Wednesday, January 02, 2008

i love this poem

John Colburn

Dawn came and there was something like a great ear
behind the sun.
Ashes drifted down though nothing had burned.
I wanted to shine like a fish.
Supposedly there are people who
will not burn in a fire.
Biblical people.
I carried my bucket.
Dead men pumped water from
the center of the earth.
We all drank it.
More ashes arrived.
We caught them on our tongues,
angels of next time receiving the body.
The earth tumbled then,
the pump handle creaked.
When soldiers came, we ran.
Like always.
I did a snake dance into the culvert.
Soldiers were afraid of ghosts.
A tongue is like a fish worn dull,
shine gone.
Day after day pieces of wood
floated down the river.
What were they building down there, at the end?
They were building a cross.
They were building a bird to fly us out.
They were building a new city
for the dead to lead from
and the soldiers were blind to it.
By noon the ghosts were gone.
The pump handle creaked, but no water.
When the soldiers came back I changed.
I became an angel of next time.
I said the words and
scales fell from my fish tongue
but the giant ear was stone.
Soldiers drifted like ashes.
I told them:
Downriver, they are building
wings that will not burn in a fire
and you are right to hide.
Put down your guns.
Soldiers put us in trucks
and took us downriver to become ashes.
The shine stopped.
The giant ear heard everything but
there was no mouth to speak.
In the cage, we counted.
Flies rose from the ash piles.
We counted screams.
A body floated downriver.
Dawn came and men
with no eyes talked
to the giant ear.
Roadside men who
lay dead in a snake dance.
The fireproof bird might rise
tomorrow or never.
All believed in it.
It rained or it would
never rain.
We counted Americans.
Flies performed their math on the dead.
We counted silences.
The sun had one voice
and the river had one voice.
Burnt people dropped from trees.
We slept to the rustling
of boots through weeds
and I remembered the water
of a dead nun’s voice.
We were all floating downriver.
Dawn came.
We knew nothing and they shot
half of us, with American guns.
At the sound of it we forgot.
We listened to the river.
Each gunshot carried by water
to dazzle the great ear.
That night I became a snake.
I slipped between the beams.
Crawled among the dead.
I followed the sound of bells.
The soldiers could not count
or didn’t care to.
The river counted to one
in its long voice.
Some snakes do not end.
Mythical snakes.
I passed a village.
Downriver there was nothing
except ashes.
The village boiled in silence.
A snake does not scream.
The choices were:
Become a snake.
Forest creatures swam in blood.
My voice was in the past,
covered by the long scar of forgetting.
I know the great ear turned.
That ghosts rose and began their work.
That voices fell from the trees.
I remain in snake form.
I whisper instructions to the great ear
following each little death.
Because now we are ready.
We have so many ashes
for our bird to rise from.
We have a sound to carry us
home, the river’s one voice
singing all day to a giant ear.

No comments: