I saw faith in the morning – she stood in the middle of a bakery with gravity around her, and I wondered, ‘do I deserve this morning’ because no reason could account for the fact that I was still alive. The loaves of bread were arranged in rows on trays, unoriginal, pregnant and mundane, and I was filled with the love that comes from gratitude, when she smiled because I knew we were forgiven.
He picked up his guitar and said, “I want to strum these chords so that they sound like the yawning wings of angels, a pristine sound of strings ushering in the dawn.” When they told him not to use such language, because there was no god, and by extension, neither were there angels, he said in disenchantment, “but there must at least be something, so I will sing with aching harmony ahead against the devil who by his hate has made us slay our fathers, in annihilation of our faith.” They told him again that there had been no devil to begin with, that it all began and ended with him – a self-referential, lonely image as he might see in the haunting feedback of his microphone.
“Then if they are naught, I will send my itinerant voice to both the lowest throbs of the profane and to the highest screech above our heads, until my mutilated voice becomes a lie that fills the hearts of heathens with the grating thrall of demons and the stirring amplitude of saints.”
There was nothing maternal about the sea as I approached it with my premises, hoping that its churning movement was the image of a great collective mind. I waited while it brushed and writhed, asking for nothing outside of itself, unconcerned whether or not it was seen – and to my question, there was only the thunder of a mute conclusion.
Maybe the relentless lash and curl of movement had been the argument, and its throttled roar – had been consensus, because now the sea was salty fresh and quiet. If something had been decided, I couldn’t grasp it, as the clouds settled over the deadline of the horizon, looking like cathedrals of an ancient civilization – unfamiliar but vaguely sacrosanct.
‘The colonial tongue fell like brimstone
rebukes on the inflected shingles of our roofs,
and freedom was the secret language for
we who refused to genuflect.
At the plangent dusk, with the horizon
soaked in blood, we pronounced their
steely consonants as they smiled in the
aftermath of conquest, but with a cup
that held the fire of the unexpressed,
I sealed my lips in scarlet.’
If water were forbidden,
and the parched earth glistened
with false images of liquid
as it dreamed, and you were
a sweet transgression, the hidden
nectar of ever burgeoning desire,
then I have already sinned.
The glitter girls let the smell of swollen
berries from their hair, dangerous fruits,
growing anxiously and cool, to be picked
out of the air. When we ate them
our hearts became precipitous and full,
and the diesel boulevards ran warmly
with the river of our souls, as we let out
eucalyptus sighs into the dark, receptive
night, and could not imagine being old.
I woke up in the middle of the night,
and in the way that only the night can
fill you with total and utter conviction,
I saw a city with all its infernal lights
scattered like stars across the black,
heavy sky. They dipped and heaved,
as if following the contours of a valley,
and the sky itself felt like a fabric
draped over a thick and breathing thing.
There were more stars than I could count,
spawning endlessly in patterns
of more confidence than could be
mixed by any artist, and I felt a sudden
loneliness. Sleeping beside me under
this desert sky were my closest friends,
beloved company, and their eyes were
closed, with not even a glimpse of a glow
escaping from underneath their lids.
The air was cold and brittle and the stars
winked out, like individual secrets.
It is the case that I, too,
under the light of this reflective
eye, need a prolegomena.
The night is no longer to be
feared, because its blindness
is the aridity that evokes
and fosters dreams.
I am the citizen of a virtual
city, buffeted by a million
languages competing to be
genuine. It is a city of
cameras that destroys those
who are too scared or
self-conscious to begin,
but before I speak outward
to those hardened skeptics,
it is I who must be convinced.
Watch this storm with me. It rains fists of rock on this comet night, streaked red stardust falling like drops of dew on parched, dead blight, chaos closing the infinities between you and I. In the distance, the wild walls of granite sing, bringing the warmth of ancient, sagebrush nights. In the shadows, the winds whisper a message from the other side – and starlings explode like lightning from the lavender. We are all at once outside of time, no words needed between us as you look, I turn, and the bristle of our sacred flowers reminds us that the universe is one, and of one mind.
Why do I not grow? These leaves stay small and brittle. They do not flair outwards like yours. My bark is still soft, my branches are few.
Ah, said the old tree as it bent over the sapling. Its leaves bristled against the young tree’s bark.
What you describe is not growth.
This is how you really grow. In secret, discontent, discomfort, in ways that you don’t always want to. You grow when your tendrils grow sore and strained, your young shoots get scorched in the sun. You grow under the surface, in the cold, dark, wetness. You will compete with the others for space, you will be assailed by owls and rodents.
You do not grow while thinking about growth. You look back after a long life and notice it.
These leaves? Do not envy them, for they reach their largest and brightest just before their death.
This is what the old tree said to the young sapling before it fell.