(Alashka, Part 1)
Janet Rodney and Nathaniel Tarn
Remember the morning after the tourists had whooped it up all night making a ruin of Pennsylvania we sat in our forest the one we pretend to own (until about noon when the tourists come back to claim it) and we listened to the birds with our eyes closed making time together outside of history? It's the poetry going thru us matters I believe not ourselves as poets same as the life, bird to bird, season to season not the bird itself. Remember in future: when you can't see the birds close your eyes and listen -- then they will unfold their major gifts. As they work, going about survival, they offer, for whatever purpose of their own those astonishing sounds which gives us meaning. We heard that concert then which had been kept from us all season by our "responsibilities," day of invisible music rustling up summer, opening the road. "Thank God" we said, "we are going back to every thing that matters." Time of patience now, testing out our memory of roads once travelled further than night in an air of crystals.where the breath is multi-faceted as thought. Patience hunts the poem. The poem surrenders, opening a two-way mirror. Each life answers the other. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
Answer a poem. Only this one wasn't dialed. The door opened I stepped inside & found your message on the floor. Answer. I mean, a half of what I say to you comes from you. & I trust you to make the connection when I don't, I rely on your intelligence. People used to write letters. They would get up early and write. While their minds were fresh. Set the day straight in writing. Wire the day with words. A diary for someone other. They would give away their best mind and still have time. Just as there's light at both ends of a tunnel & we carry this bulb from one end to the other, I thought, when I picked up yr. note this is a light transmission: moves so fast it's invisible, moves so slow it's invisible, a feather passing over skin, the gradual brightening of male plumage, the order of seasons. What are you doing now? Each summer I start to record my dreams. We were sitting in a chair back to back with a double face & through our mind a movie flashed of changing shadows, we both could see light but at different ends. I turned to say -- but you weren't there, you were at the back of my mind, eyes staring out of my crown, pulling me towards the light. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
I sit at one of the crossroads of the city which is itself all one crossroads of the universe. Born here: so as to speak. No stone has moved, n.b., the spirit-city still in essence inviolate. First station of the cross, morning after arrival gas-chambers monument at the tip of Notre Dame: "They went unto the ends of the earth and they did not return." I had waited years to see that. We have been, returned, and are going again soon. Later, at the Laboratoire for social anthropology, fall nose to spine with the British Columbia collection. Levi-Strauss has seen at last, I am informed, the Skeena's mist-skirts. I fly the Alashka flag among crowds half of which carry the flags and patches of other nations and are far too busy doing that to care about AK. I meet with Jacques Roubaud who will walk three months from Minnesota to Louisiana setting his spine on Mark Twain's rock. We might send him a postcard as we cross? The correspondences cannot end, not if they tried to. The center is just another margin of another center bound by whale bones and beach ridges stretched like time's bow behind the arctic sea. Giddings, Louis: homage to that man who dug us in thousands of years into the past, back of first tattle of trekkers hunting land when all they had to do was stand still. And did. So as to speak. The girl at lunch gets up, over and over, stoops on her lover so as to show the breasts in her open blouse. I eat her breasts, among my salad, which is what she wants and miss your body language. (Besides which, it is all good cannibalism, within custom.) Tonight, the Deutsches Requiem at Notre Dame with my lady mother, city-born also, who comes here to wake her own mother lying between death and sleep, the small, cold waves bearing the birds of life on the swell of the Bering Sea. Tomorrow I read my poems on the French radio in this language I first spoke-- chatting with dear Deguy and Claude Royet-Journoud about Alashka. And, of course, every night, the Seigle, my second parents who love me from my twenties. My fellow student Chiva too, and Lucien Biton, cook to the mortal mind, cousins and uncles also: Claude, Daniel, Marion. While my mother's mother dies at one end of Paris and at the other end, another of her sons. Meanwhile I recommend our Pennsylvania to you as you wake since you still sleep there six hours behind me on the waves of May among our wrens and orioles. Until our bones can buck the thaw and freeze again in old yet still so virgin summer ice and feel no pain, life draining out, as we return outside of human time, to the great bow which draws the earth, and every nature in it, backwards to origin. . . I travel hard, with little company, shuttle between the living and the dead, being of ice now, in my inmost thoughts, and tho the world beats here with all its blood. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
Above the Atlantic many miles high imagine me flying backwards to that place between the ribs, that warmest of all hearts, where they bury their dead. I suppose the priest told them to put up a picket fence: they took their slats from the biggest tree. & what better place than a grove of whalerib. Different from this cage skimming the tops of clouds while somewhere below you walk thru a door or sit at the crossroads where you have been lounging these past days in my mind in that last masque you painted of vegetable family, packed in quilts of ice. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
To be idle rich not my wish nor idle poor but somewhere between something parasitic maybe unclaimed by gods or men with time to do nothing, or not. As one chooses. To engage the world with time to live & die in doses chosen at will or letting either come as it will to do me in or out, to glide over the mind's cities & woods stepping through the broken lights on pavements or clearings between your eye and mine walking under the rains within that fall, leaving us dry as winter aging in our frames, but with words to say it & let them rise around us, the words, and think: "how they rise like a city around us" or, "how they rise like a forest in our middle" and watch them grow, and watch us grow. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
This morning I heard a bird among stars Egypt was singing in the dark, the king's childhood sat under the falcon's shadow who had descended from the sun, down ladders from the sun and become, in the lower world, darkness. --They made these stones last some 3000 years solid and earth-bound like his grandfather (Ramses's) who writes the earth down: birds all the names of birds & all the trees around. Fish in blue pools. Heat / heat. Far from the ice-cap, bringing down the pole over the golden faces of women longing at stars bulls, geese, hares plaited in their tresses . . . Do you know how OLD we are to speak to each other one in Paris / one in Madrid (under Velazquez light, London between, later Pennsylvania and later still departure in the dark again toward the pole? Old with the world behind us enough to have made ourselves in our separation cry to each other taking in hand our sexes each creating from the rush of it (brother & sister holding free hands) an independent world . . . And a world created from that. My that and your this. From the mixing of. My this and your that. Nor woman/nor man. Bird. Fish. Hinted at in former times. Never more. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
This was my piece of Eden once, the clear Velazquez air & sky so close to old stones, rainworn tiles sloping streetward, lines clear as your eye, bells contrapuntal music of the night, clear, as your mind among stars, marking another time, the falcon's, his laser eye (like yours) slept and woke to sound of steps going down rung by rung to darkness, wings spread out like hooks to draw up the fish. But there's nothing of innocence here now, goes back to a sound of laughter, like water, a hand churning deep inside the pools as fish leapt up the ladders of fountains, sun glinting off their scales, they hit the sky dazzling in their flight, their migration north. Now the Eden lies like sun behind the rain, when it comes, revealing all the splendors of darkness. its colors ... -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
From this poverty of nature, all I can give you right now is gold among the pines at noon, dark groves of the Meseta, their metal strings sighing above the trenches where an army of brothers assailed their brothers in the city. Today, flowers were exploding among nettles, each seed a parachute ready for the wind. On that prow of land I tend most afternoons to drive out to with my Mother. pointing (like a ship) to the Sierra de Guadarrama, I stood like a mast as suddenly a gust rippled the grass and, sails full, I was borne off, Mother waving from the pier, on a trip of discovery, you and I back in Alashka, putting in at coves where high peaks veer into the sea & snow falls throughout the year, delicate lace-tips hardening on top while far below, the ice, softeneing under its own weight begins to flow and cracks in the surface open and close, the whole mass breathing as it tramples over woods/lakes wearing down/ building up new mountains, gouging out valleys where the milk-carrying rivers deposit their sands, rubbing the earth's muscle with sun-golds, moon-silvers and ice-whites. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
This morning I found: "...and they shall take down the veil of the screen and cover the ark of the testimony with it and shall put thereon a covering of sealskin and shall spread over it a cloth all of blue..." What were the seals doing in Israel I asked. For once the rabbis couldn't answer. Of all the outer masks: the oldest operational again. I woke to watch my son ceasing to be a child, wearing, on his shoulders, the shawl of all humanity, present and absent. In his voice, a sorrow old as sand: our people chased like rats out of the Egypt. This morning I heard the Egypt singing, a very sweet bird I longed for, but 1: (was ice, I came to the sun and was ice. In my tradition: these men left Egypt aeons ago--since then leaving the home they found also. Their aspirations have become another home and the ice has ceased to bother them. They have no knowledge of solitude. The race dreams a home but Isaiah, Elijah, Ezekiel are no longer among them. They claim the thing is live, moves, changes but have no knowledge of change or what could bring it about. In their blindness the poet-princes of Israel escape them, they don't see them here. This morning I heard the Egypt singing, a very sweet bird voice of sunlight, coming out of a pool, turquoise, with goldfish veins. Egypt was saying to the prophets "Princes: unto you the song is given. The exile which never ends is yours and goes beyond the desert, into the fertile land and beyond the fertile land into the desert again, but this time it is a desert of ice at the ends of known world. Where Egypt sings now, you would not believe it." And the Diaspora went forward into eternity as such is my take on us poets: we are sundered / sundered and... the world goes round in never ending spirals, and, we remain sundered / rootless / unhoused until the end. When the Egypt sings, she has our voice, People of no country, flesh of the poets: where Egypt sings now, you would not believe it. I watch my son ceasing to be a child with a coat of sealskin on his shoulders, his voice rising into the rafters (to a drum he hears alone) holding up the house. His voice keeps him alone, the people fall off, drop back into 'their secrets. My son rises on his own voice takes up the harpoon de profundis from the cloth all of blue: they have mistaken for the sky, when it is the sea, mother of all when it is the cloth of waters gave us our birthright and the seal sings in his own voice far into arctic nights the race forgot to name in the first days when all was gold and silver white as yet unknown asleep in the tip of the first harpoon floating in the ocean. We that are poor and yet have riches beyond the dreams of the men you and I know out there on the ice at the very end of world! This morning I heard the Egypt singing a very sweet bird, all the inheritance of Egypt all arts and musics the old and silver poems.. But the Egypt was no Ionger a center. What is our poverty (in regard to the riches of Egypt) beside the poverty of those who are poor in regard to us? What is it like that extremity of being poor on the fringes of the wide skirt of the diaspora who is homeless to the end of time out there with her children the children she has most lost in the blizzard, on the ice, at the forward edge of this thing that is supposedly changing, that will not change, ever, until all has been made sun-gold, or moon-silver, or ice-white? -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
It is so good, even in letters, to keep the flesh between us and the poems happening always in amorous terms we both understand. The meat of a rose unfolding before our eyes & as we enter it in a text so wide the whole garden rises & declines there, we don't feel too much the loneliness of a long day spent apart in different lives, secreting words for an old world grown dim in its ways and far from that northern rim we've been leaning towards these past years, pushed out by centrifugal force, almost driven, from that mythical middle we call home. It is, I suppose, like water cascading down that never falls or like the ice on top of the globe that flows so slowly it can only be seen as still. And white. We seem to move out from center to rim and back both poles attracting, unable to be still. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
Your three received (Alashka/Madrid), my own London's out but, necessarily, the speed of light around the world, into Pt. Hope, and back not calculated for: some seizure in the data, something broke. "It works! It works!"... Tha- lassa, Tha- lassa: we have reached the sea (too many musics playing, not sure the subtlety of this is getting thru) but drafts, drafts against the future. This morning Kluane between your thighs not knowing the mixture of waters white with the snows formed by our bloods in drainage of each other what degree of melt, into each other, as when the river and the sea meet and become one water. Kluane, Klu/a/ni flowing thru my mind & our feast day spreading the cloth of waters between us, placing the food on the cloth birds in our eyes rising, plunging, the bodies like ships crossing in the night executing complex manoeuvres around each other, berthing BIRTHING because we are woman & man both with words. I thought I would take the air as it remains, stubbornly clear for both of us, a kind of peace having descended upon us at the same moment, the air: castille or ile de france or thames all one pale color, ice, and, breaking it apart, reveal our mouths, frost-rimmed, eating each other and each other's words as the totem-birds in the night, invisible, speeding over our cities, carrying our thoughts into each other's minds our desires into each other's thighs, migrating, mixing the waters... AND THIS BREAK, ing? it is a picture of mind at work, you realize now, nor idle rich, nor idle poor, but somewhere in between, to take, as I have always dreamed, the whole world to one place & call both home, the world melted into the place, the place into the world, and why should not this be those far, far, lots but, ah, untravelled so, they stay so clear in the mind, so crystal clear, the mind can work on them, not be confused by world so too much with us, as are now these cities of the flesh we must transform: cities of intellect. Yes, the wind blows already over our bones. We must find the locus of those bones. Life is the business death has with us, it is nothing but a matter of recognition. And out of that the poem. I'll hunt as never before. There will be, among children, nothing like this child: they will say the ice works miracles. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
"...and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee... for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived." You can listen to the Egypt sing lucky you, but I hear guns & hoofbeats in the distance, someone riding all night, the wind in his cloak a cancer on his face from Dover to Philadelphia to break a tie changing the course of what? Sent Delaware to Revolution sent men to their graves sent England finally packing in the name of such a hackneyed tale I don't have to tell you, you lucky, a bird in your ear, myth at least to make your day while I with my bestiary of ancestors listen to an ominous drone, looking for that mud not in the Nile, but the cantilevered nest sending down its cones under our eaves, our "promised land" with its final sting sending all hope, all new-found things, to market. You can say it's the Egypt singing but it's your voice I hear, giving it all a season, joining all the oceans or taking the whole world to one place, your boy holding up the roof because you have been standing since he began holding up that roof for him with your song. In my tradition: these men left England not so long ago and since have found another home in their sorceries with which they deceive all nations: and home is what can buy and what can sell, all else in exile: how easy it must have been, far from land to see the hills through which our Delaware moves, its birds of many kinds making their homes on its banks rubbing the air with their wings. In spite of hardship, how easy it would be for those early travellers to change their course, an easy move upriver to a landscape as yet unspoiled by history. Your song, not Egypt's will stop the lynx, yes, stupefy him in his tracks, the rivers will be silent, for a moment stop their flow, the wind will die down the leaves will be still & long after the ice has gashed our feet I'll remember your rhythm, how it speaks. of a paradise where we could grow old together & where love can grow as the trees grow, far from the riches of Egypt. -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
The United States are about to descend upon Alashka. On the ferry, as you sail up the spectacular coastlines, there is nowhere you can escape the "Muzak." The Army of consumers is prevented from realizing that nature is more than just a moving window. The tragedy of this State is that it is the last in the Union (so far as we know) about to be "developed," this time with all the options known and documented. Yet it is already defeated for lack of planning, lack of faith where planning exists, lack of leadership and above all a belief in monolithic "Progress." Progress meaning: "more jobs, more people, more improvements." There is no other notion of "Progress." The garage man at Kachemak Bay told us of an oil pros- pector he threw out because of "overbearing manners." Yet oil itself would ruin his town eventually. We can be individual but not collective in our last stands. The people who homesteaded here had solitude and risk to dignify their poverty. Now the tidal waves flood up, with instant "Culture," instant "Communications," instant "Betterment." Everyone is instantly rich. What can the homesteader do but sell out and move on? For that matter, where to? -.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
Copyright © 1979 by Janet Rodney and Nathaniel Tarn.
From Atitlan / Alashka, published by Brillig Works.
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