I open my journal, write a few
sounds with green ink, and suddenly
fierceness enters me, stars
begin to revolve, and to pick up
alligator dust from under the ocean.
The music comes, I feel the bushy
tail of the Great Bear
reach down and brush the sea floor.
All those lives we lived in the sunlit
shelves of the Dordogne, the thousand
tunes we sang to the skeletons
of Papua, the many times
we died – wounded – under the cloak
of an animal’s sniffing, all of these
return, and the grassy nights
we ran in the moonlight for hours.
Watery syllables come welling up.
Anger that barked and howled in the cave,
the luminous head of barley
the priest holds up, growls
from under fur, none of that is lost!
The old earth fragrance remains
in the word “and.” We experience
“the” in its lonely suffering.
We are bees then; language is the honey.
Now the honey lies stored in caves
beneath us, and the sound of words
carries what we do not.
When a man or woman feeds a few words
with private grief, the shames we knew
before we could invent
the wheel, then words grow. We slip out
into farmyards, where rabbits lie
stretched out on the ground for buyers.
Wicker baskets and hanged men
come to us as stanzas and vowels.
We see a million hands with dusty
palms turned up inside each verb,
lifted. There are eternal vows
held in the word “Jericho.”
Blessing them on the man who labors
in his tiny room, writing stanzas on the lamb;
blessings on the woman, who picks the brown
seeds of solitude in afternoon light
out of the black seeds of loneliness.
And blessings on the dictionary maker, huddled among
his bearded words, and on the setter of songs
who sleeps at night inside his violin case.
– Robert Bly