Four Poems

by Stuart Dischell

Everywhere the Desert Met the Wind

Out west we lived in a view.
We could see forever was not far
Enough. The dinosaurs
Had walked across our valley.
You could see their footprints
Stuck in the mud.
Our volcano was extinct also.
Our mountains treeless.
Our slow-moving river sometimes dry.
(One evening we snuck out on the golf course
Near the rental house and I played the pennywhistle
And you and our daughter did a mouse dance
And a jack rabbit watched from behind a cactus
Where he thought we could not see him.)

Heaven Was Elsewhere

The cities were anonymous
The problems generic
And the people who lived
Out their lives did nothing
Remarkable. Most were
Afraid. They ate and drank.
They had babies or avoided them.
They prayed and kissed and sometimes forgot
Each other in the dark.
They did the basic human thing.
Knowing they would die
Following the leader
While cursing their wages.
(But once you and I did
Something specific, and a couple
Of people saw us later on the street.)

Later There Were Swans

The path through the grain fields looked
Real enough as he recalled the names
Of the animals. The rooster on the fence rail
Awakened the barnyard. Goats and lambs
Picked in the meadow. The sow in the pen
Looked so much like herself he laughed
Out loud as one does with a friend.

He was alone now, the way he thought
It would be, following the first length
Of trails set out by the oldest feet, through
The woods and plains to the river then across
The mountains to the marshes on the coast of Spain
Where the stars were known to go to sleep
After their work guiding pilgrims to the sea.

He was a pilgrim and a stranger, a born again
Pagan, a reveler in the vegetal gods,
Ley lines and magnetic rivers, a drinker
Of the water of ancient wells, a believer
In omphalos and phallus, a pitchforked sinner
According to the laws of the written words
Of deities supposed by modern men.

He had left the what he had behind him,
Family and possessions and the recollection
Of a mouth that once answered his own,
A particular one whose lips provoked
His journey, whose words became cruel
When she said he did not listen.
When he thought of her he walked faster.

He saw a village along the river,
The towers and walls of a castle flying
The local flag. He knew there were reasons
Cities exist where you find them–
This one a low bluff at the bend of the water
Where the crossing was narrow, and a stone
Bridge built where the legions followed.

He stood on the bridge and waved at its shadow,
A figure if there ever was one that evidenced
His presence. The wind drove slowly from the east
Across the harvested plains. Beyond him,
Further towers and a nuclear reactor awaited.
He noted in his journal The afternoon of the equinox
The sky is blue as cathedral glass.

He followed the road where it turned to earth
Inside the forest where the birdsong was still
Thick in the branches though the limbs shy
Of leaves. He walked until the day was gone
And the split moon rose through the trees,
And he held his thin coat to his chest like a cloak.
The night was huge. Go this way or that was the sign.

The Interrupted Sleep of Skeletons

Your eyes are gone and nearly
All we knew of the city,
Its graveyards and walls,
The spires, domes, and towers,
Its little incorporated villages
(Only their names survive),
The lane where your parents lived,
Your musical uncles, the sitting room,
The bowl of asters on the table.
How we listened to your father
Play his compositions. After dinner
We walked through the scattered
Blossoms of the chestnut trees.
You were older in that house
Among the books, the candlesticks,
Your mother’s perpetual illness
Your father’s gambling losses.
We kissed in the arbor
And you were such a girl
I did not kiss you again
Until our wedding day. A carriage
Led that procession, too.