Some people can see the path laid out, smooth,
paved with marble lobbies and licorice sex.
Even better if someone has already laid it out for them.
Me, sometimes I only see streets
with well-manicured flowerbed roundabouts,
and those same self-satisfied birds that wait at the verge
for the man with the fabulous toupee to come,
throw them scraps of stale bread.
I’ve heard that there are radiant highways
that lead away from the sea,
that immense end to all our conversations.
Turn your back on it, go up,
up toward the smiling towers, the places with lawns
where there are no more thought terrorists,
where corn on the cob aprons smother impotent fear,
where there’s a pill for every night-intruder.
I’ve heard that in those places nothing can blow your mind.
If that’s the case, I’ll take the next exit south, back to the beach.
There, the foam is taking pains,
is deconstructing parades of plastic animals,
and paring flawless wives to their bones.
There, the sea, with a single thunder of salt,
carries off the porcelain and the closets and the perfected hedges,
and I watch them all sailing by in pools with grey-green kelp
and bright little crabs that think of nothing at all.
And I feel calm and collected,
and I know where all the roads eventually lead.
The dry sand garden
swirls here in tense circles
that come back upon each other,
The meaning that you once wore
unravels from you here,
but so too those faces you kept
that had grown too much like a skin,
and you had concealed behind them
every intention, every glance,
every rush of blood.
Where should you go from here,
stripped bare and raw
as that stone lantern
assaulted by the flying seasons?
But up there on that rock plateau,
the knarled pine, twisting now
into its final fall,
reveals itself without artifice,
in the way that its body has bent
to the kind and cruel years,
in the way that its heart is held tight
within the contorted trunk.
You must let go of the rock
to swim in this garden.
Its deep red is like a clot
that holds back the rush
of your heart’s calling.
Nothing here would mind, it seems,
if you just stayed
like the stagnant moss,
with your hurt and your wreckage
of dreams and memory,
but for the rock,
which beats now
like an animal necessity.
There is nowhere else to go,
and you plunge your determined eyes
into the onrushing flow
of the raked white sand.
Looking back you see
those things you left behind
to dry on the red rock,
hollow after all.
The hard rocks jutting up
at their implacable angles.
Contrast of the five smooth mounds
caressed by the moss.
And passing between,
this flow of sand,
sometimes straight flying lines
or confused passions.
If this garden teaches you anything,
it is to be
both hard and yielding
in the wild stream of being.
There is a kind of balance,
an erasing of opposites
for those who, giving nothing,
fling their lives from the open windows
into such a garden.
And when at last
you are shattered on those stones,
there, the heart open, singing,
the way the summer’s heart is.