and then she narrows, changes into perfect crescent.
You were like the moon, I never understood
the subtle ways in which you changed.
I only know that like the moon at crescent,
I, too, have lost three-quarters of myself.
With Stone Wings
--Written after visiting Los Encinos Park, the last Spanish rancho in California, and the San Gabriel Mission. Los Encinos was passed down through the family until the 1980's, when the land then remaining was broken up into lots, and sold. At the rancho there is the main house, a blacksmith's shed, and another two story structure which housed the workmen, and was used for storage. There is also a cistern, and a small pond with geese and ducks, which is fed by an underwater stream. While visiting there I felt the existence of the past, as if it were separated from the present by a thin membrane of time--these shifts in time occur in the poem below.
--"The bones of the earthgods shake, and planets
come to a halt when they sight the king in all of his power,
The god who feeds on his father and eats his mother....
the stars die and fall."
------From The Cannibal Hymn, (c. 2180 B.C.) Egypt, Anonymous
Only in the mind can we fly with stone wings,
where the sun is a light defined behind the eyes;
the sculptor's chisel finds
those musical indentations, those invisible
where journeys in the heart of stone take place,
where air is light, brilliant, and Isis' alabaster wings
blow breaths of wind and cloud;
Time, like flecks of silver dust,
compresses from coal into miniscule diamonds,
sculptors' hands turn to ash, and the idea
of warm mortality is shaped from stone.
Death passes through the years, a wind
of white bone dust bequeathed from generation
to generation, a stone-winged angel
standing forever in shadow. In silence
tears are burned dry by fires in the heart,
are turned to ash in hands raised in prayer;
stone remains, shadow remains,
time is everywhere, like breath;
From a large clam shell water pours into a fountain, clear water ripples
in the sun. Ghosts move about, their footsteps ring on stone paths.
Here, the grass remembers itself long and green
where padres in hooded cowls gathered the animals,
and Indians in the garden
"The past walks inside of us",
thinks the woman with the long silken hair
who loves a man oblivious to her. As invisible
as the Indians who work for her in the kitchen,
she embroiders a shawl with red and green flowers,
its fringe falling over her lap.
"I dream of the continuous presence
of those who lived before me,
of a chain broken in my life.
When did cruelty first raise itself like a cut,
as a red wound not yet become a thick scar of skin.
It must be the way of God to erase memory,
that becoming which erases the past."
Like sheets of waves, years empty and sad unfold
before the woman who watches at the edge of the room.
Like a fog sadness covers things, covers the world like a shawl
worn to a fiesta, where a beautiful dance takes place amid candles,
and colors flow like the wings of butterflies across the night.
It is a dance a woman watches from the edge of a room, solitary,
apart, from someplace inside herself, that place
where connections have been broken,
and all is becoming undone.
Ghost Dancers step on air
which has since become the color
of leaves in the fall. In Alaska white bear
walk on snow, strange animal dancers, like phantoms,
step on traces of smog embedded in crystal, and on snow
where salt is the crystal
embedded in tears.
We are losing everything, like those before us
who have lost their worlds. On a journey
where everything is disappearing,
as pieces of clouds weave themselves across the sky,
footprints become fossils the color of blood,
time is winding down, running out of room,
and the world is becoming a memory.
The light of the sunset is brilliant across the sky.
Horses begin to return.
The rancho becomes quiet,
and as the man reads in the study,
the woman, her embroidery in hand,
looks out the window, remembers her childhood,
a ribbon she once wore in her hair.
Now her ghost moves along the corridors of the walls
a moth brushing against the soft
veils of my breath.
Four thousand years ago raw stone pulled from the earth
by a stone-cutter's hands became a goddess carved,
entombed, returned to dry earth, shrouded in time,
this small delicate statue now standing in the shadow
of a museum's muted light.
"The bones of the earthgods shake,
and planets come to a halt
When they sight the king in all of his power,
The god who feeds on his father and eats his mother."
And we eat the earth, are the kings of the earth,
those who throw trees into death's darkness,
radiation into rivers, who turn the earth into sun,
and war thunders across the ages, disembowled,
burned into shadow,
small pox blankets given to Indians,
children murdered in their sleep,
and we sleep the sleep of the blind.
This is a statement of loss, a statement of grief,
it speaks of your life and mine, of our children frozen
in their feelings,
embedded in anger, without recourse, and we have become
only that which we sought to become.
Written four thousand years ago,
words, stone, shadow remain.
"the stars die and fall."
Tonight the moon crescent is a thread of light,
it is autumn, and sixty thousand years ago
Mars journeyed this close to the earth.
I walk bare-foot in the grass with my daughter's dog
in the quiet of midnight, thinking of those who stepped before me,