Sometimes when I get overwhelmed, I wish art—all of it—would go away for 500 years. Let things settle and land where they will, let’s see what we see in the clearing. But this feeling of course passes, and I awake with fresh eyes, eager to play anew, eager to win and love and lose in the mix with canvas or paper.
One morning last fall, I was writing from bed, finishing a poem for a magazine, when I heard knocking at my door. I have a view of my front door from my bedroom window, but could see no one there. Strange. The knocking continued. Then I saw him. He stepped away from where the drapes blocked my view, and I could see a magnificent, large raven perched on my bedroom window sill. He was looking straight at me and pecking the glass. A soft purple-blue-black, he walked back and forth and then settled in for preening. (Not shiny like crows, nothing at all like crows.) He was going nowhere. I emailed my editor in New York: “Raven—full-stop!” or something to that effect. No sooner had I sent the email than another raven landed on my porch railing. The two of them kept me company while I finished my work. My editor, who knew of my grandfather’s ill health at the time, wrote asking what significance I attached to these birds, this visitation. I couldn’t think beyond dedicating this poem to my Grandpa, who will always be my first waltz.
Bat City Review had asked nine poets to write to nine paintings by Hedieh Ilchi. I loved and felt honored by this assignment and include the poem here with grateful acknowledgement to the magazine.
What if we let it all dissolve
The old stories and dark thoughts
Let them come tumbling down in the forest fire
Honey honey—says Coyote—nevermind the purple wizard behind
The smokescreen pyre
Develop heart; follow me into the Fire and only then will we
Have Stories to tell our grandkids of
A very wild summer in California. Grow some heart.
Let the woman with the lamppost black hair lead us out of this forest
With her pure sweet example
Follow the red ropes of Love like vagaries she has woven in her left hand
Soft like childhood truth, softly electric like essence
The sea of surrender: being real in our ultra-real, beautiful bodies: I wanted nothing more
Coyote says, Look at me stand and shiver and never
Once complain. Look at me alive,
In the rustling grass.
Be honest, human race.
Open your heart to the Fire of Love.
Like these sister-like hedges fanning plumes of orange love.
Forget the Song of Leaving.
Stay, and make it lovely.
Take it away, girls.
The trio of backup singers, naked and encouraged, goes:
I’m gonna use it up
I’m gonna kiss them all
Gonna burn bright—
I won’t dim my light, I won’t dim down.
Gonna kiss all the men with lustre now.
All the men with lustre, now.
Kiss everybody, Coyote nods.
Bless them, kiss them fast.
Trio: We always had a real sense of
Destiny and now we are bringing
Down the house with Love.
Mary and Jane and Sarah,
Where are those fireflies
We saw under the netting?
Hold my hand—be my friend—that’s all.
He starts to leave, hesitates.
Let me turn and look at you one more time. Ah, you’re beautiful—
We could have cleared the rest as we always can, with a whoosh of the hands, but chose instead to put it in a poem so as to linger a while longer, striking tones and remembering.
The only poetry is nothing from any high holy book but what we do between this moment and the next, in the dissolving magical extension of the winged moments of our bodies alive, our ultra-real, beautiful, boundless—
Go on kid, he growls, get outta here. You’re gonna
Make me cry.
Hold my hand—be my friend—this is all
And I shall walk within my house with a perfect heart.
Bat City Review 2013
(originally posted on Sunday, June 30, 2013)