Paul Schulenburg painting


G.C. Waldrep



A wind in the door. This is very important—
movement of air in a warm month, sirens
and cicadas cycling in tandem on the blacktop
between the small towns. Humidity pulls
the pitches lower, the tenor and then the alto
sinking beneath the treble mean. One adjusts,
of course, but as with all self-defeating endeavor
there's a point beneath which flesh won't go.
The will rebels. Figures in light obstruct
photosynthesis, a pebble kicked is an interruption
in the ongoing meditation of the mineral. Still
we make a nice tableau. The eye is pleased.
Only the air is wise to us: delicious delicious
touch at neck and breast toward sunset,
like the pollen that settles on the dark weave
yet even less complicit in the affairs drawing
passion from all human counsel. The irises
so late a testimony against this xeric dispensation
sway mummified on thick stalks, pigment
leeched from tissue-flesh in one day's time.
Appearance of death. Each ovum swelling.
Smaller shadows than ours though more numerous,
last whiff of scent on the evening breeze.



What if all the angels are angels
of death, if that is their purpose among us—
ascending and descending, each bearing
his discrepancy, his projection
of residual self. Thus shadows at midday.
The mind into which cathexis flows
is loosed from friction
though not pride, not the goading
apprehension of being one
and yet apart. This brokers a singular
attention to the harvest, an assiduous regard.
No wonder we are warned to shield
the body: not the Father's but their
cold lust, mimic of our own—that longing—
for the flame, for the flesh, wet finger
laid against one thirsty tongue.



A clock is ticking; the world comes closer
for audible motion, endeavor's lock-step.
To the west clouds gather and disperse
like casual residents. I could hold you
but the pressure of your skin against the skin
that holds me would be too much—too many
layers—and there is friction, smoky
half-combustion, the scars from it
more lasting than puncture's fleck,
the deep cut's jagged line. In a gracious age
these moments would have at least a vapor's logic.
So touch me lightly. A river runs through us
like your shadow on the opposite shore.



The faithless write no poems.
In the months of which I speak
the sky was brass scored
by the blank sheet's cutting edge.
I asked for poems, received none.
Trained in mimicry I begged wisdom.
All around me the mills
were shutting like flowers.
I prayed for the souls
of small places, Tucapau, Pacolet,
because their collectivity
though hardly anonymous
was less threatening than the human.
On a night train out of Atlanta
I suddenly remembered a kind man,
dead now, or rather that he
was kind, on a trivial occasion
and without warning. My love,
forgive me if I do not now
speak your name. For I am coming
to you across deep soil, through
the airwaves and their images:
bodies on stretchers,
a nun speaking. And when I come
I will bring a spring of jasmine.
I will hand you these few lines.
I will empty my pockets
on the oak table, and I will not
ask for Zion any more.

[Few Days first published in the Antietam Review]