Ten Poems 1 (1998-1999)


It is six o'clock, and winter.
It is in the houses here, and there
Where low light keeps to curtains.
It is and isn't

Innocent, made dark by implication:
In shallow breathing, artifice,
In the distance between this eye
And the eye of the other.
The eye of a father dead,
Alive in this old son;
Turned back on his own tail,
Turned back like winter always turns

To spring returning. Azimuth.
That father's six o'clock was here:
Was cold and fire, was antimony.
A twig stripped clean in hand
To stir the pot, to reach again
To scratch the painted wall
With brittle signs, and flagging power.
Redeemed or not

Redeemed by trust and smiles,
The small quick boy, the pantheon
Raised close against the house, the wood;
Those gods were tiny gods, were only
Avatars of breaking bones and fading

Immanence, a father's son,
In winter light, a turning color. All unwon
And ended here, where road and house too gray
To part again again fall slow asleep;
My father's sleep, my sleep. My walking
Waits; And moving faster, waits.

. . .

Flight in Summer

Ply of green meets ply of blue.
I am the dissipated wave,
then the fallen tree;
in my roots both cloth and mirrors.
No distinction between the wind
and my breathing;
heat makes my slowness, unmakes
what focus could be. And Ise.
It is a siren,
the malady in this place;
in the overarching curve,
in the milkwhite sky.

. . .


horizontal line

the next breath

breaks this sleep

this safest place

where can I go now?

. . .

A Simple Telescope

this started to become a too-heavy
book, with huge leather bindings
and more gold than anything else.
All gone now. Here instead,
straight-line letters, block prints
for block thoughts, a few sprays
of a kind of color.

that, and more, are all there; all
more than "present", this breath
is just as full, fuller perhaps in
other ways. See how that mountain
rises up out of almost nothing? Or
that the V's of birds become
a name, somehow?

Exactly; everyone
who ever lived is here, now. It's
a question of finding the back
of an eyelid, though awake
and running so quickly; like
dozing in a restaurant. Oh,
dead and gone, dead and
gone, they say.

You said?
anything you want, and still there
is tapping at the big window,
"come and play" or "let me in";
you can't stay here, never
could. Real fire never finishes
its work, so our work never

And that was the end of
the book I never finished.

. . .

Weekend, raining

You asked for sun
and only gray answered.
But the walk was good
and the crows were happy.

On the bottom shelf
we found Haniwa.
Then a few words in spanish
talking about rubber.

I was going to ask...
then there was no need.

And the sight of water
over so many buildings
drew a circle around them,
these two feet beside me.

. . .


Periphery. From each corner
a palindrome made of my names.

Anaxamander was my first guide,
and showed sun over water,
and a new rose each day;
and a question. So that:

Green rose first, only tissue on
tissue, blood on stone, for all
men in sleep; to steal breath
away from that dream, giving
dark earth instead, to say "here I am."

"Here I can only stay until seed has
become bread on my table; then I will
go back to my river." Back... only there
is the slope of the hill, only down;
and the pull more strong than all
wishing. Another moon rises, though
same moon, same circle; we must ask
or must answer, as each falls from grace;
falls from first things to last, falls
reaching to draw the periphery.

And each will fall, and fall always
for some rose.

. . .

Late morning

Pale peach-green beyond,
with the line of trees that winds away
to the right, away from the water;
brighter light falling opposite,
and the wind coming straight behind.

Here I am. In the picture a younger boy
with eyes just open and greening, too.

With one hand lifted for shade, the other
saying: "stretch me out, as far as the edge
of the field. I want to be carried;
but running!"

Running, though now I can't always remember:
How the skin could be so pale-peach then,
against that green; how unmet years
would seem to build my house with brick and sand;
would come to move these other hands
in circles, made of sun in windows; made
of older suns.

In that place that was my own, the trees
will always come running to water, just so;
And so will green like new fruit,
green like eagerness wait for the carried hand,
released, to go with the wind; with the hour;
with its knowing still unknown.

The wind stays behind, while the hand flies away.
It is the debt I owe memory.

. . .

The history of beginning

One arm reached
To the west, where blue
And green kept sadness in
An old skin.

One arm reached
To the east, where metal
Gave fluid to fiber,
Made signs for o,

The last days.

First play.

Walls rose to give
Shelter in capitulations,
Summed carapace, restless;

A forge for tissue, and
Every name that calls
Itself both good and bad.

White winter.

Will me.

. . .

Wi, kuwi

Spider dreams a frog;
Frog tells all his wonders.
All his ways to end this world.
So with dreams and so with me.

Spin night, singing spin night;
singing words kept in the
leaf-filled book. Kept for
younger men to gather.


Ayu kuning. Ela élo.
Mangayu bagya.
Eja ngono!
Hayoya, yukiyu, hayoya, yukiya.
Kuwi kuwi...
Orang-aring kodok ijo mlebu njaring.


So sing. To the spider.
To the frog, making plans soon
for ending all his stories;
all his dreams. All his me's.

("Sweet and yellow. Come over here.
Yes, I do agree.
Not like that!
Yes, she is sweet; oh yes, she is so sweet.
Just so, just so...
Orang-aring tree, the green frog enters the net.")

. . .


Gravity will win, always. Yet, holding tighter still
as canyon becomes abyss, becomes nothing,
forgets even to become; this is apogee.

He saw birds at thirteen that will appear again,
today, before the last rays come out of the mountains;
A page from winter in his pocket, folded against
the colder story, colder even than the white field
where his palace once swept the path to the river.

What safety in passing years, when we know that wheel;
when age and ache are words for the same thing?
Self-same, silent, pulled harder. The pull of summer.

. . .

Seattle, December 1998 - July 2001

(©1998, 1999, 2001 Steve Layton/NiwoPress)