Totem Poem


In the yellow time of pollen, in the blue time of lilacs,
in the green that would balance on the wide green world,
air filled with flux, world-in-a-belly
in the blue lilac weather, she had written a letter:
You came into my life really fast and I liked it.

When we let go the basket of the good-luck birds
the sky erupted open in the hail of its libation;
there was a gap and we entered it gladly. Indeed the birds
may have broken the sky and we, soaked, squelched
in the mud of our joy, braided with wet-thighed surrender.

In the yellow time of pollen near the blue time of lilacs
there was a gap in things. And here we are.
The sparrows flew away so fast a camera could not catch them.
The monkey swung between our arms and said I am, hooray,
the monkey of all events, the great gibbon of convergences.

We were falling towards each other already
and the utter abandon to orbits was delicious.
The falcon rested on the little man’s arm and falconry
was the High Path of the World. Whole minutes passed.
We were falling and the jungle fell with us.

She said I came, I came to my senses really fast
and you liked it. I was surrounded by the fluttering
of wings, nothing but a whirring in my ears,
and the whole earth tilted and I lost my reason.
For a time falconry was the high path of the world.

At night the sky was filled with animals.
Ganesh loomed large among those points of light.
He said Change! and we said Lord we are ready
to bend. Thou art the high exalted most flexible.
He said Then I will enter into your very dreams.

And the yellow-tailed black cockatoo, ablaze
in his own musculature, soared all night above the sunlit
fields of whisky grass that stretched inside me
to a river’s edge. The great bird cawed its majesty,
a sonic boom; and even I was barely welcome there.

There was a gap in things; and all the lilacs bloomed.
Words split in our grasp. We were licking the cream
from the universal ice. Words foundered and cracked.
How the bonnet was warm on your bottom! And the metal
continued tick-ticking though the engine was off.

And the evening shuddered, since everything is connected.
I was licking the cream from the universal saucer.
I was all of Cheshire and points between.
You saw the great sky turn blacker, you saw the spray of stars
and your hair got tangled in the windscreen wiper.

At the hot ponds we stripped as night closed in.
I secretly admired your underwear, your long
elusive legs. In the spring where we lay side by side
we held hands. Up above the steam the sky. I said
That one is called Sirius or Dog Star, but only here on Earth.

And when since the stories foretold it we parted,
those birds were all released again. Such buoyancy.
They go on forever like that. How else to say thank you
in a foreign place? We are ever in the arms of our exile,
forever going one way and the other

though sometimes of course on a sphere that is not so bad.
I will meet you on the nape of your neck one day,
on the surface of intention, word becoming act.
We will breathe into each other the high mountain tales,
where the snows come from, where the waters begin.

In the yellow time of pollen when the fields were ablaze
we were very near bewildered by beauty.
The sky was a god-bee that hummed. All the air boomed
with that thunder. It was both for the prick
and the nectar we drank that we gave ourselves over.

And if every step taken is a step well-lived but a foot
towards death, every pilgrimage a circle, every flight-path
the tracing of a sphere: I will give myself over and over.
I have migrated through Carpathians of sorrow
to myself heaped happy in the corner there.

Nothing seemed strange in the world, you’ll understand-
nothing ever more would. Monkey Boy came to me saying
Look-the moon of the moon. The little one circled the big one.
He crouched in the palm of my hand, tiny, sincere,
pointing at the sky. There was something sad about him.

The python was nothing, nothing at all, nothing
but strength shed to suppleness, nothing but will
encased in itself. The python was a muscle of thought.
Coiled and mute, in a place where nothing but rain fell,
the python thought: this is the beginning or end of the world.

The python was everywhere, everywhere at once, aware
only too much of that ageless agony: its existence.
I am tired, it said; and the stream burbled by.
I am waiting for the recoil, the uncoil, coil of night,
coil of stars, coil of the coldness of the water.

The python said Who are these people?
The whole city sweated, moved like a limb. The air
fitted like a glove two sizes too small and too many
singers sang the banal. The bars roared all night.
The kite hawks grew ashamed. All nature squirmed.

from Totem Poems (River Road Press, 2009), Luke Davies 2009, used by permission of the author and River Road Press

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