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.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Peter O'Leary

the phosphorescence of thought

Avid explosions of migrating warblers

stellating star patterns woodlands & prairies,

suburbs & flyways zodiac symbolical

measures for thinking with. Chromatic bodies

light pressure mirrors from solar antonyms

transforming cardinal time into vernal lusts—

nesting defenders, selective aspirers speciate

properties air draws from time’s distilling gravities.

Lustred migrations. At every hour we’ve ever imagined, a bird is on the wing: a robin

keeping pace with the melting edge of snow cover; a whooping crane’s dramatic solitary fanning

in a streak of sandhills; an arctic tern jetting

from pole to pole in a vast seasonal circuit; an indigo bunting finding

the border zone where woodland opens into clearing; a ruby-throated hummingbird

purring across five-hundred miles of coastline on a gram

of nectar. Relentless nights & days of movement.

Survival’s ancient itch only arrowing onward scratches. The mind’s

a migratory evidence, the projection of the human animal’s consciousness

from instinctive enclosures of neural circuits fired with latent gifts to the dynamiting

outer expanding world: it’s why our first depictions

were animals—bulls, gazelles, cranes, souls.

Migration’s astonishing parallels between image & idea, between

species & soul in communion with motion, in

commotion, its eucharistic transformations:

a brown creeper & two golden-crowned kinglets

in the stardowned snowfall

of an April’s unwarranted weather

migration seethes northward through in spite of

the season’s agitations. The little puff of pressure signaling

a Wilson warbler’s passage through the birch tree’s

newly greening leaves.

Three splendidly yellowing magnolia warblers

uplifting through a maple tree.

Hermit thrushes’ spooking ghostflow through the underbrush.

Flocked starlings’ geometric detonations

inspired like fireworks. Migration’s notes:

the woods’ logophragous originator, song. It’s

creation’s symphonic dilator, birds’ iconic identifier:

pluck of notes & the riverine sillage. Stillness as an energy.

Woods swarmed with palm warblers, with flashes of yellow-rumped

warblers. Elementalism of cool light, palely cloud-filtered.

Disasterous trashing of the paths of the woods.

These sweet woods providing cover for evolution’s outlandish

artificers, song-crowned, crowned in song.

Perceptions’s filtration system: ricocheting catalogues of unruly song, territorial call:

it’s spring’s brand-new body making noise.

Orange peels, bait trays, charred plywood, broken malt liquor bottles,

the turgid Des Plaines guzzling by. Sunlight

expressing greens. Sponge of wood, soft decay, kneeling deer.

Reefs of mushroom glazed with vernal liquor. Thrush songs three-dimensional.

In alchemy, the wren who vexed Thoth.

In admixture, the summer terns with segmented wings & the patterned earth.

In sunlight, the ensouling over the forest.

In doctrine, metempsychosis.

In practice, the transmigratory elaborations, the little autochthonomous soul leavings.

In evenings, the firefly’s transmigratory dynamo,

the firefly’s renewed lutrescent fuse,

that little phosphorescent flare of transanimation.

In prayer, the little struggles, the pressing awareness of flaws.

In the world, ongoing wars,

the sadness of foolishness.

In actuality, grace. Life from life—the vital force burst through the body’s feathers.

In flight, birds. Arrowing off the earth.

the phosphorescence of thought

The ghost’s lonely hours. In them.

It’s sweet. Going in the sun.

The walls summer yellows.

The soft hiss of footfalls the grass ruffles out.

Pan’s son. Slept into marble. Gray.

Drunk on brown wine, evenings.

Peach in the leaves. Its glow. Its splendid redness.

A Joplinesque sonata. Laughter.

Lifting up from the cellar.

The night’s sweet silence.

The dark plains where shepherds coalesce

white stars. From mercury.


Charity in the grove. Melancholic hours.

Red walls we wander along. That calm. That

lucid calm. Birds that curve into our eyes.

Nightfall. Funeral jars the white waters sink through.

Ecstatic gymnastics heaven in bare branches practices.

Bread & wine the grass farmer bears. His open hands.

Fruits in the cellar. Ripening sweetly.

The dead. Their earnest looks

the soul savors

like a greeting.

Brute quiet of wasted gardens.

The novice there, the brows he garlands with browning laurels.

The icy gold his exhalations plume around.

Blueish waters those hands disrupt.

Or the white cheeks of the sisters. In the cold night.

Sweet & easy: a stroll past friendly living rooms.

Where there’s solitide. Where the maples sift the winds in hisses.

Where the thrush sings. A territorial hymn.

A man is a beautiful thing. Shining in darkness.

Arms & legs moving. Astonishing. These swings.

Eyes—their purple sockets. Swiveling in silence.

Vespers. The little stranger. November’s destroyed era he’s lost in.

A sacred grove’s rotted branchwork, leprous walls enclosing.

Where the holy brother used to wander

sunk in the soft pulsations of his madness.

Lonely last gasps of the evening wind.

Bowed head in the gloom of the olive trees. That fading


Seismic the generation’s worsening.

The gazer’s eyes filling with the gold of his stars.

At this hour.

Evening. Bells—never again to sound out—fading.

Ruination of the black walls of the square.

Sound of the dead soldier called to prayer.

An angel. Bleached. Etiolated.

A son sets foot in the empty house of his father.

All the sisters have gone away to white old men.

The sleepers found them under the columns of the alcove. In the night.

Returned from sad pilgrimages.

Shit & worms clotting their hair.

There. The sleeper’s silver feet. The dead

toneless steps he takes from empty room to empty room.

You psalms. In fiery midnight downpours.

There. Servants thrashing eyes with stinging nettles.

An elderberry’s sweet little fruits.

Dangling over an empty grave.

Lemoning moon. Rolling easily.

Across a young man’s fever linens.

Followed by winter’s silence.

Lofty destiny brooding over Kidron.

A cedar, that lovely creature

spreading out beneath the blue glare of the father.

Nights a shepherd leads his flock across an open field.

Or there are cries in the zero of sleep.

Or in the sacred grove an adamantine angel comes upon a man.

And the flesh of the holy ones melts away on the glowing racks.

Purple vines entangling huts of clay.

Argillaceous bundles of yellow corn.

Drone of bees. Flight of cranes.

Evenings. When the resurrected meet on mountain paths.

Lepers reflected in black waters.

Or opening the shit-shotten robes.

Weeping. To the balsam of the wind. The rose hill scented in it.

Skinny girls. Touching their way through the streets of night.

Looking for the loving shepherd.

Saturdays—the sweet singing from the houses.

Let that song be about the boy.

About his madness. About his shining brow. About him going.

So sad to see him again.

Madness. Its hues. In black rooms.

Shadows of old men under open doors.

Helian’s soul there, looking at itself, in the rosy mirror.

Snow. Leprosy. Falling from his brow.

On the walls the stars all fizzled out.

All the white shapes of the light.

Bones in the graves arising. From the tapestry.

Ruined crosses—their silence.

Sweet incense in the purple night wind.

You crushed eyes. In black mouths.

Grandson in gentle dementia.

Alone. Contemplating the darker ending.

Silent God closing blue

luminescent eyelids over him.

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