Archival Features, New Series, Poems

Charles Wright: Two Poems from Littlefoot

photo-1469155669032-d47a7c1914d4

XXVII. One Needs No Paradise When the Rain Falls

One needs no Paradise when the rain falls,
One needs no Paradise when the rain falls,+and clouds are not scattered by the wind.
No one’s around, the grasses bend at their belt buckles,
Boughs droop and the rain keeps coming down.
There is an edgy serenity in solitude,
There is an edgy serenity in solitude,+when the rain falls and the winds stops,
The perpetual presence of absence, where all things are still.

Rain over everything like sunlight,
Rain over everything like sunlight,+out of the clouds.
Shining in strings and beads, a giant hush,
Like tongues in the afterlife.
Clouds like the smokey after-effect of forest fires,
High-drift and hang.
High-drift and hang.+Out of the stillness, a small splendor.

*   *   *

The line between heaven and earth is a grass blade,
The line between heaven and earth is a grass blade,+a light green and hard to walk.

*   *   *

Bigfoot, the north wind, slaps through the trees
Looking for something that we can’t know,
Looking for something that we can’t know,+or even, perhaps, have heard of,
Pushing the boughs aside,
Pushing the boughs aside,+always gone, just out of sight.
Sunlight fills in his footprints.

After the answer, there’s always another question,
Even the last one.
Even the last one.+At least we have that to count on.
I am an image picker,
I like the ripe ones,
I like the ripe ones,+the ones at the ends of the listing limbs.
To know one’s self is the final test, of course.
To know one’s self is the final test, of course.+The no,
However, is right behind it, and just as final.
How easy to lose oneself in the orchard,
How easy to lost oneself in the orchard,+this tree and that,
Everything shiny, everything slick and close to hand.

*   *   *

The evening prepares for the invisible,
The evening prepares for the invisible,+the absence of itself.
Clouds defuse. White cat on the fence pole
Haunched over her throne.
+Haunched over her throne.+Bird feathers glued to the windowless
Where finch attempted his noon flight through the visible.
Better to keep your head down,
Better to keep your head down,+asleep in the darkening trees.
Nothing can stop it. One sweep of its cape and it’s gone.

*   *   *

The morning is almost silent and cannot declare itself.
Therefore, I say unto it,
Therefore, I say unto it,+you are the never-boring miracle
Of sunlight and scrappy cloud,
The absence of rain when rain is absent,
The absence of rain when rain is absent,+as it is
This morning, green with its wonderment,
Last night’s hard frost a wet memory
Scattered in bits and glitzy pieces
Scattered in bits and glitzy pieces+deep in the grass.
The ten horses of the field are like
The ten horses of the field are like+the cities of the plain,
A necessary moment
Of everything that is, and was, and will be again,
The sunlight grows big
The sunlight grows big+immensity
Of noon approaching, its spurs flashing and its saber on fire.
The green backs off a bit, and mumbles. And so do we.

*   *   *

I have nothing to say. I am a recording machine,
I have nothing to say. I am a recording machine,+a listening device.
What I hear is what I will tell you.

I am the sluice of dead scrolls and songs,
I am the sluice of dead scrolls and songs,+I am the tongue of what exists,
Whose secrets are whispered and not heard.
Listen to me, listen to what’s the nothing I have to say.

*   *   *

The shadows of the floating world
The shadows of the floating world+huddle beneath their objects.
Slowly, like hands on a massive clock,
They soon will begin their own crawl and creep
They soon will begin their own crawl and creep+to bring us back
Tick-tock in their black sack, tick-tock in their soft black sack.

*   *   *

Lord of the sunlight,
Lord of the sunlight,+Lord of the left-over, Lord of the yet-to-do,
Handle my heaven-lack, hold my hand.

XXIX. The Little Birds Are Honing Their Beaks on the Chopping Block Stump

The little birds are honing their beaks on the chopping block stump.
The clouds have gathered for their convention
The clouds have gathered for their convention+from deep out in the dark Pacific.
They clear their throats and speak out.
Everything stills and listens,
Everything stills and listens,+even the little birds
With their sharp beaks and sharp claws,
With their sharp beaks and sharp claws,+clinging inside the tamaracks
Until the storm passes and the cloud bodies adjourn.

That’s when the big birds come,
That’s when the big birds come,+with their sweeping wings and dangling legs.
Their eyes ajar, and the lightning sparks from their keening claws.
The poppies along the near hill glisten like small fires,
Pink and orange and damp red.
Behind the glass window, we hear the swoosh of the giant wings,
And listen hard for the next pass,
And listen hard for the next pass,+but they don’t come back.

It’s not such a poverty, we think,
+It’s not such a poverty, we think,+to live in a metaphysical world.
Thus we become poor, and spurn the riches of the earth.
Such nonsense.
The crow flies with his beak open,
The crow flies with his beak open,+emitting a raucous cry.
The yearling horses stand in the field,
The yearling horses stand in the field,+up to their knees in the new grass.
This is the first world we live in, there is no second.

*   *   *

The mind’s the affliction,
The mind’s the affliction,+asleep for a hundred years,
Nothing to wake it but memory,
The deep blank of memory,
The deep blank of memory,+river and hills, the morning sun,
Simple things,
Simple things,+the body moving, not much, but moving.

*   *   *

Orpheus walked, the poets say, down to the black river.
Nobody recognized him,
Of course, and the boat came,
Of course, and the boat came,+the gondola with its singular oarsman,
And the crowd got in, a thousand souls,
So light that the boat drew no water, not even a half-inch.
On the other side, the one paved road, and they took it.

Afterwards, echoes of the great song webbed their ears,
They took the same road back to the waiting gondola,
The two of them,
The two of them,+the first to have ever returned to the soot-free shore.
The oarsman’s stroke never faltered, and he hummed the song
He had caught the faint edges of
He had caught the faint edges of+from the distant, marble halls.
It won’t work, he thought to himself, it won’t work. And it didn’t.

*   *   *

Clouds, like the hills of heaven,
Are nowhere in evidence tonight.
Are nowhere in evidence tonight.+Sundown, an empty sky.
Except for the quarter moon, like a sail with no ship,
And no home port to come to.
And no home port to come to.+Its world is without end.

*   *   *

The smallest cloud I’ve ever seen
The smallest cloud I’ve ever seen+floats like a white midge
Over the western ridge line,
Then vanishes in the wind and the dying sunlight.
How unremarkable,
How unremarkable,+though no moon comes to shine on its going out.
And nothing arrives to take its place.
Forlorn evening, that makes me want to sit here forever, and then some.
I’ll likely meet it again, a thousand years from now,
When it rises up through my bedroom,
When it rises up through my bedroom,+buzzing against the windowpane.

*   *   *

We are the generations of the soil,
We are the generations of the soil,+it is our cloak and put-on.
Somnambulists of sore intent,
Barefoot or full-shod, it is our destination.
Barefoot or full-shod, it is our destination.+Our Compostela.
We rub its rock for luck, and slip inside to get warm,
As though, like our grandfathers before us,
As though, like our grandfathers before us,+we lie down in our own hearts.

*   *   *

The dogs are barking under the newly planted trees.
When we’re transplanted, they’ll bark again,
When we’re transplanted, they’ll bark again,+but not for us.

Charles Wright is the author of more than twenty books of poetry including Littlefoot, Caribou, and Bye-and-Bye: Selected Late Poems.

Both poems first appeared in the Fall & Winter 2006-2007 issue of Poetry Northwest.