Night Poem XXIV

Night of my harsh confessions,
you won’t let me turn away.
Tonight, regret is a new nerve,
and I probe the opening
where my years writhe exposed.

My failings dance before me.
I throw them wild flowers,
I throw them cabbages,
and they dance and sing and burn.

I failed to love anything
fierce enough to die, they sing.
I failed to be driven mad with longing
for a slice of this world.

Everything I touched,
I let drop from lukewarm hands,
my music, my literature,
my one aching adventure,
the girl who loved me with a dangerous sky.

They all got away,
and now another, bolder man
has the girl and the dream,
while I sit waiting for the night,

for the dawn, for the naked revelation.
I am the lion that never roared,
the bronco that never bucked,
the rolling stone that got stuck in the moss.

Night of my harsh confession,
I cannot turn away.
My regret is an old nerve,

and it tells me I will live out my life
in a parlor like a piece of furniture,
with my drunken relics,
my moth-eaten youth.

Can I salvage a brazen mouth,
a roar,
a life of pristine adversity,
a dangerous core?

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Night Poem XXI

Night of the open heart,
I strive against my tightening song,
against the sad and familiar
crust of my human days.

New, new again beside
your blue dangers,
I fear death,
and life shivers in my blood.

To be new is to be merciless.
On your plain swept of regret and love,
I place an orange, round and alone.
As I peel it, it forms a hurt the shape of a moon.

And because I am empty
and pained by the passing
of everything I’ve been,
its juice afflicts me with a new love.

Night of the open heart,
to ache is to ripen,
to know the bitterness of new growth,
and the possibility of catastrophes.

But to the clenched darkness
and to the hollowed peel of my old heart,
I reply with the wounded orange’s flesh,
raw and sweet and undefeated.

Night Poem XVII

Who can resist the night,
disobey her giant’s arms?
See how she dims their fierce lives,
for her dark palms are cribs,
and in them lie, in equal count,
lizards and women.

They accept this,
the soft erasure of their finite span,
and call it sleep.
Given a name, sleep becomes part
of the logical momentum of our
feverish accumulations.

But sometimes one, quite inexplicably,
yet filled with strange expectation,
refuses to close his eyes,
and waits up into the night’s deep realm.

And he discovers in her deserted streets,
her rustling orchards,
an amplified existence,
weird noises that echo
the weirdness of his own soul.

What the boys and girls bestowed and
named with songs and rumours,
the night assiduously removes.
What he used to call bird cries,
could now be wind, could be colours.

What once was wakefulness
is now pure tension,
the promised vibration of his fear and longing.
And the day bestows, and the night effaces.

And he walks on through her deserted streets,
out of language, out of landscape,
until his name has no meaning,
and is only a chord struck on the night’s enormous bell.

Japanese Speech Contest

The miracle of speech,
sitting amidst these young voices,
hearts beating on their tongues,
and the need to say anything,

the flower’s need to bloom,
the body’s need to resist the open sky.

In this foreign language they falter,
breathlessly,
and I think of antelopes tottering
in muddy reeds,
lions in wait beyond us all.

I think of the first words we ever said,
when our world formed like a
fragile bowl,
those first, dangerous hatchling stutters,

the first time we stood on two rootless feet,
the first time we danced with the flow of others,
the first time we dug in
against the blue and baying tide.

Did we know then what they planned for us,
these declarations of independence,
the words of these young ones here,
painfully forming the contours of the heart,

these songs that lead us to the listening edge,
and demand we give form to our vaulting lives.