As Dew On Grass Sleeves No Longer Stiffening In The Wind - Moments From The Orange World - After Reading Kenneth Patchen - Poem by Warren Falcon
for Bruce and Patti
happily singing in their chains by the sea...
'...do not grieve, therefore, those who are lost to you;
they were ever so to themselves...'
- Kenneth Patchen - from 'There Is One Who Watches'
I've lost my way and wait for signs.
Distant signal fires indicate 'wait here'.
No gate ahead. The iron dogs hungrily await
all who approach edges of the orange world.
Best to settle in, grin at stinking Death who is
sinking into the ground winking at me as if to say,
You will soon sink. You will soon sink.
Who do you think you are or were?
Step forward if you dare.
I've observed how furred things give up without much complaint.
They've grabbed often enough and so Death grabs back.
They sigh or call out in their animal way, Son of a b*tch!
but in the end they relent and they sink leaving only their
pink tongues spread out over the dawn as if to say...as if to say...
I blink in the dark looking at edges distant fire.
I wink back at Death who has left only a bony hand
on the ground where He waits just beneath.
How trite He is but it does the job, conveys His trap clearly.
When dawn tongues awake licking dew from my face,
and my fears, I shall raise both my hands, too,
as if to say...as if to say...
And flaunting these two hands to Death's one, and with flesh,
I shall walk away the way I came having done with burning signs
and a night's work of waiting, my presence taunting the dogs,
Death baiting as if He has forgotten one hand upon the dirt.
We have flirted, Death and me. Not the kind of company
I like to keep preferring furred things to winking bones,
Death's head all teeth and no whistle. But I earn my pay.
I walk away, my own tongue licking.
I can barely contain myself arriving back at camp.
She waits dreaming shyly in our tent, a Bedouin soul bending
gently over the wells in Her keeping on Gentler Hill.
I shall lick Her face then. I shall not tell Her how
I have survived the night with Death at my feet, the taunting
signals over there at the edges, iron dogs alert.
I shall not hurt Her with knowledge of this orange world,
all the dark things within it. I shall not take Her roughly
to me but softly settle beside Her where she breezes as dew
on grass sleeves no longer stiffening against the wind.
I shall bring Her in as a fisherman brings
in his boat softly singing a fisherman's tale,
his throat a song-sore nocturne rocking night waves,
beacons ashore flaring where his Love lies sleeping
awaiting conjectures, his folding, folding into Her
gently suspiring guesses -
'Is my love away at sea, at sea,
dark as wine presses as he will
surely press me?
O drink from the wells I tend -
I earn my pay - and away with
ocean roaming! '
Distant lights demur sure in their beckoning.
Sudden he turns singing boat and heart to shore,
starfish near at hand yearning beyond foam..
Dawn tongues slowly raise up land-sunken houses,
stilled curtains in darkened windows not yet stirring.
Nearing, he shall not shake the dew from his cloak but gather
as much as he can to bathe Her - feet, hands, those parts
Death cannot sink into, but he can. And life will continue on.
As will the other, his lost brother of the inland tent
now gratefully at rest forgetting the ever orange world,
edge fires signaling unseen until dark,
and then the dogs,
and Death's hand,
and then back to work again.
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