A trout moves up into moonlight
and sucks life from the surface of his pool.
The life knows of nothing larger below it,
but is gone before it is aware of life.
Each day, year beyond year, the river dimples.
We are folded into our desks, ears clamped to a wire,
fingers tapping tabulations.
This morning we two are washing
our upstairs windows, a yearly drudge--
you indoors, and I out on a ladder.
Each otherís face appears begrimed
through window after window
as we wiggle them free from
their filthy aluminum tracks.
We do lose our patience, letís admit,
if the other of us turns imperfect
somehow or startles the first
with a near-fall or a near-drop.
Danger and caution are dancing.
Suburban cleanliness fails to fool me.
I feel underneath this dayness an expansive
nightness where oneís essence may freely
float between shadows of shadows
or bask in uncanny glimmers of glory,
having seen no shape, thought no thought.
Day distracts us. When we think to be
simply washing windows, an inner
mysteriousness guides our hands
from far behind our eyes. Day has
dangers, but night is as safe as Allness.
Wipe your glass clean, yes, but be not
deceived by what you see through it.
I could settle for a diet of only days--
our windows, their cleaning, shaky ladders,
plus countless other depthless decoys that
dwellers of the eye have come to accept.
But I wonít.
I must be soft into knowingless night,
where quiet bumpings and strange
bewilderments flow, merge, disappear.
My appetite is for the fruit of freedom
growing upon hidden trees of maybe.
Wipe your window, yes, in bright daylight--
but I insist on washing my side with night.
The fish have no word for water, I wrote.
That is true and untrue.
They have a word for warm water, tesga,
cool water, tesbril, uncomfortably cold water, batesbril,
and uncomfortably hot water, batasga.
They have a word for moving water, whas, still water, blu,
water moving so fast it carries you away, babawhas,
water so still it doesn't carry away wastes, basnef.
There is no word for clean water; to say that
they must say not-polluted water, nosnef-shi.
But nothing is as clear-cut as I've suggested.
After all, fish have a different culture from ours.
The word for water carrying a pheromone
of fish of the other sex is fuspiwawa.
(Gay fish use fuspiwawa to mean water carrying
a pheromone of fish of the same sex.) But fuspiwawa
really only may mean the pheromone itself.
Likewise tesga, tesbril, batasga, batesbril
may only mean warm, cool, hot, or cold. If so,
fish have no word for water.
Dead, in the center of a web
stretched across the glass door,
a spider, brown recluse,
splays flat as a hide
drying on a hunter's line.
Weeks go by,
neither wind nor rain
shakes the web loose.
I reach for the broom,
yet cannot destroy it.
Each time, a new pattern appears,
a different thread,
a link not seen before,
as in a letter
written by a suicide.
In the quiet darkness
screeching tires flee
the crackling sound of fire.
Flames spit sparks across the night,
pierce the side of heaven,
smoke hangs heavy from the cross until it falls
then spreads to choke the air.
Splintering timbers gash the ground like thorns.
Press on my forehead ashes
from another church torched by hate.
Forgive my silence.
Let this be the conflagration
that burns each remaining timber
of prejudicial thought,
the stained glass pictures of "the other"
I've been taught,
my penchant for listening passively
to venomous jokes,
for not even noticing
the thousand slights to others
or privileges of pale skin -
Let this hot fire incinerate
my fear of speaking out,
of taking action when I should.
Lord, walk me through the ashes of this night,
fanning embers into flames of love.
("Ash Wednesday Again" was published
in Horizons (Mar/April 1997).
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