Thursday, November 4, 2010

Two poems by John Calvin Hughes


Gnostic songs lament broken promises
as though the figure in the carpet might
speak of the Christ within. Does
the ritual repeat, reiterate, regenerate—
or is it the original itself, the music that riots
in Parisian alleys, the music that clarifies
the theological correspondences of primitive
blood rituals and reveals the dark heart of every
photon, where emptiness knows its own full
existence and where the space of the infinitesimally
small discovers that it is a relation among
relations? What is this urge, this wrestling
of the unborn out of loam into life? Out
of the black dirt, light out of dark, music
out of sacrifice, the voice crying down from the cross,
Forgive me, raise me up, lift me down?

Out of the striated leaves so sweetly green—
what greenery! What great and ungodly
greenness! And what is that hidden in the leaves,
in the bushes and brambles of the earth’s heart?
The music moves toward you, like a wolf,
only somewhat dangerous, no, surely dangerous,
if it could only see you. As if anger were a dagger,
a two-edged blade that cannot be grasped
without cutting past the hilt to your fingers,
like a thought that cuts through feeling.
Music then is a blade
and just as these self-same sounds
mark a cut, so the cut allows a flow, a trickle,
maybe of blood, not so precious as bread and wine
but more meaningful, less in thrall to sacrifice.

The genius of the earth is distilled through the stem
into flower, into poppy, into opium, into smoke,
the smoke of cities burning on the plain,
the burning sun like banging timpani, like
kettle drums pounded by brown hands, like
the screaming strings of burnished violins,
the screaming virgin who will not be born again
tied to the stake, leading you to an overwhelming
question. Oh, go ahead and ask what is it.
The answer is not in her eyes nor in her mouth
nor in the simple fact of her being here.
If it is at all, it is beyond these ridiculous
mountains, these bungalow clouds, down to the sea
beneath the waves, the greeny blue waves,
the foamy groaning waves, where voiceless seagirls,
wreathed though they may be,
hum a watery tune that speaks not of return
but only of departure.


(A Tract)

I. The world is all that is the case.
A. In case the world should cease, fold me into your pocket.

II. What is the case is the existence of states of affairs.
A. In the dark corner of the back yard
1. orange blossoms white as watches
a. tumble from the green-black leaves
b. and settle
2. onto the hair of your daughter
a. like (cases)
b. like (existence)
c. like (states of affairs)
3. and nestle
a. and cling like desperate love

III. A logical picture of facts is a thought.
A. Picture this:
1. a lattice of oak branches
2. Avery hanging by one hand (laughing)
a. your heart a race
b. you mind a river in flood
3. Logic says if he falls he will fall
a. Either
i. up, or
ii. down
b. one possibility’s truth dependent
upon the potential truth of the other.
B. Against the branches against the sky, he hangs
1. like the evening star
2. your heart’s thorny need

IV. A thought is a proposition with a sense.
A. I think about your thoughts
1. Are they in English?
a. or sign language?
i. Are there words there or the movement of hands
ii. fingers knitting ideas out of gray matter?
b. Or does it matter?
B. And how rarely they make sense to me,
1. and how rarely that matters.

(V. VI)
VII. What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.
A. The ineluctable joy of their soft breaths
1. as they sleep tucked up close to you
B. The last blue moon of the century
1. climbing out of the trees
a. into the pink suburban sky
C. The mystery of our love and life
1. simple
2. rarer than emeralds

Author bio:

John Calvin Hughes has published poetry, fiction, and criticism in numerous magazines and journals. He is the author of The Novels and Short Stories of Frederick Barthelme, a critical study. He lives and works in Florida.

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