SAN FRANCISCO TWILIGHTS
ONE: THE MANY-CITIED WORD
The heart of the word splits open
In the night air, ink and smoke
Out of the gothic wells of sleep.
Sea-voices, blue voices,
White bells rolling down the hills,
Hyancinth and lilac,
To the smokestacks.
Oracles of the thrush -
Emerald gorges, cities of breath,
Waterfalls of silk -
Invisible birds dive through dreams
Into the solitude of your breast,
Where ghost-suns flicker
Under leaves of crystal,
Buried in caverns of tears,
Your eyes in the dark silver light,
Hours of rain turning in secret letters
To your face,
The darkest song of the season,
Gospel of stones
Speaking the language of dead leaves
And empty streets,
The winds come home to your heart.
Moments between dusk and darkness
In the haunt of animal ghosts,
The shadowlands of sleep across a white face,
Leaves behind the wind,
A sudden barking, a gull's cry.
Gothic days return,
Gargoyles carved in the rain,
Windows layered in blue-green light,
Footprints blown away from sand,
Becoming fossils in the air.
Away from the gloom of summer
Trees walk through the night
Towards the birds of autumn.
The book of dead leaves,
The bible of bone and weed,
Opens into russet and blood,
When the song of the hermit can be heard,
Rising from the fields, from lamplight,
Rising from the flesh of silence
Beneath the dark moon of her face.
Words surface from the paper
As from a white still pond:
Rabbit bones, mummified lilacs,
The sun eclipsed by crows.
Pages of shadow open
Into infinite depths of gold,
A voice of leaves from beneath the earth.
The ink of black moons
Fills the cracks in the air,
Absorbing eyes, lapping at rooftops.
The pen goes down into the paper,
As branches cross one another, singing:
The blue fields of stars,
The long grass lit by hidden crickets.
At three in the morning
The full moon passes across the bedroom window,
A white fire igniting the curtains.
Before it disappears
Its light melts our bodies
Giving ancient voices to our bones,
Giving scents to secret totems
Behind the concrete and the wails of dogs.
Lying motionless, suspended between dimensions,
I watch your face being formed
For the thousandth time
From the drifting mists
Into masks of leaf, fur, stone
Until it settles again at last
Into the melancholy sigh of your lips,
The still beauty of your brow,
The hollows of hidden flame
Deep in the seas of prehistoric sleep.
The moon haunts the clouds and freeways,
Passes into distant fields and cities,
I close the wings of my eyes
And watch you
From behind the bark of trees.
In the kitchen, I sit and listen
To the distant fog moving around the city,
To the stars that breathe out pale leaves of dust,
To the slow crumbling of sidewalks under the wind.
I listen to the faraway evening
Settling onto stones and moss,
The last light moving back into the trees.
Sometimes there is a stillness, even here,
That I can cup in my hands, like candlelight
Or water, and that is what I always listen for,
What must exist somewhere
In the hours when only the dead
Are awake and speaking to me,
As they rustle in the darkness,
The gold speech of my bones.
When I turn out the last lamp at night
My hand reaches into the blue room
Of a castle where my breath
Is painted on the air
To carry my voice
Through the dusk
On gold waves that vanish
Like the sea rippling back into itself,
Until everything that is invisible comes forth
In the stillness into which I stare
And see you sleeping.
Before the lamp goes out
And I follow my hands
To your side and sink
Into the stone room beneath the light.
The ghosts of stones inhabit
The white spaces my eyes have become.
The sirens become red owls
That fly out over the fields of waving shadow,
Where the streets end in a murmur
Of black water filled with voices.
In the night we inhale cities of smoke,
Walking towards the clouded hills,
Away from the ranting concrete,
Bending to drink the eyes of deer
From pools of pure dream.
Around us, towers of fog rise
From the sidewalks, windows
Cry out to each other
From room to room.
The trees by the freeway
Breathe out the night,
We are their shadows
Under the hurried cars.
Deep in our bones,
Where sleep has never reached,
A bleak wind blows away
The days are inhabited
By the white sand
That is our blood,
Our skeletons slowly re-enact
The history of flesh.
Words float in the air,
Serpentine and jewelled totems,
Golden insect wings,
The clustered eyes of Saturday night.
The kitchen in candlelight,
A castle of hyacinth.
Visions of rain, sleep,
A thrush deep in violet shadows.
Stillness of pastures,
The wet grass between midnight
Blood and stars on the windows,
Someday I will carry you
Like a young tree, to the woodshed,
I will lick your sap and sing
The woodcutter's dirge,
Bending over you, nymph of maple,
As the hills finally bury us.
The fall of light.
The city rises from my body.
I can see my mother's hands,
I can still feel the last time
Shells fall from my eyes
As the pages turn from her flesh
Into the dark chant of the sea
That covers her.
The graves of our living,
Copper and crystal,
Remnants of sea-nights,
Wind and ghosts holding
The house together.
The white egrets are our thoughts
As we walk the cold beaches
For the last time.
Up late, sitting with ghosts
In my mother's room,
Wrapped in dark feathers.
Breezes stir the onyx chimes,
I unlock the speech of night
And listen to the nests of bone
Crumbling beneath the bushes,
Through the songs of the crickets.
The white hands of the sea
Reach out, turning in my body
The shapes of herons that dissolve,
Becoming the deep mist
That moves out of the moss-green
Shadows of late dusk,
Changing everything into silence.
In a trance of stone,
Wandering the dunes, a wraith of sand,
I rant to the waters,
Waving my arms wildly
Into the last light.
While we sit
The room turns deep grey
The hands of the clock fall
Into piles of sand on the table
The dripping water becomes stone
Cascading into the earth
Ashes float through the air
Our dreams remember us dimly
Their ghost-fingers resting
On pages of gold
The windows covered
In years of long grass
Time opens its dead eyes
We move through dark rooms
To sleep beneath the chiming
Of the sea.
In the realm of ghosts and demons,
I can hear the pathological songs,
The slurred speech of dead poets,
See the ecstatic lips of suicide opening,
With the dark eyes of the centuries watching
Me in double vision,
States of poison,
I lift my glass again and again
I breathe the rank smoke of life
In and out,
Digging pits in my body
To bury the week,
Keeping only the unseen,
Secrets of the second shadow,
Passing out at midnight
Next to you, in the shared coffin
Of our sleep, our pale grievings
Sealed in drugs,
Awaiting the night of our
Of all light.
Mist, white dragons lifting from the bay
Into an infinity of black clouds
At dawn, the full moon over the monochrome city,
Water towers, smokestacks, hush of sleeping metal.
Deep blue air washes the condominiums,
Freeways unfold beneath chemical yellow skies,
The moon waits, omen of fall,
For the words scratched under street lights
On the Greyhound passing through
The dry husk of suburbia.
Turquoise neon, dark red jets, incandescent eyes,
Molten orange fields of industrial fog
Over the tall palms,
Under hills so distant they exist
Only as superstition.
The moon sets,
A circle of shadowed bone.
It rains forgotten words,
Windows streaked in ink,
I brood from a mask of feathers.
You are my solitude,
Into which I enter,
An ancient animal,
To find my gold oblivion.
Storm of crows,
Fall of white violets,
Shadows of lilac and mint,
Under the haunted waters,
Time and silence, pools of birdsong,
The emerald suns of summer.
I move my hands over your face
In the dusk,
Uncovering deer heads, silver bones,
Dark bird eyes, the souls of leaves.
In the depths of autumn,
Pods rattling, moon calling out
To the long stillness of the fields.
Prayer of grey antlers,
Song of weeds,
Her face lost in green echoes,
Dreaming of winter,
The hills moving down to cover her
I come to bed and
Touch you like
In front of the laundermat
At first light
Under the red clouds
I crane my neck until
My head is straight up
Even with the rest of my body.
A tongueless, ancient cry leaves
I cannot think how I have
Come to lamp posts and
Telephone poles and spinning dryers.
At this moment before full sun
Breaks over the grey houses
I inhale the sere, sickly air
And dream of cool mountain abysses,
As the moon fades
I return to the washers,
The hallucinations begin
Where they left off,
And all the wolves melt back
Into the grain of the streets.
Sticking my head out the living-room window,
Into the greasey stench of the alley strewn with
Garbage, I look up and see two golden stars
Gleaming above the putrescence of the city,
I smell in the slightest of breezes
The scent of the whole ocean,
Heavy with salt, pearls, the feathers of gulls,
A brief moment of stillness
In the blue of the night,
And I turn back to the kitchen,
To the notebooks, to prepare for morning,
Sleep, the work ahead,
As the stars darken,
As the sea fills my lungs.
I put out all the lamps but one
Close the curtains over steamed windows
Sit down once more
Ready for the night's work
Surrounded by notebooks and pens
I change into the skin of words
Galaxies swirl around the grey city
Sighs and coughs tremble in the air
Phrases on the edge of sleep
Traffic flowing through the X-rayed streets
I run my pen along the lines
Of my nerves
Search for a cool blue flower
Singing deep in the flames of concrete
Finally pushing all aside
My head dizzy with too much consciousness
I put out the last light
And come to your side
Floating in images
I wrap myself in your scents
And sink into the dark summer sands.
Words dissolve in blue ink
As the cold June fogs move slowly
Through the ocean of nights
I can hear autumn coming
On its dark paws
The voice of stillness settles
In the breath of small leaves
Waiting for the years to fall
I walk through windows of violet
Into the waves of gold
Doors of stone close
And the light of roses
Holds these words
In the nest of your hands.
It is too hot to write
Too hot to do anything
But sit at the kitchen table
On a Thursday night in early October
Smoking, pretending that I am not
In San Francisco, but on an old grey
Porch overlooking a wood, listening
To the darkness while you sleep
In your bed of moonlight and flowering
Maple, in a room close by.
To make the city vanish into the mist
That begins to rise from the damp earth
At the first call of an owl,
The distant bark of a fox.
I come to you, exhausted,
To get through one more
Night full of concrete voices
To dream us home.
Claws scratching at lips of concrete
A wounded siren wails in the cold grey sea
The air broods in the foam of white suns
Eyes of cinder watch the leaves fall
Wind demons hiss words of dust
At the shadows of the houses
Before dawn I stalk an unhuman voice
My true speech rising from a dark murmur
Above the croaks and rasps
From my bones like smoke
To the moon buried in night and fog
The screaming of ghosts and the howling of stones
Ripping my words off the page.
Days of ash,
When the cold winds
Blow through our bones,
And the leaves rattle all around us.
In this ocean of melancholy breaths
We are changed,
We become each other
In a time before our births.
Our faces in the rain,
Or waiting at moonlit windows,
Remembering our shadows
On familiar walls.
The air is a grave,
There is no way out for us,
We will die here together,
Speaking quietly of our precious moments
Before the wind buries us.
Glancing up Market Street
Into an eternity of
Over the grey fields
Mountains of white clouds
On which castles
Of silence float
Their windows my eyes
Of cold crystal and snow
Their turrets my hands
Steeped in ancient woods
Where my breath dissolves
Into chimes of light
And the winds enfold
The thrush's shadow song
I wrap myself in
A cloak of blue streams
Into the mist and stone
Of last dreams.
TWO: NOCTURNES FOR A BLUE WOMAN
White castles floating
In the mist,
In the moon-filled
Perfume of autumn leaves,
Shadows of lace,
Through the gates of the Gothic city
Smoke and fog move slowly
Over the dank breath of stone,
In the stillness of leaves
Where the eyes of birds
Return my glances.
The empty branches, reflected
In black windows, etch the moon
In acids of sorrow
That eat graves into her white face
As she weeps alone
In dark rooms
Where my hands cannot reach
But pass through nights of bone
Into the solitude of pain
Where the shivering birds
Take flight into her eyes.
Mist fills the streets
With a silence
Close to the dead
And I can hear
Bells of stone tolling
In her breast.
Your face, half-hidden in the dusk,
In a cowl of silver.
Glittering spores float from your hair,
A cascade of tiny suns.
Ashes fall from the castles of your eyes,
Down to your hands that rest in your lap,
As though they lay in another century.
Tendrils of dark green light
Enlace with the violets of your body,
The misty voice of the moon calls
From beneath the melancholy waters,
And my kisses die like moths
In the lamps of your flesh.
It is the light
From another sun
That falls from your eyes,
Cataracts of green,
Into the wide fields of sleep,
Surrounded by golden trees.
On your lips are always
The names of absent birds,
Like their songs sounding in the empty places
On a planet of deserted cities.
Under hooded skies
Time closes its eyes
And listens to the auras of your hair,
The light falling from your face,
Before it dies.
Your hands in the night,
Rooted deep in my body,
Your breath filling the air
The lamp of earth carried
By unseen fingers,
And words of glass
Falling from limbs of shadow
Across your face,
Half flesh, half bark,
A flower of darkening sand,
And your soul, in the evening,
That covers my bones
With the stillness of frozen
When the day has ended,
I know that we will meet again
In castles of the dusk.
The faint scent of your perfume
Will float in the cold November air,
Like white stars blossoming around your neck.
I will cover you in a cloak of moonlight,
My kisses will be leaves
Falling over your body,
When you are asleep
I will speak to you
In secret voices,
The beauty of these days will last forever.
THREE: THRESHOLD OF EARTH
On sheets of paper the color and texture
Of dead leaves, I write the history
Of the alleyway that exits into the past
Where you once waited for me
In a coffin of time,
In a womb where my seed was planted
Deep in the woods
By an ancestor
Wearing the mask of my face
Who took your ghost quickly and hard
Before running off into the underbrush.
Late in the night
An animal was killed on the road
With your name on its lips.
Tires brought its remains down the freeway
That curves into the streets
And turns into the alley
That comes past these windows
Where I write its unheard voices
Here on leaves like paper
In the light of evening winds.
In the heart of spring
Autumn throbs through my bones,
A cold black stream.
My fingers pupate,
My face turns to rust,
My feet become a feast for snails.
I pull a cowl of leaves
Over my dank hair,
The glance of a crow
Turns my eyes white,
I breathe out weeds,
My stomach gnaws at beetles.
I vomit clots of fur and teeth,
Ancestral voices ring in my ears,
Muttering the speech of wind
Through fields of stubble.
I hear seeds rattling in my skull,
My hands shake violently,
My heart explodes and the rot
Of autumn gushes out,
Wrapping the spring in rags
And crowning me with dead suns.
Too many years have passed by.
I remember crawling on hands and knees
Through summer fields,
And looking into that world
My eyes turned into emeralds
As I watched the katydids, garden spiVders
And green snakes moving through their silences.
And when I stood up
I was thirty-five years old
And dreaming of luna moths
In the heart of the city,
November darkening my eyes,
And all the lost visions
Nesting in stillness
For my return,
Crowned in dusk and lightning bugs,
And wearing a living cloak
Sometimes I forget
That I hatched from a chrysalis of blood
That my wings dried in long prehistoric afternoons
That once I wore antlers
That once my hands were gourds
Sometimes I forget
That my eyes once lived in giant wolves
That danced in lakes of moonlight
That I rode down the hawk's cry
To sink my talons into stone
Sometimes I remember
The red-horned gods mounting the night
On all fours
Heads raised in frenzied howling
Eating the stars from darkscented thighs
Sometimes I forget
That before I was an animal
I was a human
That I wore furs stitched to my back
That my voice was thunder
Sometimes I remember
Coming down out of the trees
Seeing the cities boiling in dust
And returning to the swamps
To crawl back under the black mud to sleep
To dream myself back to what I was
Before this world happened
You must crawl back
Into the swamps of blood
And live there with the fetal ghosts
Until the moon sucks you out
And you are a writhing larva
Ready to feed until you burst
You must wallow in the mud of carrion
Wrap yourself in the black rotten meat
Of the whole planet
Inside the howling skins of the dead
On your knees you must
Twist your head around to follow the moon
And the stench of the winds
Push sticks into your entrails
And wear stones dangling from your arms
Then you must
Begin the rites again
And give birth
To the animals within you.
My tongue is buried in the hot mud
My speech is the speech
Of the oldest living rock
Behind the backs of the technocrats
I chant the bone-song of the wind
Blowing the rags of scarecrows
While the terminals hum and whir
I growl deep in my gut
While piledrivers slam and pound
And trail slime across the sidewalks
With dank claws
I file the documents of delirium
In my gorey beak
I carry messages of total doom
In the age of word processors
I write in blood
On dead leaves
In the age of computers
I call up the stench
Of the putrifying earth
From beneath the streets.
FOUR: THE JOURNEY OF THE WORDS
My fingers turn to ash,
My face to sand,
My hair whitens slowly
Under the wings of mist.
I enter hollows of dark gold,
My eyes see only the greys of dusk,
The moon passing through time.
The streets tremble
In the last echoes of the sun,
And I turn to your branches,
The body of your leaves,
I fold my arms into sleep,
My breathing one
With the breathing of the birds,
Their throats pulsing under my fingers
When I touch you in the night.
Mysterious beings of silence,
The stars hurry by you
Light years into the past.
Hidden in brocades of rain,
Your bark grows along my arms,
Your roots make jewelled thrones for my eyes.
The blue clouds surround you
With a steel voice that chants
As the darkening air folds into the hands of autumn.
The sun turns to stone,
Eyes to sand.
Through doors of fog
My hands reach
To the remote cities of sleep.
I taste iron and water
In the grey winter air,
I turn my head from light.
The hills wait,
Their eyes closed.
The year folds
Its somber wings.
There is a ring of white bells,
Owls of ash fly through the rain,
Trailing shrouds of parchment.
I follow a path of moonlight,
When my hands reach into the pages
Of mist I touch silver moss
Covering the trees that root
In streams of pure silence.
There is a lamp,
There is a silence.
There is a phrase
In my throat,
I spit it onto black parchment.
There is a lamp of blood,
An unheard-of silence.
It is in my throat,
I cover it in words.
I stay up half the night,
I can hear it in a distant room,
The silence, a womb of scales,
A pupa throbbing in dank leaves,
An unimaginable sweetness,
An unheard-of word,
A black pen stabbing the paper, the throat.
The sense of strangeness deepens day by day.
The feeling of not being a part of all this,
The species or the planet.
Shifting slowly into a world of moonlight and fog,
Eyes peering from a tower of iron
Adrift in an ashen sea of ghosts,
With the gulls and the winds and
The passing of the years.
From this place I watch you,
Curled in a pool of candlelight,
The shadows of dead leaves
Covering your face.
There is another world, far from here,
Where the moon passes between
White towers beneath the sea.
There is another planet within this earth,
We watch it flowing by outside the windows,
Silence, stone and shadow,
Lit by our lamps in the twilight,
Where the leaves grow back into themselves,
Towards autumns past, wanting to die again
And fall through the air of that realm
Not where we are but where we live most deeply,
Part animal, part ghost,
Buried in dreams, our bodies floating
Through the drowned city
To where birds unfold from bark,
Luna moths sing to the streams,
And dark blue flowers open to watch the night
With large, wet eyes.
Your breath in and out
Against buried wings,
My fingers following
Shadows across the paper,
As we sank into the gold
Hollows of the evening,
And egrets rose into
The mist, your tears
Beneath the grey silence
Of the breakers
Where the sea-thunder
Wrapped us in its voices.
We disappeared into the
Distant blue tapestries
Of a medieval landscape,
Where hawks watched from
Lamp posts anc angels hung,
Rotting, from the powers lines.
In this book
Our hands are illuminated,
Unfolding in stone,
Returning the rain.
Paths through evening, deep red in the sun,
Under hills of stone folding into chant.
Your hands, a painting, under flowers
Of water, weaving lace in hollows
Of light, surrounded by the breathing
Of silver animals.
This city of ash falls into its
Afterimages, racing into whiteness,
Sinking into the weeds of time,
Oracles of autumn on the tongue,
Telling your lips, on this night of oceans,
That I bring you the gown of moons,
The gestures of unwritten prayers,
And a crystalline eye to wear
On this dark planet.
My paths through stone
Have led to this lamp,
This table, this pen.
And to this night of winds,
Under the wall of ghosts,
Confronting the horror of time,
The rustling of pages deep in the lamplight.
The words do not exist.
Completed pieces are only
The imagined color,
The light of long dead hands
Reflected, in a mirror of sand.
They are the dreams of an hallucination,
What the inhabitant of a mirage sees,
The rain that comes for the mist,
Takes it, and stops raining.
Someday I will vanish,
Sink into the poems,
Pulling the words in after me.