Marsh Hawk Review is an online poetry journal sponsored by the Marsh Hawk Press collective. Marsh Hawk Review will appear twice a year, under the revolving editorship of collective members. Each issue will offer a selection of poems solicited by the editor, in addition to new work posted by poets in the collective.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Joseph Donahue


Who pulled gauze

over the sun, smeared

the sky so that light flows

from moonstone, as well as

opal, onyx, topaz, and talc?

These chips, washed in a stream,

these rocks in a box, picked up

on a road between Andalusia

and Iran, shine like a fire

floating above endless water.

In a thousand years, the flicker

may be a god asleep inside a coil of

snakes as the sky cracks wide.

These magical gravel seeds are

more than just the dreams in a life

too like a migraine attack

in a foreign hotel room in

a country without any aspirin,

where the ghost of an ethical life

washes away in a downpour.

Flowering tree, falling blossoms

mingle with the sparks of rain.

It takes so little for the world

to deceive you. In a dream,

a train made of ice shoots north

through subway stations made of snow.

Where exactly should you get off?

Perhaps in Florida, in 1528,

as an army expedition led by

Panfilio De Narvaes goes

awry in a swamp. One who

survives speak of cities of gold . . .

(In a later dream, on a tray table

at twilight on a beach in front

of a house: a typewriter. You

had decided to spend the night

typing up the sounds of the surf

and sand blown through

the dry beach grass.

Your first love slept inside,

still young. You however

are a shade decrepit, maybe

even a decrepit shade, distracted

from your guilty lingering

by a pressing practical challenge:

how, once night falls, will you

make out which keys to strike?)

Tomorrow has further trials --

an Easter egg hunt on the lawn of

a mathematician. The hiding

places have been derived

from postulates and secretly

graphed, as have the flowers

reflected on the pool, the leaves,

grey-blue in the fiber of the green,

and the stones beneath the water.

If truth could no longer be computed

with ones and zeroes, he says,

all this would be no more than

a sod hut in the Dust Bowl

with a mile-high fury

in the air above the ridge . . .

The earth is a light-filled chip

of quartz, or marble, shale, coal,

(schist, obsidean, gabbro,

gypsum, diarite, basalt . . . )

found on a hilltop where

a city seemed at first visible,

though from closer up it looks

like an old fashioned engraving

or tintype of the arc of the covenant

soon to be lost in a cloudburst.

Leaf, field and street all glow.

The earth could be littered

with jewels, and why not?

Air flows over arms and face

in the wet shine. The sudden

glimmer on even dark surfaces,

the flashes of thought, are

motes of incandescent wire

in a swirling arc, are like

the glimmer of rare stones

scattered on a plate, or plain

pebbles that now seem

unaccountably rare.

It’s a part of a storm

hundreds of miles away,

due here at midnight . . .


The question is

how to note progress

on graph paper that is as pale

as a ghost crab shell on the tidal flats,

now that a part of the line

is longer than the whole.

Now that ¾ is greater than 4 ½.

Now that in our stillness

we have traveled

a negative distance.

The air is sweet today.

What body did I awake in?

A plane drones. A drumbeat

floats over the hill.

Last night was delightful.

I was free of horror and fear.

My eyesight seemed enhanced,

almost digitalized: the details

in the distance of the dream were

as clear as what was up close.

The weed has a red flower.

Some of the petals are darker.

In the illusion of shadowy depth

roses float in the early sun.

The air seems bluish-grey

around them, which may be

the residue of a mist

reflecting the leaves.

No one lies face down

on summer grass anymore.

Astonishing cosmos

of pale tangles.

Adoration directs our love

to the known, but the known

keeps our love from

its true home. Do you

remember how this song

devastated us, how when the record

was over tears were in our eyes?

You exist nowhere now

except within me, for

as long as that song is playing . . .

A new yacht appears at the dock.

The masts are floodlit.

The burnished wood of the cabin

reflects the light broken up on the water.

Inside, a woman in a red dress

slowly lights a candelabra.

In the morning the air is

like silk, but the yacht is gone . . .

Leslie pulled pins from her hair.

The flame of it flickered

around her neck, spills

against her cheek. She had

just set the whiskey down

eight glasses, four in each hand

held from above as if

on strings from her fingers.

A magic act, the glasses themselves

two flowers of fire, floating

down, her hands above them,

free of them, blessing

their descent to the table.

We knew when she sat down

the conversation would take a turn.

(I had been feeling increasingly

divided within myself,

as if a man and a woman

had been talking there but now

each speaks more and more

only to his or her self,

keeping the back and forth of talk

but more and more lonely

and not even knowing it . . . )

The question is: if we

are only skeletons

holding empty bowls out

to the air, how can we also be

what gods there are?

The agony that goes on,

is it really just a bird that sings

towards the end of day?

It is quiet here. No one can help me.

All the branches in the trees

lift in a wind blowing

across the planet.

I was with you in a dream.

I pressed my hand to your face.

I gave you occasion

for a joy in hope of which

you had arrived at despair.

A thrill pulsed through you.

It swept your limbs and organs,

never settling, always heading elsewhere.

Unfolded out of the folds of the storm

Of the cold comes the divine heat . . .


for Lale Muldur

We are asleep

and deep in a cave.

We are persecuted, and

rest until the transformation

of the world is assured.

Once, we were those

in a folktale. Once

we were Christian,

then dreamed our way

into the Koran.

Across the threshold,

paws of a mysterious dog.

We sleep for centuries,

then step out, astonished.

Maybe now we awake

in Constantinople.

It seems Cavafy is with us.

He shows desire is itself

a dream from which

whole empires

never come back.

But Byzantium does.

Look: Lale Muldur

awakes within a dream

where we have never been,

or where we always are

without knowing,

protected yet punished

in a rapture of images

towers floating on the water

where we are tormented

and torn and turned

inside out and then

we enter the dream and

are enchanted again . . .

The muezzin of Manhattan

calls for prayer. At Murray Hill

busses pull in from all across

the United States of Allah.

Bright robes, whirling colors,

vendors selling snacks . . .

We close our eyes in one place

and open them in another.

Close out eyes believing

one thing, open them

believing another.

For centuries we slept

as Jews, woke as Christian.

Slept as Christian, woke

as Muslim. Slept as Muslim,

woke, slept, woke, slept,

centuries, and every

night, for micro-seconds

themselves the hollows

of an interior eternity

never quite remembered

we were godless and

ecstatic, our true selves at last . . .

Now Lale Muldur

shows us a still deeper

recess, where night itself

is a part of what we dream.

Especially these nights of winter

solstice after more than

“nineteen weeks of melancholy,”

perhaps the longest night

since the planet first turned,

since the sun came to be,

since before the darkness

one can see in the black of

an eye even when the talk

all around is light and bright,

the black of the eye,

our cave, that refuge

from our deepest grief

of our deepest grief . . .

Lale, when your

veins betrayed you,

when you slept, when

time passed, before you

returned to the world,

did Khidre, whoever

he might now be,

find you? When even

your language was lost,

did this spirit take you

amazed, through the village of

what the world now is

as he did God’s prophet,

show you how all is

the reverse of what seems?

Did a version of that vision

ring true where you

were, where you are?

Or is the true miracle

simply all you have written:

a poetry where we

walk out wondering

from the cave of

our own skulls.

Where, finally awake,

we flash in and out

of what you call

“dimensionless space. . . ”

1 comment:

Murat Nemet-Nejat said...

Amazing poem. Also, a great tribute to another great poet, Lale Müldür.