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Archive for June, 2008
By Roy Dean Doughty
Here, the terrestrial is no soft girl redolent
With delicate, droopy leaves and mushy
Mammalian processes. Instead, she is a lean,
Motionless frame of rocks on rocks, exposures
Of bone dried down to a stump of fine,
Reptilian sage. Pheromones of impossibly distant
Geologic eras are now astringently squeezed
Out of distances and grandeurs dauntingly
Indescribable to the eye, but still sensed,
In-scented, by that which we were â€” are â€”
In desert atmospheres extant before
The merely three-dimensional dominated.
The medium of language struggles here,
And that being, who was and is the first-born
Of the ethers, endows us with capacities
Inherent in his special, ancestral nature.
â€œWhat is coeval is also eternal,â€ he tells us.
When the roots of everything cogitable disappear,
We realize that in the dry, stratifications
Of these red-rock monuments there are
Also odor-stratifications, the remains of
The expulsions of millennia of wastes â€”
Extinctions of whole genera, which somehow,
This morning, transcend the peeled blue
Of the immaculate sky and the keen edges
Of the visible rocks, and make invisible mountains
From erotic essences that rise up again on slender,
Glass-like legs, and silently slip through this
Brilliant sun-bleached stillness,
Dragging a scaly tail through dry perfumes.
By Roy Dean Doughty
For a long time after this Event, we do not
Even know that we have been submerged,
Or that the quick-trigger timer of the explosive
Brain can instantly blast us into trance.
Spilled constantly into these trickeries
Of perception, which happen in the ringing
Silence following detonation, we mistake
Depression for elevation, and think ourselves
On the peak of a divide, where all the tears
Run down in different directions, not rising
To the sun, but racing pell-mell to be
Perpetually at sea, perpetually under the sea.
But something is happening in this ocean,
Or in the explosion, which created it.
The images of father, mother, lover, child,
Disintegrate, and certain radioactive charges
Arise, gamma photons, which can penetrate
The trance. It is then that we see,
Perhaps for an instant only, the bodyâ€™s
Authentic shape in these benthic realms?
The sub aqueous chamber becomes clear,
And the slits at the top â€” our aspirations â€”
Begin to leak a little light from heaven.
We stand on tiptoe and peer out.
Is it night, or is there something wrong with our eyes?
Then the trajectory completes its arc,
And the translucent porosity of the skin
Is perceived again as a wall. Yet, even after returning
To sleep, we can still recall a waxing three-quarters-moon,
A small armada of westward swimming stars,
The long, pellucid streak of a cloud, all those
High oddities seemingly bigger than trance,
And we see a few rays shoot down, and penetrate
A little way into the dark masses of restless waves.
Here is the woman in labor, and this Event,
Fluidic, although lachrymal, makes us believe,
If only for a single second of wedded grief and ecstasy,
That we have actually been born.
By Roy Dean Doughty
Why is it that even in country so desolate
That they bother to name and post a sign
For a town with a population of one,
Where the grasslands roll and pitch
To horizons seldom blighted by a tree,
And where the streams are so austere that their banks
Can hardly sprout a single willow, why is it,
That in this episcopate of isolation,
Where a wild ungulate can rest in a sea of green,
Not even thinking Â“mate,Â” let alone Â“herd,Â”
Why is it that here, even here, we still have
The feeling of being replicated? And who is this
Duplication, so like a pillar of invisibility,
Who can rust tight the arms of old windmills,
So that the wind just thumps at them
Without inciting a single spin? And why is it
That this divergence splits the mind, one half
An intensity of transactive memory, older
Than speech, and one half a vaguely familiar
Foreigner, tall, graceful, his or her emptiness
Mutated by a small number of specialized cells,
Which secretly fashion this eternal division of labor?
Why is it that in this place, where the human
Is still so rare, that somehow numberless shadows
Can fall from just one person, as if a whole city
Of abandoned dreams could still be peopled
By this everlasting wind.
By Roy Dean Doughty
The traveler cuts his ascent up and through the backs
Of the Sierras, reticular clouds layering gray and white
Dollops over peaks mottled with the last of winterÂ’s snows,
The red and grey fellsÂ’ severity only interrupted
Tentatively by thin black, spades of spruce.
Here, the traveler, watching indigo jays acrobat through
The nearly barren trellises of blasted pine,
At last stops scheming to modify the world
To his advantage. The quarrelsome deceits
Of the urban planners fade from his mind,
And all of his dexterous justifications drift
Like ashes across the phrase: Â“Yes, yes,
I have seen too little, and have hurled too much
Iron on the feathery ways of heaven,Â” Now,
He comes, perhaps for the first time, to his
Tragic role, without those usual twinges
Of citified breathlessness, his suddenly-agendas
Shrinking to minutia among these enormous splendors,
His mind growing empty and his senses sharp.
What could he possibly think now, as the birds slash purples
Through the emptiness of the foreground,
While the immense motifs of the mountains
Group inhumanly behind? And what could he possibly
Feel now when that state of consciousness predicated
On all the uncertainties of maybe is seized
By the jayÂ’s agility and streaked across this ageless grandeur?
Certainly he will still be ascending, up,
And further up, when something quick releases him
For an instant finally long enough to savor.
By Roy Dean Doughty
The late spring heat seems to have angered
The oleanders to trumpet white flowers
From their contentious leaves. Already,
The resinous husks of their burst seed pods
Barbarously litter the crumbling cement.
It is clear: We are at war.
Before the city had disciplined us to its more
Astringent functions, we used to perceive
These intense arousals another way.
Those were the years preceding the insurrection,
When our sense of identification had not been
So blunted by these clutters of civilizing symptoms.
But now, our vast social mechanism, smooth
Enough in its outer workings, has effectively
Eliminated those primitive modalities.
We no longer feel a thing for these white blossoms.
We stand before them completely unashamed.
Although it is treasonous to suggest it,
Perhaps we were happier with that old collaboration,
Now vilified as appeasement. Perhaps the optic
Pleasure made up for the hectic mess.
But now we are inundated by an inert mass
That stubbornly resists our push to own it.
Why wonâ€™t these blossoms join the other
Antagonists, the carnival mobs, the image makers,
The police in league with the corporate greenhouse looters?
Why do their pallid lips, unkissing, keep sighing,
â€œWithout our babies, your own babies die.â€
Well, that is the way war is, more human, than humane.
But now, we have to initiate long series of complicated
Processes in lieu of what was once a single step:
Happiness triggered by seeing white with green.
By Roy Dean Doughty
In the evening, the sun, falling into hazy
Yellows and lavenders, its last lights parsed
By the hushed chatterings of big sycamore
Leaves, throws our shadows eastward
Toward a dawn we may or may not
Wake to see. We find our identities
Blurring with a particular level of
Consciousness, not that of any one being
Or entity, but that of a euphonious
Aggregate, a many-manyness shuffling
Gently through the trees. That inhospitable
Plateau, so high, so arid, of the merely human,
With its histories of tight smiles, which speak of
Sparse vegetation and mechanical fatalities,
Is submersed in deeper, more primordial empathies.
The sun, the colors, the shifting,
Whispering leaves, have successfully
Completed their abortifacient activities,
And the incomplete one is drawn back,
Not merely to the womb, but to the instant
Before conception, where the path in is the path
Down, down amid calamitous waves,
Upon whose murderous sarcasms,
The divine survivor walks. This he, this she,
Is the light, the resplendent light of the world.
Now the calm of evening, the slight breeze stirring
The trees, tell us that we, too, have survived
The shipwreck of another day, and that mundanely,
Miraculously, we walk on water again,
To the sweet haven of our waiting beds.