Listening to the Dead

You must listen closely,
or you’ll miss what they say:
The mutterings and mumblings slip
into a slurry of words- – the mad mouthings
of manic depressives, always verging
on comprehensibility
like AM radio late at night-
signals step on signals- languages blend
like the babble of newborns,
all sounds being equal in a mosaic of meaning.

So, you must listen closely
for each grain of earth,
each mote of dust
screams out a significance
when listening to the dead.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust:
Plato lurks among the shifting shadows;
Blake, a sparrow among the crumbs, twitters
endlessly about angels prowling the streets – –
And they are there:

the angels,
with Blake,
and Plato,
and Buddha,
and Christ,
and the radiant demons
dancing like houri before our eyes,
but we do not see:
the streets are crowded;
their whispers fill the air

with a cacophony of chaos
which belies the calm of our
comfortable complicit complacency.
Like a sly huckster selling cars,
the stars wink at our existence.
The past is present.
The future hides now.
Each star reveals itself
as it was; each star is
no longer where it is.

Multiple visions of time exist simultaneously:
Four years, one hundred, millions;
all encompassed now in your eye.
It is easier to order the space around us,
to assume that all is homogeneous,
to ignore the incongruities that are more
consistent than any superfluous system
we can create from the swirling air.
In contradiction, we can’t escape the speech
of the dead. The words, despite their deathly

silence, trip and clatter from the city walls.
As we move through the vagaries of the day,
like birds through the rainforest’s canopy,
they echo between the pad and clomp
of our feet like hail across a tin roof,
or bones cast from a fortune teller’s hands:
auguries hatched in the flesh of the past,
like maggots, flowering into what we will
become, a predestination careening beyond
any control except spasmodic fluctuation.

What they say, whether we see the mouth
move or only the echo of the echo,
defines more than our personal will;
inside or outside is of no consequence;
the wall still determines where you stand.
The universe expands into itself,
how are we different, who are we to resist?
The meaning changes with each hearing- –
who spoke first, who after,
the repetitions and refrains.

Each voice shades the one before
and the one after, which in turn cuts
another facet across the diamond’s edge.
The light shifts creating new shades
in the shattering prisms of thought.
The more light’s brought to bear
the darker grows the night needed
to define, divine the edge.
To see through to there, ineffable
and ever in flux, we must first,

like the bird between branch tip
and leaf pierce through here, slip through
the words, the tumblers as they click,
slip then drop into place frozen forever.
so through this pit pattering,
this slip stream of speech,
we plait our pattern between the dead,
obliterating regret and desire
in order to attend to the
impossibly mundane now – –

all to protect ourselves against
the sublime profundity,
the traps and warm comforts
embedded in our language:
the trails leading deeper
into an ever evolving wood;
to save ourselves from,
to exist in at least a contrapuntal
harmony with, the horror of thoughts
which dominate through ubiquity.

(March 2006)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s