It’s 12 degrees the night air slices through my sweater my teeth chatter. Standing in the lot fetching my cell phone from the glove box my breath congeals around my face a cloud. I look up at the moon snowflakes dancing on my forehead. Luna’s face is shrouded by a cirrus veil, but her eyes are yours her lips soft caressing curl upwards in a smile as yours. I tell her of my love and she whispers her love reflectively in the voice I hear as I curl next to your picture slipping slowly into sleep.
Richard Wilbur lives in Massachusetts and in Key West, Florida according to his dust jackets. If you set sail westward from San Diego you may find your dream of China, of the endless wall which draws the stares and wonder more foreboding more forbidden even than the city, which you visit to sate yourself of lights, sirens and the blood heat of steam grates. It is far easier than digging and far less dirty, and the walls of the sea rise more slowly. Once it was a risky journey the danger of the edge looming over the horizon, but then digging was no option, pushing deeper with your crude shovel, knees bloody, until, at last, you broke through with dreams of the dragon as you fell into the limitless void. Now you sail with dreams of the Pacific sky, although water has no need of names. The poet has grandchildren now, and it is to them to dream of the China that was.
First appeared in Midnight Mind, Number Two (2001) and again in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, (2008)
In dreams I write letters to dead heroes beginning each Dear __________: I apologize for the intrusion but in your next life will you do the same, give up the desk in the patent office for dreams of brothers twins, one moving one fixed, stand before a jury, no testament to the Lower East Side. I carefully fold each letter and put on proper postage but delivery across the curtain of mortality is slow and your responses have not been forthcoming but I will continue to write for there are always more with whom to correspond.
It is that moment when the moon is a glaring crescent, slowly engulfed by the impending night — when the few clouds give out their fading glow In the jaundiced light of the sodium arc street lamp.- It nestles the curb — at first a small bird — when touched, a twisted piece of root
I want to walk into the weed-strewn aging cemetery, stand in the shadow of the expressway, peel the uncut grass from around her head- stone. I remember her arthritic hands clutching mine, in her dark, morgueish apartment, smelling of vinyl camphor borsht I saw her last in a hospital bed where they catalog and store those awaiting death, stared at the well-tubed skeleton barely indenting starched white sheets. She smiled wanly and whispershouted my name — I held my ground unable to cross the river of years unwilling to touch her outstretched hand. She had no face then, no face now, only an even fainter smell of age of camphor of lilac of must
Next to the polished headstone lies a small, twisted root. I wish it were a bird, I could place gently on the lowest branch of the old maple that oversees her slow departure.
First appeared in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 30, No. 1-2, 2006 and in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, 2008.
In the night what I am perched on the edge of sleep you appear, just out of the dream shadows, avoiding the light, you are featureless. I call to you and I think you must be smiling but your voice is the wind through the Austrian pines and the drip from the ever shrinking icicles that slowly abandoned the eaves of the house.
He lies on the steam grate under a thin blanket and plastic garbage bags, sleeping soundly lulled by vibrations of a passing car, back to the Ellipse and grand white house, oblivious to footfalls of tourists and joggers. Steam seeps upward through his tattered clothes, he is back in-country, lying at the fringe of the jungle, awash in sounds, neat cast up from furnace earth, cutting through fatigues and the heavy canvas and steel toes of the boots, into skin, to pool on muscles held taut, twitching at the first heard whoop of chopper blades or stirring of branches and flora in still summer air which hangs, a shroud. Sun rises slowly, bathing the obelisk in a faint peach glow, he rolls, crushing the fading, wrinkled photo of three boys lost, from a different world, standing in beer soaked mirth, leaning on rifles. One night, trees oozed forth shadows, black angels, and his hand resting in a pool of blood and viscera with whom he had roamed the bars of Saigon and Bangkok, invincible knights before their armor turned to rust.
The night was ripped by the lightning, the thunder piercing our dreams, awakening us to the shadow’s play on the skylight shades. As I slip back into sleep the gods turn their backs and continue to argue well into morning.