While the Thunder Lasted I Felt Like God
April 1, 1997
you told me while the thunder lasted two bad men were friends. I
think ears are sexy which is why we have two. her father says
when you grow up you'll make seven lawyers happy. my brother
says there is salt water in my chest where there used to be jewels.
your cousin says I will no longer fear thieves. your father went to
divinity school. he says it didn't help one bit. my mother joined the
marines. she wants me to swear like a sailor. my rabbi says you
should kiss with your eyes closed so the devil won't see you. I
think they're all idiots. that's why I vote democrat. you say I want
to be an arsonist when I grow up. I think you should start here.
April 2, 1997
in my house the trains run on time. in circles around my desk and
under my bed. when we came here we thought we had fled the
past. land that was without history or meaning. but I remembered
all the trains from my youth. so I built this model railroad. there is
something exquisitely satisfying in my heart like a moment of one's
life or a willingness to submit to materials. to the way things must
fit together or fall apart. Yosemite Valley Railroad, August 1939. I
wake up. the little humming universe surrounds me. if the music
changes then life will change. pre-recorded birds sing me to sleep.
what was lost is smaller now. down the kitchen. through the hall.
April 3, 1997
out of nails and wires, tactile atlases are formed. because the heart
is blind. the blind can navigate. their knowledge of space is
palpable and just. this is your house. I like the way your lips feel
on my skin. your voice as it brushes against me. the habit of seeing
the world as a picture. there is a sense of space that exists apart
from vision. vertical, the stroke is 18 inches long. two inches
wide. sinuous, two slight bends. musculature and nerves ran
within its length. I don't know how it does this. it is blue and its
painter is dead. I don't want to observe the paint's purely lateral
course or to make the illusion stop. I only want to see you again.
April 4, 1997
isn't it still wonderful to drive in a car? to listen to the radio as the
flat land is unto you like a table? that is bounteous & rich? rice &
sugar. fried chicken & garlic slaw. let the congress legislate its
own delight. do that thing again with your breathing. where you
keep your eyes open because you're not supposed to fall asleep.
Hopi rain bird radios. Tuba City Truck Stop. don't you just want
to get out of the car while it's still moving? don't you just want to
dance to the evening news? declare an end to the war once & for
all? get rid of your body & get a better one? terminal cancers spread
like grief. we did the job. we do the job. we get the job done.
April 5, 1997
in his early days Godzilla was mean. swallowing bullet trains in the
streets of Tokyo like ramen noodles. so it was sad when Godzilla
took on a more benevolent role. often appearing at the opening of
shopping malls, used car lots. just because you're a victim once
doesn't mean you must be labelled a victim forever. it's nice to be
able to walk in and out of this film at will. nice to watch jet fighters
fly overhead. the people have repose. they are buying a second car.
skyscrapers climb with confidence. in the end it is love that loves
no one. not even monsters. Godzilla files for unemployment. I'm
happy and the city is wild with dogs.
April 6, 1997
the world did not catch fire. the pilot is full of joy. I was
astonished with the beauty of the place. for I had never been there
since my return home. my boss told me love is anarchous, desire is
lawless and I like it that way. thin and greasy pork chops. noodles
and applesauce. three glasses of beer. a tin of clove cigarrettes
from Indonesia. make it burn a little, right here. like ears. secret
muscles that snap. the little wires that guide all of our actions.
roads where we meet our lovers. the trees that watch. I celebrated
by deciding that I had dumped my last kerosene. all of this and a
spine with which to love someone. let the stars dream of me.
April 7, 1997
it is just like you said. she says I spend the day doing simple data
entry. he says I'm going to meet my father after work. don't you
wish you had another checkbook? song on the radio no one plays
anymore, somewhere in space. three light years away by now. and
every day is bright red. every night you are robbed of sleep. said
of a couple of travelers with one horse between them. she rides
ahead, ties the horse up and continues walking. he is on foot. he
will take his turn on the horse when he reaches it. and I will put the
moon back if I can, although it is very heavy. she says if you are
visible below me, it is because I am falling.
April 8, 1997
cause related marketing works. because it is not enough to have a
heart. the empty bicycle evokes the riderless horse. inspirational
mega events raise millions. like tv or love. people still watch even
though they can't explain how it works. everyone is moved. which
is why you should invest in shipping. since we were lifeless we
thought less about rhythm or being born. about the hand or the
soul. she said I needed every shred of energy, so I didn't talk to
anyone. dead friends looking down at you. dead enemies looking
up. people writing $200 checks in your memory. millions of watts
in every direction. the end is a world. it exists if we uncover it.
April 9, 1997
art history for blind people. billboards with your name on them.
have you seen me they say about you. you say no, not for a while.
a sense of space that exists apart from vision. you must kiss me
before I disappear. because touch takes longer I sit next to you. the
foreground is blocking the background. teach the blind to draw on a
flat surface and their work is forever lost to them. they know this.
blind people carry pictures inside them. they know this too. create
a raised surface so we can remember these pictures forever. kiss me
with your eyes closed. kiss me with your eyes open. let me live in
the space around you. kiss me again and again and again.
April 10, 1997
a threat that could be a fact. a bill for services. I slept through it.
the slow version. a piano. on the radio. on a station that fades.
she had thought of ease. two lumps of sky in his chest. which
could not be removed. so he waited for the clouds to uncover the
moon. for the moon to set. for the stars to rise, each in their turn.
for his birthday she gave him an atlas. he took a pen and sketched a
continent. this is the lost world, he said. where all the music winds
up after it's played. I bought a house there, he said. beautiful
lawns, bright windows. a house among scrubbed houses that shine
white with blue shutters. you must visit me when I'm gone.
April 11, 1997
who will let me burn? who will stop me? most cited the courtesy of
the electric fire. where would you go? you might eat a better
dinner. books on the floor. paper in the air. ashtrays spilling over
like someone with too many secrets. the word gets around. is
formed in the gossip of children at work. if your hands betray you
it's because you haven't been watching them. passports and jet
planes crossing hostile nations. I devour dark shapes, leftover
snow. a shopping bag of mixed thoughts. I cannot tell you what
they are. they have nothing to do with words. the question of
invisibility was not an important one. I knew what to do.
April 12, 1994
he could tell you things I have tried to forget. I was comforted by
clinging to the jagged rock. still, may all of your fundraisings be
successful. connections being everything. I know I can finally be
myself. accept thousands of dollars from nuns. sleep with two cats
in my ex-lover's bed. trade with Asia. you would think I'm lonely
enough. a small deer staggers from the forest. out of the bushes.
out of thickets of hair. I'm not drunk enough to be lonely. in the
story there was a honeymoon. a seventies wedding. all the guests
have slept with either the bride or the groom. the manuevers of
denial that sustain optimism. all my thoughts are stolen.
April 13, 1997
he could live on air if he could get some. in the film different people
talk about their eyes. a variety of injuries. you think your eyes are
invulnerable. so you become nauseous when you think about it. so
he eats raw vegetables and stops having sex. because he is the hero
and because he complains so much. you expect him to get well or
die blind in one eye. because vision is a passive experience. like
going to the movies. light pours into each eye. there was a woman
in the film who slept with her eyes open. she had to tape them shut
so she could cry. the eye needs tears or it goes blind. he says what
I look at is important. because I don't remember what I don't see.
April 14, 1997
God says I'm still curious even though I know everything. they
would take the story from me and then they would clap. effort to
attribute family and church. to embrace poverty. instead of the sun
coming up and involuntarily breathing. abilities to relate. to flap
and paradox and hang with people exiled in suffering. to flip and
turn. God says I lie in bed and I can't quite get what I'm doing
here. I do it because I've been asked to. all those prayers get on my
nerves. I used to think it was interesting. tell me more about
miraculous love. not based on what you come up with but what
finds you. deep in your body. your suffering body.
April 15, 1997
God says when you sit alone in your house. your books tell you
you're alive and can live, that there are moments that will be perfect.
how do you do it? the connection to the dead. their glorious grace.
something beyond what can be described. I try not to describe
because when I do it happens just as I describe it. where do you
think that ladder came from? when I described dancing people
invented knives. inventing beauty I made the ocean and fishermen
drown. I tell this story and a rhythm pulls each body down. this is
the origin of heaven. which is why I am not happy where I live and
why I keep walking around you with my big mouth shut.
April 16, 1997
she said I never enjoyed attics. neighbors who lean like clouds who
are bored and shy. he said two pianos like me still miss you. they
play songs of dust when you sleep. his mother said if you drink
coffee you will spin like a ceiling fan. her father said I enjoy each
photo as I am so lovely when I stand next to you. her brother said if
you're lost in a city, follow the tracks to the railway junction. his
sister said all the trains are gone and we are inconsolable. so the
track snakes around the attics of the heart. past the tiny house which
represents our home. tiny pictures of us in the windows. which is
all of us a long time ago. which was washed away by flood.
April 17, 1997
God says they want safe food. I give them peppers and fat. but for
your birthday you will have one night of perfect pool. if the rich
colors remind you of rats you should not complain. they will bring
you luck which you need because I know. God asks are you dead
yet? I need your apartment. are you asleep? I need your bed.
Night Ranger is playing at the House of Blues. I love those guys. I
love everybody. I'm sorry I haven't been answering your prayers.
I've been busy. so can I borrow your legs? I want to go dancing.
feel beautiful and old. wear a rayon shirt and dance real bad. let
them put my love in a cookbook. it will always come out wrong.
April 18, 1997
in the movie you have to root for the forces of evil. everyone is
crooked. they march around in circles. into walls. expensive
automobiles. numb with potential. there is a white man who can
appear in two places at once. he used to have cancer. now he hands
the mechanic a knife. the mechanic kills two people. turns into a
saxophone player who murders his wife. dreams come true in
California. so what do you want? the white man leans against the
mechanic like he is kissing him. he is telling him a secret. stay if
you want to. light folds into the evening air. it will come back
dirty. no one is ashamed. it is a loop. another word for trap.
April 19, 1997
to be successful in your job, try not to be against anything. go
someplace warm. a person's sense of identity depends upon a
continuity in his surroundings, habits, relations with others. once
you have shown your support, the threat of coercion usually
weakens. you can suggest ways to make it even better. open up the
tired eyes. each and every one. to the route that is understood.
people are naturally suspicious. two clocks that don't work. which
tick in a world without trust. which doesn't need any. describe it as
breezes, chuckles at jokes no one else gets. like history or protons
or choice. this long silence. which is the origin of leisure. or joy.
April 20, 1997
so if it is a secret. or a plan that has been buried. immense and
pale. past midnight. little smudge of moon behind the clouds. he
was arguing the difference between ignoring and forgetting. how
forgetting carries with it a sense of loss. photographs of people you
no longer remember. like their names he says. so I left the dog out.
and all my uncles were tangled in birdspeech. saying this does not
come easily. they were pretending there was a song or dust. I spent
weeks inventing a story. to make the world liveable. but when
something is ignored it grows stronger. the more it is ignored. until
something ruptures. a house you are lonely to get back to.
April 21, 1997
she smiled. so we avoided storms and were happy. if we believe in
our own lies, are we deceiving others when we speak? Levi says a
person who has been wounded blocks out memory. a person who
has committed a crime pushes the memory down so as not to feel
guilt. it is the same mechanism. which is terrible but who knew?
we had to stay in the same room together. after we had decided
never to see one another again. so I called room service and
demanded another husband. medium rare this time. although the
steak was delicious he ate less than half his food. I couldn't sleep
so I slept on the floor. and I dreamt we had never met at all.
April 22, 1997
every day he would walk during the dry periods. a fur of trees.
what seemed to be the top was only an edge. so he walked slowly
down. there was a way, the letter said. the noise we don't want to
hear. so we make it louder. open the window. there's traffic
noise. falling in the snow. of pacing. of you, or thoughts of you.
that I still have. that I want to return. he thought about calling.
when he did he went out for a walk. so. he thought so I want to
describe the sheets as made of ice. and the bed in pieces like
crushed stone. but they weren't. and I have trouble saying this to
you. and when the clouds lifted the mountains came out.
April 23, 1997
I'm wearing a suit again. so lean right on the train as it takes the
curve above traffic. fight with your roommate like you'll never
work again. like the architecture of my heart I don't want to admit
where it came from. old documents converge with newer ones. I
read the fire marsall's instructions again. drink bad coffee again. a
bad novel by a brilliant novelist. a database with an answer for
everything. I call my mom in the hospital again. this work will
outlive all of us. which is why we hate it so much. the most
important thing a parent can do is teach their children about death.
I'm working for accountants again.
April 24, 1997
cats influence weather. insects live inside my body. it'll never stop
raining. dogs teach pigeons how to gather. fish impregnate clouds.
when it rains we want to swim. if you don't have a pet you will
never fall in love. if you don't know how to cook you will never
get married. if you move into a smaller apartment you will hate your
body. when you watch tv crocodiles climb through your bathroom
window, eat all of your toothpaste. they need it more than you.
bring your children to work and leave them there. that will teach
them a lesson. and they will never close the zoo. and they will
never feed the animals what they want. and it'll never stop raining.
April 25, 1997
the soul mumbles like an old man. I need a rabbi quick the soul
cries. in the knowledge of buildings. how they come apart like
clocks. cranky, the soul looks at your watch. wonders what it's
doing here. wanting to go home already. it wrestles with your
body when you sleep. writes letters to the editor. I hate my job you
tell it. I want to quit it says. so the editors of night come and
rewrite each of your dreams. the soul longs to join them but they're
too busy. there is sex and angels with swords of fire. so the soul
makes the body fat and watch bad tv. and the rabbis toss like old
men. who are helpless as the soul goes on strike, gets stronger.
April 26, 1997
then lean. lean like a building who misses you. whose windows
are kept open for you. as birds fly into the kitchen for you. eat
crusts of bread thinking of you. fly out like breath for you. each
breath that belongs to you. like a ghost who sings to you. whose
arms are like smoke inside of you. angels who fall out of heaven
for you. nothing stays inside you. so lean like the house that
shelters you. whose floors ache to walk with you. lean like
someone who remembers you. like the birds and the ghosts and the
angels and the houses who sing of time and loss and still love you.
like each memory inside of you. so that I can remember you.
April 27, 1997
there is a good waiter in this restaurant who like god will not help
you. no matter how much you try to get his attention. you will
never be at his station. saints climb down from stained glass
windows. so is there anything to eat around here? do you want
dinner or the police over for dinner? eating lasagna. feed them
peaches and they will kill anyone you want. no questions asked.
mad generals across the Styx buying fuses. table three. wondering how
to blast their way back. love god or else he'll fire you and steal your
children. there is a busboy who will take care of you. jesus says
get used to the earth. you're going to be here awhile.
April 28, 1997
three universities and a world famous orchard garden will not block
his path. roller coaster swaps. burning cities on the evening news.
because he loves his work he invents the repeating circle, later used
in measuring the arc of the meridian. it's finally warm outside. she
can eat lunch, stare at the seasons across from the bank. where she
doesn't work but dreams about work. there is nothing to see. if
you break a window in a skyscraper you will be sucked out into the
sky and lose your job. she is reading a novel that is full of countries
which no longer exist. because she is lost she is looking for him.
his work on the moon guided sailors home. it couldn't hurt to try.
April 29, 1997
he says all of my children are train stations. he shows me a
schedule. here are their pictures. so I show him my receipts and
say I come from a proud family. the cop shows us her nightstick
and says so do I. so we cross the street to the library. I say look at
all those orphans. he shows me a radio and says divorce is terrible.
the sanitation engineer empties the trash and says he never feels
lonely anymore. the secretary says my marriage is one hour long so
I never talk during my lunch break. pigeons wonder what they did
wrong. the window washer looks down from his scaffold and
blesses us with holy water. sometimes I feel like god he yells.
April 30, 1997
in the painting the train represents an idea that emerges from the
fireplace. in another there is a red circle where the sun can't be,
surrounded by a forest without shadows. a lot of boxes with old
newspaper clippings behind glass are little museums of loss. so in
the larger museum we stroll. which is in turn surrounded by even
larger museums. with water fountains and shops. with guards who
idly assess us. full of things we do not own and are not allowed to
touch. so I sit at a table beside a fireplace. and I listen for a train.
and the sky is orange with an invisible sun. and I begin to collect
boxes. in which I will put all the things I have not yet lost.
The title of this ongoing work is tentative. In this section, the author wrote one ten-line prose poem a day for the month of April, 1997.
Return to Light and Dust Poets.
Light and Dust Mobile Anthology of Poetry.