Two Poems from



Don Wellman



The red river flows into the desert
Pinpoints -- meal scattered on the waves flares
in roseate swirls, engulfing the sea
So the dead pass
                             The oars turn into sails
Dancing rocks grind the soft ledge
Always biting more deeply
Basins, black-rimmed in the moon-flood
where the stream has been diverted
to power the mills

                                                     Chattering, oiled knives
Mere shadows weave cotton ticking, bandaging
The hosts lie on the shore in unmade beds, half-awake
counting the little stars, desiring more
A universe of whole numbers

The nurse turns from the fire to the iced window
Her reflections devour the forest
A doe leaps over the burning hedge
Branches reaching up to catch her, dissolve
                                             ascending in a column

The eagles soar, crying
She dispenses broad specifics, menthol, aloes
The glass becomes water, the water a door into the rock
Responding to the light, a shadow
scales the crystalline face

                                             A sail, frozen
in windless waters -- wedge that divides
time past from time
to come



In the green wood, blue cosmos joins yellow earth
On the globe, projected as a plane, blue squares
                                     and red lit with yellow track a storm
Among the three rivers, a white line from navel to breastbone
                             branches at the collar bone

Black is the presence of transition
Wood that is white in the grain, fire reduces to ash
The third river is red; its line, parallel to that of the white,
                         runs toward the offering bowl

Where the path branches, enter the bush
Place the medicine in the crotch of a forked stick
White sap under the red bark

Know that a black hulled ship passes by night over the horizon
Bearing one whose beard is red gold to his wife, the moon

Among the three rivers, gold, yellow, brown are red
Blue, an ample white
Green, like fire, is red
                     where the dying light quickens the marsh grass

Among cabled villages, green is black
Secrets unravel where none were before
                         passing like mold spore through the conduits of night
Whitenoise is a dryness before death

Eating some mushrooms after sunset
an ancestor spirit
infects the heart of an unobservant descendant

To eat, to secrete
Red of meat, white of teeth that smile in welcome
To hide is black, that one schemes in feast or fast

To consecrate, the air is white
Discriminate, the rivers do not mix, but each runs in its channel
                     toward two wisdoms: one of the hand, and one of the mind
The apple when its skin is red, the flesh is white

White in the polar regions of coldest thought
                 is a form of absence made visible
Sap spurts from the neck of the white cock
A black place where two rivers issue

Male and female, each with its own laws, each with laws in common
In the male who roars like a bull, the genitals shrink
                             to resemble those of a child
Better that the first menses stain white sheets
                 than a wound freshly bandaged

A woman may show her knees when raising richly furled skirts
The man sways from the waist down only
In each, blood swells the heart muscle, breath spends its force

Semen and milk equally distend the vein
The taste of blood oranges dances equally in the throats of those who
                 behold the figures
sweeping in circles under the stars

The rivers conjoin only above the fork, north of north
Only in the recesses of a cave, that is red like a throat and south of the
                         center, do male and female conjoin
At one pole fife begins, at the other it ends

rivers separately entwined
do not mix but are one
upon a ground
invisible to eyes


"Three Rivers draws upon Victor Turner's "Color Classification in Ndembu Ritual" in The Forest of Symbols.


FIELDS, published by Light and Dust Books.

Copyright 1995 by Don Wellman.


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