Zen & the Arts - Field Notes

after fire birds know what to do, weaving
sonorous webs between pine branches
& at each dewy center a yellow-throated finch:

by a scorched field an old man mows
in safari hat & khaki shorts: in blackened soil
new grass grows, green as bitter apples:

our tired metaphors still carry us, loyal
animals our throats give homes: they are
all we have to bind like to like on this earth:

aside from these we have only phenomena,
the dark whirl of starlings in the vineyards,
facts which do not flock

& have no meaning we can discern, which
is their meaning: we bake dry bread
from their fragments to explain our lives:

the rosy-fingered dawn, your grey eyes (or were
they green like new grass, & was i bitter
as an unripe apple

as i broke inside your mouth?)
look at the marks: see, i’ve been chewed
by a god or devil i cannot name, i only know

he has my shape, he has my voice,
& through him i was carried here
among burnt fields & the ruins of

someone else’s home: harley scoured
to metal, the pool as wretched sea debris,
shapes returned to oil & tar: the honey bucket

outhouse is unharmed: twelve wooly pigs root
for food or sleep inside a fence: one rolls in ashes:
two donkeys bray & a white horse stamps

by a green barn: partridges scurry
in overgrown grapevines:
the water tank: wet wood still red:

california poppies bloom beside a sooty bone,
plaything for a dog: the children’s playground,
still in construction: untouched:

& from it a poppy-gold tube slide
yawns below a blue plastic telescope: if i saw
through its eye would i see this fire

innocent of cruelty, violent as a birth
& the children of this house under the eaves
as your pillar of flame was whirling, whirling

in those hurricane winds,
a chosen people following,
obedient at last, no manna to come,

nothing to carry as we flee in the night,
nothing to carry in a skyful of stars?
would i see the child i was, innocent

of cruelty still, staring out at pinesmoke
in the hills below lake arrowhead, hear footsteps
on fresh doorway snow, wee webs of red

& yellow thread i wove around the furniture,
little unworded metaphors, little fire maps?
i climb & look & see nothing, not even a lens:

knitting needle sparks stitched
a funeral shroud in the darkening grasses:
but not mine, not ours, not yet:

from my smoker’s throat a whistle
apes the birds with each breath, chirp, chirp,
& as i walk downhill i feel or seem to feel your waist,

your coil of black hair, the warmth of your breasts,
our differences, our waste of breath,
your foreign tongue, dew

at the center of our weavings:
in every home we call our selves
we are instruments that play few notes:

in this way we know that we are carried:
& look, o lord, another offering:
a golden finch with no conclusions,

gnawed bone by a playground,
shimmer of sun in the pines,
twice-burnt cigarettes in a copper ashtray

& strewn in lemon poppies
three silver, pristine cans
of diet coke.

– october, 2017


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