Five Poems

by Harry Polkinhorn

whatever fire touches it changes forever

even the fire of language burning through tongues
that spontaneously combust against the darkness
so when I burst into flamey love
you must have changed unbeknownst to yourself,
pointlessly planting seeds in your secrecy
which even you could easily ignore,
concentrated instead on the texture of glitter,
mute visual signs removed from an interior
where slow or sudden shifts in your cell structure
proceeded but not in time or quite the way
to stop your old guarded self from intoning
its sad broken refrain cut off
from the darker waters within

whatever fire touched you must have burned
upon your unhealed heart riven by sadness
the loss of love before we ever met
then visited upon me years later caught
between an unburied past and the bright miracle
of an illuminated phrase so that you failed
again in spite of yourself now left to wonder
how the very apotheosis of your dreams
could turn to ashes, turn to dust
to be scattered before a rising wind
heard by all present who then burst into songs of joy,

all, that is, except you who've withdrawn
driven off in your expensive automobile
black like a lacquered coffin, windows up
and sunglasses perfectly in place sealing you away
from the power of grace in the world

as you move off confidently to the isle of the dead

So that you can see a profile

of what I must love, since learning
what you love has proved so difficult
I dreamed my way through each of our lives
as figures for who we might have become
given a different angel at the door.

I had to leave although it seemed you did
for you to complete yourself through incompletion,
genuine chaos of feelings, only to discover
after you'd crept away in the middle
of the night like a thief
that you were and are alone again
unable to give or receive these offerings
unless suffused with the glow of gold.

Having listened to bad advice
blossoms. One by one they tumble
to the grass. A deep grace
breathes through things, telling me at last
it's good that you are gone. My
work is done. Today I can rest
and enjoy the beauty of creation
glad to be alive and thankful
to be able to see and hear
this utterly lovely place.

You who once meant everything
have dwindled to a speck that's vanishing.

It's cool here beneath the cloud cover.

A summary of love amounts to wind
through the libraries and stock exchanges.
No one can forgive you, only a superior force
somehow equivalent to your many denials
and no wonder. No wonder.

Don't turn to me for an excursus
on words or mirrors, because a spirit
breathes through things deeply. It is good.

You chose the dog path, so when you laugh
glass breaks. Watch out for falling shards.
Human beings are not countable. We don't
quite tally. When you move
through your daily scene geography
does not equal space.
Each spot pops into focus, or stays
blurred as you rush past on your way
nowhere in particular, but quickly, quickly.

Grieving your death, I didn't drop out
of the blue, but burned myself in a hot blast
until my voice failed.

It's a kind and gentle world without you.
Everywhere I look there are flowers blossoming --
in people's eyes, and phone booths flowing with their aroma!
The beach rises up like the tide.

Even as you slammed the door
you asked if I'd leave it open,
not understanding doors, or windows.
It's a game with air.
Here the rules don't apply.

Your move.

perhaps it was the time that mattered

when I stopped trying to predetermine
how each line would unfold but felt
my way along day by day so that
when you woke up or fell asleep another
door swung slowly open upon a chance
to change your life or have it change
inside you whether or not I was there
because at the crucial moment you couldn't
imagine a life together and so you killed
something in yourself, expanding the dead spot
outwards like a growing sea of numb
comfort but I don't blame you since
only through opening myself up another notch
were you set free to make your choice

and you chose to go having forgotten
all our tender times, having forgotten
what respect can do
forgetting has become your dominant
but it's a kind of death
or preparation for last things
through general shut-down of the mind

perhaps you've come to reconsider
from a distance beyond the grave
that sunlight and firelight, body of love
dancing through your veins even in
my absence, the fact that I can
go on making gifts for you might
mean something in its own strange way

I'm expanding against the dark you're lost in

I'm sending back messages to the past

I always remember the dead

let's not forget that here

a few people came and went
intent on their schemes and dreams
specular hungry deep roses
of which she is exemplary

out of the well of feeling,
out of time
in order to be elevated
she went to the flowers
humbled and weeping

she too was a person
among that variety
my mind returns daily
to our natural home

here there are no doors
to walk out of, even though
people will move in later
loaded with lamentations

she decided to count
her objects and compare
them to mine
count herself off in units
of loathing until evening
and its silent terror
the terror of falling petals
so tenderly they fall
one by one inevitably
until the tree stands bare
exposed to gray air

© 1994 by Harry Polkinhorn

Return to Top .