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The Paths Toward Song

Summer, 2012

Julie Rogers

From Here

It's easy to forget
about war

but in this magazine
the road is blown to bits
by mortars

there are pictures of apartments
pock-marked by bullets
laid open in alleys

in this building
no one is home
whole rooms are gone
a mouth with the teeth pulled out

on a balcony
laundry is hanging
fabric waves in the breeze

all over town
a plague has crawled in
from out of the mouths of machines
gone crazy

on the corner
at lunchtime
a man stands
holding a gun.


All day
I prove my
on things,
that make
the same
The thoughts
are against me
the one
who could
release them.
They make
too big
and I swallow,
I am
full of their lies
my visions
quiet as worms.
I am
setting them down
on the porch
in the rain.
I am
ringing the bell.
I am not

The Clearing of Fields

    -----for Sarah Rose  

You may have to be crushed
to become yourself,
long enough to let go.
That old world must slip
into the dream it is
in order to wake.
All that has gone on,
the doing of things,
a field rich with manure,
useful for replanting,
the soil, full of everything
you have thought
that lead you here.

We suffer to change
the arrangement,
toiling through a mind
that yearns to be wild.
It is our work
to till the ground
of becoming,
the hands of grace
push us to it.
And when the garden
looks barren, only
the sowing of seeds
results in what is yet to be.

The Strip

How to silence
thought, a mask
cut through the mouth
that will not shut?
Take it off. It's no good
faking peace, chaos burns
the edges, blinding the mirror
I walk into, breaking the haunted window,
removing my self, the attempts of proof:
slipping my arms from the struggle
of the jacket, the cramp of pants
that order this house,
the delicate underwear
breathing sweat--peeling down
to skin, I rise from the flesh
like a ghost, whittle down the bones
into two crossed swords that now hang
on the wall, blow off the dust
and search my mind
to find it gone.

Supreme Being
At dawn when the forest grows blue
and the dark, many-armed creatures
towering over the house
turn into trees
and the murky sky
becomes an empty sea

whatever is awake, whatever is
the Deity
sheds its cape of stars
to sit silently, pondering
the world in nakedness.
There is no grandeur,

the swollen eye of the sun
is slow to open, the earth still
creased with the weight of night,
things are as they are and in this,
the heart of all that is



The river, a dream drifting
in slow, green sleep,
shifting silently
below the bugs and dragonflies
that race above its murky bed.
Rippling sheets lift
and settle in silver
where sun lights
to rest on dark water.
Gently moving
the river turns over,
a long nap in late afternoon,
while crickets keep empty time,
the pitch of their wings
like ticking clocks
tossed into space.

---Klamath River, California


A pack of coyotes
mad with joy in the dark
eyes flash fire
lighting clouds of dust
weeds fly, crush of dry leaves
beneath their chaos of sirens
as crimson dirt makes the death bed
of some small being
who didn't stay hidden.

Tufts of fur drift to earth like ash.
Bones splinter as they growl
and snort and chew. That quick.
We never want to think of this
but it's true.
Like starving mothers,
like men at war they attack,
so purely, so absolutely certain
it's not possible to judge them.

Frog Song

-----for my husband, David Meltzer

An incredibly loud frog
cackles one cack at a time,
a rugged blurt, a single grate
of grating sound off in the dark.
Then silence. One single burp.
Quiet broods. Then a hiccup.
A dog barks. The crickets
are hysterical. Clicks of cackle
coming out of the black pitch
of a throat not unlike others frogs'
a grumble in the bumply hide of soft warts
that are meant to be there,
green and speckly
perfectly worn skin
under the neck of a long life
living under shrubbery.
Who could imagine it?
That you would sing to the night
crouching in a song
that rumbles the dirt
in the luscious rub
of your own rhythm.

Watching the Dance

---for my husband, David Meltzer

The heart of the poem
is charged by joy
watching the voice that spills
ink into words:
ball point, keyboard, fountain,
the open eyes that take it in,
a scratch on a notepad-
something changed--
 mark that makes everything
different. A handprint
in sidewalk cement 2012,
tire skid, bird shit in streetlight,
breath on a mirror,
your head's impression
left on the pillow,
a rush, love's tug,
one line starts it coming
call it vision
call it thought
call it until you're exhausted
it comes in its own time
deep feast bubbling up
spirit's pigment
in the shape of curves
and edges connecting
to bone, flesh,
boomerang to the core
as mind's wild dance
pulls itself to the floor--
do me the honor--
take me.

Till Death
We cannot know how long we have
together, our bodies miming love,
an echo in each other's arms,
when words become the sigh inside a sigh
and we are no one merging
into one. This is how I understand
our suffering, hidden
in the bones of our hands,
in the delicate knots of our hearts
coming undone, how slowly
they loosen, how quickly