BY RUTH DAIGON
MUSINGS ON THE BLACK AND WHITE KEYS
Mother of alphabets
you call me from the under skin of sleep
beyond the dream of dust and drought
of spring floods and rings of fire.
You store in the heart's hollow
a perfect memory never-to-be-completed.
Your soft-skinned inner arms
begin the story of our lives
You teach me how to enter the day
how to be quiet
marooned in a tongue of shade
where there's no sound as startling as silence.
I know what I know:
how the seasons insist and encourage,
how dark eyes of water glitter through grass in the spring
how thw hearts tugs at the end of September
when even the mildest breeze float leaves down
how December's crust leads me back
to frozen footsteps and idling light.
Snake dancing before the blaze
I'm blanketed by winds
protected by cave shadows
but if I step out of the circle
the earth worm will find me
Better the cactus and its thorny geometric
than the night-blooming orchid.
Better a damaged day of almost spring
expanding without limits than a safe haven
austere and silent.
There is no such thing as no such thing
and I am oracle and secret
like a lone feather on the breath of a wind
or the spider that spins a retreat but no web,
or a moment of pure waiting.
since I have learned not to kill them
things have been easier
though I prefer my ghosts
to inhabit the dark
if they come by day
I'll leave all the doors open
I watch them mouthing secrets
smiling as if there were two heavens
I recall simple equations in the heart's circumference
each sum exquisitely fixed in my memory
women in sweet and sudden rages
for fear the future comes when they're not looking
children claustrophobic in their skins
fanning out like fish bones
younglings piercing love's delicate membrane
to taste the fleshy center
friends in the gray solfeggio of autumn
and the ritual smile
in their company the hours pass
until a spill of sun a sweep of shade
and under the ashen stars
my dead are growing old
THE OPEN EYE OF THE LENS
Women know how to wait.
They smell the dust
listen to light bulbs dim
and guard the children
pale with dreaming.
They hear danger
tapping along walls
and edges of the city
bruising the landscape.
Down long corridors
they whisper to each other
of alarm bells
and balanced crosses
shrouded eyes and empty stars
while the moon inside them
takes a slow, silver breath.
sleepless among the sleeping
moves from room to room.
Testing the weather of her breath
she stands in the cold kitchen
each pot in place
and looks through the window.
She has no other dress except
the one mother made.
Walks in serious shoes
and when she's tired
sips scalding tea.
Joining all those mute
and smiling women
she keeps her heart
hidden in her fist.
At night she listens to sounds
prowling through the dark.
Eyes shut, hands folded
she practices dying until
light prods her awake.
Now, tones thin as reeds
stroke her ears
echoes of windows nailed shut
waves of parents washing away
names refusing to let go.
she sorts them, separates them
stores them in earth
shards for diggers yet to come.
AND THE BLIND
And the blind whisper to each other
in thin voices. They ask me to describe darkness.
I begin with the charred edge of the sea
winds trapped in caves, a wheel turning
away from itself. I have gone into
the hollow place behind my eyes, the outer
edge of sight moving on white lizard feet.
No longer blinded by the visible,
the world is nearer in the dark.
A HAIRLINE FRACTURE
Stunned by morning, she slips out of bed
Stands barefoot on the cold tile
Looks into the mirror
suddenly aware of her skull, jaw
and bones just below the surface
She's a skeleton clothed in flesh and thought
waiting for wonder
vivid with longing.
Last night, she watched sunset
until the lost colors of evening
Then in the narrowing hours she imagined
stars with fins, stars with feet
the bone white eye of the moon
and in a trance of blue-veined dreams
she's lost in the Museum of Natural History
with feather, wing, shell
the black center of time
and the salt wash of the sea
Away from the stone music of the street
away from the empty eyes of ancestors
and the great noise of it all, she sits
hollow-boned with the midnight people
as the owl's outspread wings shadow the earth
(Memory…a temporary constellation binding a set of sensory images into a momentary sensation of a remembered whole. Daniel L. Schrager)
While the dark grooms its fur,
we, fixed in the present,
dream meadowlands of the past
where unknown faces rise
and sink .
Nothing's ever remembered whole ,
windy images swimming in darkness,
misplaced summers when the golden sun splashed our faces
or a cold congress of leaves
and a scruff of earth could mean any autumn
No honey of comfort in old memories
No clear and certain sounds
of parents with life in their mouths telling stories
they can never quite recall
only the rustle of words just before words
circling in upon themselves
where we walk one step at a time
our fists full of cold stones
Ghost voices return
speaking another language
half heard half forgotten
We work at remembering what to keep
and what to throw away
before the absent ones come back in dreams
wearing our faces
with terrible new smiles
entering familiar rooms only to discover
unfamiliar food served by unfamiliar mothers
not in a known past but in stopped time
until a resonance opens the dark world
where only the moon is continuous
Let us speak to one another
In the voice of our ancestors
and the lazy lineage of history
lets us listen to prized inflections
and marvel at the stubborness of space
for the stetl is everywhere
glowing days follow pale nights
and since no one here is guaranteed heaven
our apples fall to the warm promise of earth
we meet out of our elements
spinning substance to substance
one strand at a time
we are foster children of silence
searching for a clear tone
sustained for one long measure
before the jet sluice of night.
As the body's laid out,
we stand at attention
waiting for the clearest light
and then sharpen our instruments.
First the eyes removed
to see what was seen,
ear probed to hear what was heard,
then, the heart dissected
to find what was missed.
It takes time to cut tenderly
into the bone and sinew
of the past, each knife stroke
a loving incision.
There is no entrance.
And when the body's exposed,
we climb inside,
pull closed the flaps of skin
and slowly heal ourselves.