Another Of Me Is Better At Titles

Another of me is
staring down a rainbow
and winning, if it can be called that.
Is populating the stars.
Is building a rocket,
another rocket.

Another of me is
not. But this is as it should be.
Stillborn. In the wings the ghost
waits for a body,
another body.

Another of me is
running beside, behind, wherever,
binding strings to ever-failing
hooks. Loss of feeling
but a step, a step,
another step.

Another of me is
scraping the sky’s square feet,
hand in setting concrete,
hand over the reins,
a taller, taller, taller, ever taller almost
another meter.

Another of me
holds the gun.
Centre target,
not to be outdone.
She tries, tries, tries,
the metal’s hot:
a new clip,
another shot.

Another of me
can’t hold it together. Ball of wax, blazing sun, line breaks
and it’s done. Words don’t make sense, senses don’t make words.
Poor translation. From the tongue to the tongue or the keyboard.
Either way, there is no way. There must be a way. Not this way.
Another way.

Another of me
wrote is all down and forgot it.
Better to say what passes for nothing.
How are you – how about this weather! – how’re the dogs –
could have done without that snow – Leafs are out of the playoffs –
did you get that thing you were looking for – are you slowly dying –
but afraid to tell anyone that you’re slowly dying –
are you a prison unto yourself full of words that must one day tumble out –
will they tumble out of you into a stranger –
will they break free one day –
my goodness that traffic –
should have taken the 403 –
doing well – another dollar
another day.

Another is me
looks back at you. He asks,
“What have you read? What does it mean?”
And you say,
“It means what it means to me.”
He is frightfully angry because you
are wrong. Wrong!
But there’s nothing he
can do about it but write
another one.

Perhaps To Die

Hetan sits astride his horse. Herds of durkhan span the horizon, many small knots of the animals, knots that will form into a massive migration as cooler seasons arrive.

He is the tallest of his tribe, his horse the tallest of its tribe. Three heads or so above all the others, he is the eyes of the hunt. When they approach the durkhan, he spots the vulnerable, the young, the outliers. His word is law to the others. To disobey is death, if not by a foaming durkhan, then later, by the tribe.

They are riding upwind, a leisurely approach to the herds, designed to spook as few animals as possible. Each has a bone knife and a hunting spear. The older among the hunt wear hard leather overcoats, made to deflect a durkhan tusk or a wayward spear.

Hetan alone wears a metal sword. A gift. It will not be useful in the hunt, at least not often, but he never rides without it. He has named it Caution, for many reasons, but mainly because a great weapon deserves a sublime name.

They move slowly, deliberately through the tall plain grasses, the horses picking their way around scrub brush. This is the calm that comes before.

There is something odd about this calm, though, something unnatural. The herds should be sensing something, should be massing together to protect the young. Instead the herds are simply grazing, heads down, tails flicking back and forth.

Then Hetan sees it. A man, perhaps. Walking in the midst of the durkhan. Simply walking.

Hetan holds up a hand and the hunt stops. “I see,” he says, his voice low, “something.”
“Something?” one of his hunters repeats.
“A man by appearance,” Hetan says. “Walking through the herds.”
“Then no man by nature,” says Yemid, one of the oldest among them. “The herds would panic.”
Hetan nods. “Yet…” his voice trails off. “I know this man, whatever he is.”
“How?”
“I do not know. But I will ride to meet him.”
“You are our eyes,” Yemid says. He will not tell Hetan what to do, but he will remind him of his place.
“Nevertheless,” Hetan says.

He breaks from the hunt and rides, alone, toward the figure, towards the herds. He is as naked as a hunter can be, stripped of his companions, vulnerable on the plain. Hetan can see the man now, dark-skinned, tall, and dressed in chain mail. Of all the useless things to be wearing on the plains. Chain mail. Hetan snorts involuntarily. Foolish. But the herds do not hear him. The man, however does.

“I was clothed in these when I died,” he says. And though he is still far away, his words are clear, as if he is riding right beside Hetan. “It amuses me to wear them, sometimes.”
“You have the Tongue,” Hetan says.
“Yes, and the Ears, as it turns out,” says the man. “And you have the Eyes.”
“It was a gift.”
“Yes,” the man says, standing still, facing the rider, still some distance away. “I gave it to you.”
“Then you are…”
“Again. Yes. Demeg Amalen, as your fathers might say. Tip of the Spear. Or Chaelder, in the language of the Frelish. The Helm. And quite a few more, some even I dare not speak.”

Hetan is approaching the man, and realises what he already knew. This is not a man. Not of any kind he has ever met. This is a god. For his tribe, for his nation, this is the god. Amelen, the Spear. God of war.

He dismounts, drops the reins. Kneels at the feet of his god. Who kicks him in the head.

“That’s not really needed,” Amalen says. “Stand up. I have a message.”

Hetan rubs his head. No blood. Good. But still, undignified.

“I’m not much for all the pleasantries of godhood,” Amalen says. “I’ve come to tell you something.”
“To tell me something?” Hetan knows this will be considered a great honor, but with a sore head and a distinct sense of his lack of dignity, he is more annoyed than anything.
“Yes. These herds. Get away from them as quickly as possible.”
Hetan shakes his head. “The tribe must eat.”
Amalen rolls his eyes. “Stubborn. Great. Eat something else. Something small, something that won’t be noticed, something very, very far away from here.”
“And why must we starve?” Hetan asks, indignant now. “What great sin have we done that we are cast out of our lands?”
“Listen to me, barbarian. You have spilled much blood in my name, supposedly for me, and I’m here to answer the prayers you have yet to pray. The prayers that you assuredly will pray if you stay in this place. That herd you are going to prey on? It is no herd. It has never been. Every year this herd disappears, did you ever notice that? Did you follow its tracks to see them diminish until they were nothing but a pair of human footprint?”
“In the winter months we eat from the salted stores or set traps,” Hetan says. “There is no need to follow the herd. It would be a senseless slaughter.”
“And he knows that. Oh yes, he’s willing to sacrifice a bit of himself, those young or deformed, anything you can catch. He know you won’t kill all of him, he know you are almost alone among the people of the world who won’t kill all of him, and so he comes here. Do you know why? He comes here to hide. From us. He hides from the gods!”
Hetan is confused. “He? Who is he?”
“One of the first heroes, Hetan. One of the Great Ones. A power so immense he might even seek to dethrone the gods. He is a man, but he is also the durkhan. Many lifetimes ago he found a way in, he found a way to meld himself to the herds, to become so many animals at will. The ritual… ah, that ritual scoured this plain clean. Did you know this delightful meadow was a range of mountains? He moved the mountains. Do you understand now?”
“We have been devouring the flesh of a man?” Hetan steps back, horrified.
“The flesh of man, the flesh of a beast, is it so different? No matter. We have found him now. We have found him and we are going to chain him to the heart of the mountain that still beats under this plain. And when we do that, we may indeed find a range of mountain here again.”
“I begin to understand, then,” Hetan says. “You seek to warn us.”
“You will probably die,” the god replies. “You will probably all die in this chaining. But it must be done. He must be… put down.”
“Because he challenges you?” Hetan says, beginning to think the gods are as selfish as their legends tell. “You fear the durkhan?”
“Because he challenges everything. He has been melded, his soul has been joined to the soul of an animal for many thousands of years. How sane do you think he might be? Every year his flesh bursts forth into a thousand, a hundred thousand durkhan. Incredible, mindless pain. Did he know how much agony he would see, century after century? If so, can you imagine how desperate a creature he must have been? To forge such a profane ritual. Insanity. Or if not, can you imagine how desperate he is to escape? His power grows with each year. The herds grow. Even I can feel it now, and I am not among the most… receptive of the gods. And where do you think he’ll go to escape his torment? Not to the halls of the dead, no, anywhere but there. He’ll go up. And you know what’s directly above him? Me.”
Ah, Hetan thinks. “This is about position. You chain him to the earth so that you may rest on your ass in whatever realm you call home while my people leave their lands, perhaps to die?”
“You have no idea!” Amelen roars. “No idea what will happen if a beast ascends the throne of war! Everything will be lost. Everything. He… it will lay waste to the dreams of every man. He will not lose his torment, no, not at all.” The god lifts up his chain mail, revealing a gash across his torso. It oozes blood and fluids. It looks… raw. “I have lived with the pain of this wound for every single one of what passes for days in my realm. Every single one. It’s a wonder I’m sane. Perhaps,” he says, “I’m not.”
There is a moment of silence. Hetan does not know what to say to this.
“There is no time left for choices, barbarian. No more time to take stock and make decisions. The gods are as one. We will chain them all. Every single Great One. All the champions. All the heroes. All the swords. We will chain them as far down as we can push their miserable, undying corpses, and we’ll throw away the key.”
“And then you’ll turn away,” Hetan says. It has been revealed. He knows the ending to this story. The great warleader conquers every foe and goes home to die. But gods do not die. Or perhaps they do, but first they turn away.
Amalen’s eyes widen. “You have discovered the plot, then,” he says. “Yes. We will turn away. You will be better without us. No blessings, but no curses. You will, I think, become your own gods of war. Congratulations. None of you prayed for this. But you are given it anyways. It is done. Now, leave. I will protect you on your way back to your tribe.”

With that, Demeg Amalen, the Tip of the Spear, is gone. Not so much as a rustle in his wake.

The herds still haven’t sniffed Hetan out. They can’t hear his footsteps, he realises. They don’t know what is about to happen. To them.

He looks at one grazing, picking at choice bits of green. Its tusks can tear a man open, leave him empty and dying on the plain. He looks into the durkhan’s eyes, but can’t see anything. The dull eyes of a beast.

Before long, he is riding away. Back to the tribe, to convince them to leave the plains that had once been mountains. To convince them that they would be mountains again. To convince them, and perhaps to die.

Quanta

To you
I dedicate the language
of quantum mechanics:
the placelessness of electrons,
how they are either/or but not between.

Yours
are effects that precede causes,
spooky action at a distance,
a furious bubbling into and
out of existence.

To you
I dedicate Newton’s still-moving heart,
the antique, inadequate design.
With love, to all the yous
I’ve discovered.

To Bear Witness

They chained them all to the earth, in barrows, under mountains, in underwater caves. Wherever they could. Anywhere that would hold them. The gods cleansed the world of heroes. They wiped it clean of champions. They made a fresh start.

But the great ones did not go easily. As chains began encircling they fell heavily. If the gods would so abuse their children, well, the children would abuse the grandchildren. So the earth witnessed. Molten stone rained from the sky. New craters became new valleys. In turn new valleys became new oceans. Continents cracked apart and continents merged. Mountain ranges rose and fell.

When the chaining was at its end, when the ritual was over, the gods looked out at a world in birth pangs. A world of fresh fire and fresh ice, where perhaps all that once stood was levelled. Perhaps.

Then the gods turned, as one. They turned and left the world, and took with them all their gifts and curses. The awesome and vile power wielded by the talented ebbed away. Whatever priests remained alive felt a chill steep into their souls. The gifts, the curses, all gone.

The few that could feel, felt, and knew the terror of rebirth. The blindness of change, of newness.

They would get over it. Eventually.

The gods retreated to do what gods do. Some slept. Others pushed the borders of their realms further into the Unmade, became explorers. Others simply fell to dust.

Only one god did what none of the other would. He returned to the mortal world. Oh, it was cheating. They had agreed not to return. Not to step onto the mortal plane again.

But he knew what he was doing. Krastas, god of the harvest, knew what he was doing. He scattered himself on the current of the winds. He made of himself a million seeds.

Where he touched down, a tree sprung forth. Roots sunk down, deep down, seeking. One more link to bind the chains. Should they ever find away. Should they ever seek to escape.

A million strange trees, each bearing nine faces. Nine faces, eight turned to the side, one facing forward. To stare for ever at the world. To bear witness.

The Stained Glass

The strings move;
the anvil shivers.
The story as it is told
is not the interpretation,
not the corners,
not the angles,
not the balancing act
between Plato and Jesus,
not the plate of stained
glass that interrupts.

The Two Become One

A thousand years pass
and nothing happens

but

fruit weighs down branches
and falls to the ground

a tree grows that is a great tree
but is also a great forest
an outcropping rises that is
a great mountain
but is also a great range
of mountains

and

this is not what we
thought would
happen.

An Autobiography In Six Movements

Prologue

Before the I that is I was the I that was,
in prototypical amneosis, on transfer paper,
words chiselled to bend straight the I
or bend crooked the I
or it’s more complicated than that;
phrases that begged only to scream
and it will appear, lemon in their infancy,
a first suckling sentence;
in the I that was not was that I that is,
also, ahead of all and behind it,
frost settling itself paragraphs,
fog clearing but traces itself chapters,
whose well-worn pages are the I that was
and the I that is and the I that will be
doomed to repeat it.

Movement 1

These are fingers and these are toes
and these are the planes on which they go,
a mobile object lesson: get as far as you can;
these are numbers and these are letters
and together they can you can if you want to;
eventually pick one or the other
or the other if you pick the other
or the powers of two if you pick the one;
every other finger
every other toe
goes home.

Movement 2

For seven uneven years I saw the chip where it had bounced
and skidded into the corner; every time my toe slid into the groove
I’d recall the few inches I dared not cover,
sometimes cursing sometimes blessing sometimes
absent-mindedly doing the bare-metal calculations;
there still my concrete Jesus is the absence
of something, though those who walk on him now
do not stuff their prayers into the gap;
someone else owns it now: perhaps they
feel that fulcrum, now, where I was made whole.

Movement 3

Round the pole, round and round the pole
I swung under trellis and grape vines
until wine sprayed from between my toes;
a broken bottle in the grass:
oh who has done this wonderful thing!
the white coated soldier coolly took
a spear to my flesh;
I was dead to the world for three hours
till I woke again, and in the black art of it
I still don’t recognize myself.

Interlude

The tangent is determined by measurement;
the instrument, however, is imprecise.
If the system is large enough, we can predict outcomes.
We are too small to notice, then,
and call it freedom.

Movement 4

First of many wounds or wound of many firsts
I am still not sure; shoeless in the orchard
you turned into a pillar: looking back
I call you Carthage or high blood pressure.
The law broke as I touched you,
inscrutable tablets crumbling on my lips:
Thou shalt not, but I did and the glory departed,
a crane tumbling headless to the ground.

Movement 5

Bless the Lord O my body & soul
and forget not all his benefits:
there will be no fillings in the new Jerusalem,
and no Powerpoint presentations;
there will be no budget requirements,
and no boards of review;
there will be no timeclocks
and no shiftwork;
there we be no acronyms
and no acrimony;
but O dear heaven
let there be dogs!

Movement 6

There and back again and there and back again
and there and back again again;
feet of clay mixed with iron and you have
worn them clean to the knuckle;
how many ridiculous hoops on fire before
I’d burn the whole thing down just to show you
who’s boss is whose boss?
Shifts in perspective and I felt each acutely
in the peppermint vomit over the side
of my porcelain Picasso,
in the frenzied stuttered hammering to keep
the charred timbers and holy sheet afloat;
the idol falls, the axe is laid at the root,
and I am stumping for a new vessel.

Epilogue

Before the we we are we were the we we were,
in starlit amneosis, encased in carbon;
now, when you are to me like oxygen to fire
to a city made of matchsticks
to a world of crumpled newspaper,
I can only admit to the movement that
brought me to this place;
soon enough, my love, soon enough,
but not soon enough.

Good Night

Whose silence is this
that sweeps past like a rolling cloud
of dust?

Whiskey quiet. Cigar quiet.
The house murmurs as it settles in
for the night. Planets and stars
listen and nod. Lungs that whisper,
mind that hums, heart that
mocks, take heart.

All the good people have died.
Your memories of them soon to die as well:
Tablets of untranslatable laws
fall from their pedestals,
paving the way
forward.

You know whose silence this is, then,
and how it will break slowly,
like a breath you can only hold
for so long.

To Say It

You don’t need to say anything more
complicated than
“You don’t need to say anything more
complicated”.

Leave behind any words you want to learn.
Become a child. Unlearn the syllables.
Let them fall around you like leaves.
Bare branches. Beautiful.

Throw them away. Refuse
to use them. Become blind
and deaf and dumb and
whatever it takes

to say it.