CHAMBER 22

CHAMBER 22

In the Kindness of Sleep

I visited you last night when you
were sleeping with a child’s abandon.
Curled so casual in sheets
inlaid by your beauty.
I held my hand to your face
and touched as gently
as I know how
so you could linger with your dreams.
I heard soft murmurs that only angels make
when they listen to their home.
So I drew my hand away
uneasy that I might wake you
even as gentle as I was.

But you stayed with your dreams
and I watched as they found their way to you
in the kindness of sleep.
And I dreamed that I was an echo of your body
curled beside you like a fortune hunter
who finally found his gold.
I nearly wept at the sound of your breath,
but I stayed quiet as a winter lake, and bit my lip
to ensure I wouldn’t be detected.

I didn’t want to intrude
so I set my dream aside
and I gently pulled your hand from underneath
the covers to hold.
A hand whose entry into flesh
must have been the lure that brought me here.
And as I hold it
I remember why I came
to feel your pulse
and the beating of your heart in deep slumber.
And I remember why I came in the
kindness of sleep —
to hold your hand, touch your face
and listen to the soft breathing
of an angel,
curled so casual in sheets
inlaid by your beauty.

Warm Presence

I once wore an amulet
that guarded against the forceps of humanity.
It kept at bay the phalanx of wolves
that circled me like phantoms of Gethsemane.
Phantoms that even now
replay their mantra like conch shells.
Coaxing me to step out and join the earthly tribe.
To bare my sorrow’s spaciousness
like a cottonwood’s seed to the wind.

Now I listen and watch for signals.
To emerge a recluse squinting in ambivalence
inscribed to tell what has been held by locks.
It is all devised in the sheath of cable
that connects us to Culture.
The single, black strand that portrays us to God.
The DNA that commands our image
and guides our natural selection of jeans.

Are there whispers of songs flickering
in dark, ominous thunder?
Is there truly a sun behind this wall of monotone clouds
that beats a billion hammers of light?
There are small, flat teeth that weep venom.
There is an inviolate clemency
in the eyes of executioners while their hands toil to kill.
But there is no explanation for
voyeur saints who grieve only with their eyes.
There is only one path to follow
when you connect your hand and eye
and release the phantoms.

This poem is a shadow of my heart
and my heart the shadow of my mind,
which is the shadow of my soul
the shadow of God.
God, a shadow of some unknown, unimaginable
cluster of intelligence where galaxies
are cellular in the universal body.
Are the shadows connected?
Can this vast, unknown cluster reach into this poem
and assemble words that couple at a holy junction?
It is the reason I write.
Though I cannot say this junction has ever
been found (at least by me).

It is more apparent that some unholy hand,
pale from darkness, reaches out and casts its sorrow.
Some lesser shadow or phantom
positions my hand in a lonely outpost
to claim some misplaced luminance.
The phantom strains to listen for songs as they whisper.
It coordinates with searching eyes.
It peels skin away to touch the soft fruit.
It welds shadows as one.

I dreamed that I found a ransom note
written in God’s own hand.
Written so small I could barely
read its message, which said:
“I have your soul, and unless you deliver —
in small, unmarked poems —
the sum of your sorrows, you will never
see it alive again.”

And so I write while something unknown is curling
around me, irresistible to my hand, yet unseen.
More phantoms from Gethsemane who honor
sorrow like professional confessors lost in their despair.
I can reach sunflowers the size of
moonbeams, but I cannot reach the sum of my sorrows.
They elude me like ignescent stars that fall nightly
outside my window.

My soul must be nervous.
The ransom is too much to pay
even for a poet who explores the black strand of Culture.

Years ago I found an
Impression — like snow angels — left in tall grass
by some animal, perhaps a deer or bear.
When I touched it I felt the warm presence of life,
not the cold radiation of crop circles.
This warm energy lingers only for a moment
but when it is touched it lasts forever.
And this is my fear:
that the sum of my sorrows will last forever
when it is touched, and even though my soul
is returned unharmed,
I will remember the cold radiation
and not the warm presence of life.

Now I weep when children sing
and burrow their warm presence into my heart.
Now I feel God adjourned by the
source of shadows.
Now I feel the pull of a bridle,
breaking me like a wild horse turned
suddenly submissive.

I cannot fight the phantoms
or control them or turn them away.
They prod at me as if a lava stream should
continue on into the cold night air
and never tire of movement.
Never cease its search for the perfect place to be a sculpture.
An anonymous feature of the gray landscape.

If ever I find the sum of my sorrows
I hope it is at the bridgetower
where I can see both ways
before I cross over.
Where I can see forgeries like a crisp mirage
and throw off my bridle.
I will need to be wild when I face it.
I will need to look into its
unnameable light and unravel
all the shadows interlocked like paper dolls
and cut from a multiverse of experience.
To let them surround me
and in one resounding chorus
confer their epiphany so I
can hand over the ransom and reclaim my soul.

When all my sorrows are gathered round
in an unbroken ring I will stare them down.
Behind them waits a second ring,
larger still and far more powerful.
It is the ring of life’s warm presence
when sorrows have passed
underneath the shadows’ source
and transform like the dull chrysalis
that bears iridescent angels.

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