Ten Poems 2 (1999-2000)

Last Days

Provided I came. With heart in hand,
two wings, and a halo of jade
(My god is an Eastern God).

And hover between trees, whether
parkland or house-hill or graveyard or

Always the same motion, same
offering of bright colored paper,
creased over and over and always
left quietly, as hostage to proper


The sky, dark and killing, hides
the top of a rock-face, flesh-stained
where the eastern angels hold
battered frames to the vertical.

When I leave I will go up, because
rising is all I can do, All I expect
from the Eastern God.

And that sound will be made
by our bright feathers tearing.

. . .

Psalm of circles

My child is dead,
Descended now to the old stone;
His father my father's own also.

Matrix for spiders,
Each word a used filament;
Every action slowly made undone.

Men become the late air,
Become pages between covers;
Their yes only a rumored echo.

My God is round and hollow,
Holds some world asleep inside him;
Covers each season with more sand.

Mantle of bright still night fires,
Of ashes and more fear in the sunrise,
Forget and lie down in my begging home.

. . .


The finger points
Always the same way,
In here, in her;
And something more like
Coals, like reddish ebony
Reaches to take
What is always held.
No hands.

In that moment
Measure never ends,
And two no-hands move
Like scarves, like talons;
One breath fills the inch
Between pore and pore;

There can never be
A word for this waking.

. . .

Still radiant

I took pictures of you.
Put them in pockets, forgotten.

When you are seventy, call me sometime.
I will remember, and show you:

My hand, blurred.
The hill that is houses now.
The back of a beautiful head.

So these clothes will fall from the bone
And the sun can keep going down;
My own world folded and packed.

Ask me another question.

. . .

Park bench (views right to left)


Paper words,

paper words here.

If I go walking

this Tuesday

(any Tuesday)

I will leave this


where you might be.

Where you might be.

How old were we?

Then, that day,

walking just


Younger than now.

And now?

Paper words here,

between my shoe and

sidewalk, just between us.


Attainment. Big word,

like the Door is

too heavy to open.

Like the Already:

tried, or known, or

put to sleep.

But there was once, when

a Fire swept over my Bed.


Imagine that. And I do.


There were flowers

behind flowers,

and behind those

were more flowers.


In the middle ground

I could

see my shadow, see

where I would have been.


there is rain now, and what falls


Lean a little bit

this way,

just where my arm was

a moment ago...

. . .

South in ruin

Adoration lets the statue in its slanted frame
Forget what breaks when all the prayer bells ring;
Same thing always, ferric and centered, brought back
Close here to the paper-capped lantern and spire.

(In summer they buy small birds to set them free.)

Theirs the first cut circle marking separation,
Made to end a time of weeping, sympathy
Wedding happiness. Graceless names given to test
A history, that their cup stay empty and only some weak
Exercise in contemplation, with a slow ochre shadow.

(In winter the birds return to wait for endings.)

They will recover. They will again remove
Their place from the river water, drop tears
To wash through all that mattered
Then, in that most distant undulation.

. . .

Six and six

A word waiting



Then all at once the sound of miracles,
the bell fire, blue dream, dim black mountain;
open hands with powder, rust, human bone
and a flower impossibly full and hungry;
The arc describing two journeys and slumber,
Twin breathing...


. . .

Path with wing

A night fire.
My two walls transparent
To this moment, only seeing
What was and will be;
This vortex, this thing that is
Only center is a window
Looking both to that fire,
And to memory's flat white field.

Hover, still.

How many roots go so deep
As the red root goes,
To the bone, to the sea,
Place of my first step,
Path to the dark hills?
Dead land now. Only the shell
Is left to say "Here, once."
(Here, once.)
And if my circle can turn
So far, I will see stars again.

. . .


The horizon close,
almost pressing my face;
letting birds fall right through
the vanishing point.

There was a light,
almost the moon, almost
but given even paler skin;
eyelid wings to fold in sleep.

Then came Androgyne,
pulling a small cord tied to wishes;
feet taking the smallest steps.

And a blue was there,
rich with suffocation;
filled with pin-holes
that could have been stars,
each keeping a name
written first on a window;
waking only when leaves
drop from branches.

But this is the morning.

This is the dream of towers.

This is the afterbirth
and the opening eye.

. . .

Horse Heaven

This bent wire comes up seven different ways
before ending just out of reach of the trees.
I used to think I could remember the man who
put it there, over the other side and gone now.
So he's gone away; only heat and too much wind
left in this field, arguing over faces and dates.

And the ball of my hand makes a telescope, held
close to the eye; the crosshairs resting on leaves.
That's where the green goes. Where the blue fails,
wavers into another color I can't name.
That's where I go, too.

. . .

Seattle, January 1999 - April 2000

(1999, 2000 Steve Layton/NiwoPress)