flower, like a vase
For cut flowers, like a cut glass vase
Glittering—the human element—
In the hot, bright light.

But from the garden where we stood, I participated
In a greater miracle: the earth, all flowers
And volcanoes, was whipping the sun
Around and around in circles, around, around,
Like a child’s toy.

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The stampede of History

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The stampede of History
occurred on this site in 1872
on this prairie—flat, enduring,
tasting of noon sunshine
and its black, black shade—
where the dusk-blue flowers of History
previously blossomed.

We have been living backwards
toward that day ever since–
forgetting that first giant step,
the big blue marble the color of History,
and the light of a thousand atoms
that smelled as black as History
and roared in our sovereign bones.

On that day in 1872, which was a day
like any other, the cicada chant
of History will be heard in the land
where lately the lightning blossomed
and the concomitant thunder rolled
like enormous cannonballs
across a flattening plain of History.

On that day, you’ll put on a beaded shirt
and ride through the fusillade
of soldiers—Sitting Bull
will be with you, and Jack Wilson,
as you ride, and the blue flowers
will part before you, the land
will rise up before you, and everything
will go down in History.

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Used to be

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then as maybe now
every day came
with a purpose
you just had to wait
with an open pocket
it’d slip something in—

a book of poems
a tails-up coin
a bottlecap
printed inside
with a riddle
something;

one day followed
the one before
they were
all in a row
but each one
unexpected

like dominoes set
just so
far apart
if one fell
it was the only
casualty;

all together
small multiples of life
each ending
with a death
each beginning with
a birth.

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I have a dream, during which I find and lose the key to America

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I thought sure
I heard Walt Whitman singing up America
And all around him I saw America taking shape like columns rising up out of blowing fog
And like a barbarian who finds himself in the ruins of the Acropolis at dawn, having bolted from place to place all night lost in the blowing fog,
And seeing the ghostly columns rising up all about in the false dawn, but the real dawn always came thereafter,
And hearing all about the sourceless prayerful muttering felt his heart rush up in wild surmise
Only to find the Parthenon was a bank building in Youngstown, Ohio,
Only to find that the prayers issued from a series of speakers playing back a commissioned installation piece, recorded chants of a tribe whose language was lost
Only to find that only the fog was real and that he was not even a real barbarian,
Only a stranger,
I awoke then in California
Where my awareness spread out around me like water from a cracked pitcher.

No fog, no America of Walt Whitman,
No dream columns of a dream America,
The glory that was Youngstown, Ohio gone and then forgotten like a dream that is forgotten like fog when it is gone and forgotten,
Allen whom I never met dead, his America where I lived briefly gone,
Walt Whitman silent here, voiceless in California, the redwoods rising up like columns taking shape out of blowing fog,
The only America here my America
Still not finished rising up out of the sea.

 

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It was the gods all right

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And the golden gods went by running
When the day was ending and the sun.
You may not have noticed, they could have been anyone

Except the way the light
Penetrated the world just then;
Except the way the aspen’s goldcoin leaves
Quivered as if air were water;
Except the way the birds went on singing
Even after night rose up all around;
Except the way the bat cut new sigils into the dark
And the way the stars were bright.

They’re gone now but yes
It was the gods all right.

 

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You will never be able to

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“The dancers themselves are careful not to disturb the trance subjects while their souls are in the spirit world.”

James Mooney, The Ghost Dance Religion and Wounded Knee (Characteristics of the Dance)

You will never be able to strip away the spirits of the dead from the living.

As well try to use a net to carry smoke
As well try to remove the destination from the road
As well try to pull a single strand from a spider’s web

You will never be able to strip away the spirits of the dead from the living.

See where bright motes are dancing in the spring air
And you have parked your car on the sand near the ocean
The ocean rises and eats the land
The land rises up out of the ocean again

You will never be able to strip away the spirits of the dead from the living.

Somewhere a single flower has sprung up suddenly in a meadow already full of flowers
Somewhere a star is burning the universe
Somewhere the body of a red-winged blackbird is being disassembled by ants
Somewhere a girl plucks a single flower and discards it

You will never be able to strip away the spirits of the dead from the living.

You have tried to make your song without any singing
You have tried to make your dance without any dancers
But now Spider Woman is making her web again

You will never be able to strip away the spirits of the dead from the living.
You will never be able to strip away the spirits of the dead from the living.
You will never be able to strip away the spirits of the dead from the living.

 

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Future, in general: passim

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Future, in general: passim
Future, auguries of: see Past, future of; Past, memories of; Dreams, in general; Nightmares, in general
Future, fear of: passim
Future, grammatical tense: see Language, limitations of
Future, history of: see Past, in general; Past, future of; Present, in general; Present, history of
Future, inevitability of: see Future, inevitability of
Future, longing for: see Past, limitations of; Present, limitations of; Future, memories of
Future, memories of: see Memory, memories of the future

see also: Dreams, memory and; Dreams, nightmares and
see also: Memory; Memory, dreams and; Memory, transitive property of
see also: Nightmares, in general
see also: Past, predictions about; Past, resemblances to the future

Future, mutability of: passim
Future, resemblance to the past: see Future, inevitability of

see also: Language, limitations of
see also: Past, resemblance to the future
see also: Present, limitations of

Future, visitors from the: see Memory
Future, what I make of: see Future, fear of; Future, longing for; Future, resemblance to the past
Future, what it’s for: see Future, longing for; Language, limitations of

 

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The birds gave autumn up

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The birds gave autumn up for dead
But made a song before they fled
Here are the words they sang and said:

Oh, no, it’s the end of the world!
Oh, no, it’s the end of the world!
Oh, no, it’s the end of the world!
Let’s scatter the nests and fly away!

The frogs have sunk and turned to stone
The seeds are sleeping, each alone,
The rest of the world may do as it pleases
When we are gone, gone, gone, gone.

But Spring hatched from December’s nut;
The grass turned green and the ram sprang up;
The birds returned from where they’d flown
Acting as if they’d always known;
The frogs from their stony sleep uncurled
And the birds made song for the beginning of the world.

 

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