Walk the Plank
This is your dream. You are on a ship at sea and find yourself condemned to death. The ship’s captain commands you to walk the plank.
This is your artist’s dream. The plank is safe; the sea, certain death. You jump, knowing that all great art occurs in the space between the plank and the sea.
I hear the ghost in Webern’s chest
I hear, “pin pin within –
heed the skin.”
So I do.
“It’s in his skin –
his skin scales of soiled green shoots
where the signs arise.”
Within his skin
I hear the ticking Ghost, “Spring damp dew,
watch the flies come to you.”
So I do.
Here lies Webern gone away
Shot in the chest
is all they say.
Drink my tears, she says.
Drench the soil.
Seep into tunnels
Where roots hang
Fill your veins to overflowing, she says,
Until my nectar drips –
My nectar that blinks bright
Like night’s fireflies,
Calling the sleeping hordes to rise,
Wave after wave,
And break the silence with sandaled feet.
Hotay Olnill, The Farmer
In the 17th century the blind African farmer Hotay Olnill found the prophet Isaiah’s garden of cucumbers. At first she told no one. She cultivated the garden, ate the sweet juicy gherkins and worms and drank spider milk.
Under the spell of this questionable diet, she was led to the prophet’s bones by the shy dik-diks who came to the garden at night to break open with their hooves the monkey oranges that had fallen amongst the ripening cucumbers.
In Hotay’s blindness, she felt their breath on her fingers, and the warmth of the dik-diks’ fur, and the coldness of their shadows.
One day she could no longer resist sharing her momentous discovery with the other farmers of her village who skeptically, went to the site.
They found nothing. No cucumbers, no bones, no dik-diks. Not even the husk of a monkey orange. Only worms and spiders and arid ground.
Despite her conviction in her discovery, Hotay Olnill was clapped in chains by the angry farmers, sold as a slave and put on a ship bound for the new world.
The ship’s captain resolved to punish her as befits a liar, and Hotay Olnill was made to walk the plank. At the edge of the plank, she jumped without hesitation, and felt her bare feet enter the soil of Isaiah’s garden and her hands brush the leaves of the cucumber plants where she would live forever
She says, drink where I drink, where
The ghosts of deer go.
Drink their shy silhouettes in watery vertigo and
Ride their wet fur and
Kiss their salty eyes
Under the nefarious light.
A firefly steals the one spider web
Whose elastic orb re-threads Linnaeus’s quilt and
Whose piano strings bind wing to wing.
This is your map, she says, my maze,
That takes us back to our nest of sleep,
To the dizzy embers of fire and fireflies
And shaded silhouettes.
Take this spider map, this sinuous map.
Take this so you can find me,
Find me always
Where the ghosts of deer go.
Piss pot, hog hole, rattle
Table Piece (Bonampak)
Maybe it is bleached white from the desert:
A discarded hurdy-gurdy
Turned to stone in the Kapadokian sun.
Maybe it is Parian marble chiseled by Myron.
Translucent like skin
White as flake salt
Maybe it is my first piano, my toy piano.
Prized above all my pianos
Where once I banged away in frenzied dissonance
For this was the beginning of it all, the It.
Now in my late years I paint my toy white;
But it is not a toy but the yearly ritual
Of my decay.
It is said that M
Of the squashed nose
Large arms and larger reputation
Went to sea with his only child, his daughter:
Dead of a broken neck, little cross-eyed thing.
He crossed her arms, left over right,
Her legs straight with toes pointed upward.
In a vessel of floating wood
M drifted into the sea from the mouth of Ostia,
And asked the salt water to take his tears to Paros.
They drifted past Naples, past Brindisi,
Taken by the current into the roiling Aegean
Trusting in the charismatic pull of Paros.
Like an impossible myth
M arrived parched and exhausted even of dreams.
Dragged ashore by startled fishermen
M awoke to thwack thwack:
The fishermen pounding live octopi into pulp.
This island is all about pounding,
From sea creatures to hammers and chisels on translucent marble.
M came through the treacherous Cycladic sea to Paros
To bury his daughter with her exact likeness in stone:
A Parian stone doll with painted crossed eyes
Crossed arms, arched back and toes pointed upwards
With a broken neck.
This tale is true
For I saw with my own eyes
The tell-tale signature of M
Carved inside the marble quarry of Paros.
After her entombment,
After his bereavement,
M remained in the quarry living on sea creatures and wine.
He chiseled day in, day out into his final years,
Making not the figures for which he was famous
But four perfect spheres
In homage to Giotto.
For the tale goes thus:
Giotto drew a perfect circle for the Pope as proof of his abilities.
M remembered the joy he had lost
By carving four stone planets of marble
After which he died content
On the island of Paros.
The fishermen laid him beside his daughter
Beside her, forever,
M with his four spheres
In his wooden boat from Ostia
That became their sarcophagus.
Centurion (The Observer)
His point of view:
His lineage is Quixada or Quesada,
His plumage blue and grey.
With armored beak thus the great heron
The grand fisherman
In the tall reeds where bass feel safe
The heron stalks.
My point of view:
This comedic error on stilts of sticks and string,
Lug nuts, recycled bags, rotting newspapers:
Their point of view:
Oblivious to danger they glide
Among the soothing reeds
To nibble insects and make bubbles
While above, the creature stops.
His neck arches, arches back, his arrow beak points.
Wait, wait, tense, wait. Pupils dilate.
The hunter, now perfect, now Mithras,
Shudders and chokes it down.
With gills gasping for water, its eyes shocked
That its purpose is not to swim forever
But to be sucked into this horrific cave of muscle.
God’s point of view:
This heron is my prime number, my Quexana.