4. Flying Dreams
FREE FALLING GRANNY
Must be mad…
But no – no going back
It's up, up and away now
Twelve thousand feet
While I stare into thin air.
The signal sounds
But just a minute
No time for buts
Out the gaping door I go
Into a tandem jump.
And my, oh my
I can fly
Like a bat on a breeze
Well – almost at least.
Flat on my stomach
Arms playing wings
The mighty magnet
Of Mother Earth
Urging me back
Where I properly belong.
Well knowing that this force of
Eventually will win
I want a few more moments
Just bird's eyeing
This spectacular speck of our
Parachute opening above
The free fall comes to a halt
Turning me back upright
No more pressure on my chest
No more thunderous winds
Engulfing my head
Only sheer dazzling, dangling
As all spells stillness.
From the ramp over a chute
that drops so fast
the edge is all she sees,
pumps her poles,
silver suit spidered with webs.
She pushes off, then down,
and up fifty feet above the snow.
She turns, spirals. Skis aligned,
and head over hill,
she spots the run below,
plants herself upright
in tempered crystal snow.
Oystercatchers nibble at periwinkles
on the riffle-pebbled middle shore.
A girl, maybe Kate, loosens a blue kite mad into the wind.
Defying the force of gravity with thermals, she
tethers a boxed diamond of silk-colour to her body and
runs below the flight and glide of its solid velocity.
The horizon beckons for a desire to go from
this concrete here to the ephemera of her dreams.
This is filed into the buried memory of
this shore, this time, this presence.
How much, Dad,
I used to love our forays
to the park to fly my Chinese hawk
kite in chill March winds when I’d
forget about my frayed cloth jacket
and how cold I felt as I
raced beside you, teary
eyes glommed onto
the line of twine
that ran from
your grip straight
up to the big
and the tail
My training wheels lie in the grass
like legs. My father stands over them,
steadying the bicycle with one hand
while with the other he beckons
with a grimy finger. A Philips head
sticks in the earth beside the severed
pair. The whole scene looks like an amputation.
I will never walk again, if I can help it,
once I’ve learned to fly. Flying
is a little like dying and a little
like being born. I mount the bike
which wobbles slightly in my father’s grip
the way the earth wobbles in the grip
of the late afternoon sun going down
behind the huddled houses. The bicycle seat
which is now a little higher than the sun,
and the handlebars which are approximately
two stars, together form my north and south poles.
My spine is the prime meridian. My nose
sticks out over the top of the hill, on top
of the world, sniffing the air for the bottom.
I love coming back here
to this place where I was happy,
or maybe I was unhappy
and I keep coming back because
I’m not here anymore--not
there anymore. There’s a difference
between a great sorrow and a beautiful
catastrophe--beautiful for the way it
brought people together over it.
In the flying dream
I slip my fingers into the sidewalk cracks
and pull myself along, hand over hand,
reaching forward with bent elbows,
doing the crawl on dry land--
pull and recovery, pull and recovery--
scaling the earth horizontally until
suddenly I’m airborne--the sorrows
glinting in the sun, the catastrophes
dotting the backyards
like tiny swimming pools.
While my body slept, I took my old self,
crumpled it up like a blotched piece of paper,
and threw it off a cliff—Talk about
an out-of-body dream! Except I was awake.
I didn’t like the timorous autobiography
written in a corner by a sweaty hand.
Seventy years of trying to be what I am!
(The title of my old life’s story is
Sliming Along like an Arrogant Snail.)
My new self is a bald eagle—
From its perspective, men and women
already receive all they need,
yet viciously lunge at each other’s throats
for a portentous cut of imaginary cheese.
No reason to cry between earth and sky
as consciousness with eagle eyes spots
putrefied flesh—Such was my pride.
Trusting cosmos inside: “I am your body;
you are my soul. My Self is your aerie,
your self is my sole. Marry me, love.”
THE FAITH-BIRD IN FLIGHT
"Yea, the sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young — Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, my God — " (Psalm 84:4)
Where have you gone, Faith-bird? Some people say
You've fled to islands in a distant sea
Where winter never comes, a refugee
From freezing sleet that pounds our heads each day.
My sisters cry, in fear you've flown away
For good and built your nest upon a tree
Whose fruit we'll never taste, whose sanctity
Lies far beyond the prayers our brothers pray.
I wait for you, Faith-bird, no matter what
A thousand different strangers say; I wait
For your return, though winter is a thief
That schemes to steal the feathers you forgot
Before its ice will melt and irrigate
Your orchards and your gardens of belief.
Why do you fly away, Faith-bird, beyond
My grasp? Return to me, why do you fly
Past Joseph's bowing stars to touch a sky
Which only Jacob's ladder reached? How fond
You are of winds and clouds that correspond
To winds believers feel and clouds as high
As heaven's moon — is that the reason why
I cannot see the plumage you have donned?
I wait for you, Faith-bird, despite the screams
Of those who claim an arrow struck your wing,
Or that your voice is silent, mute and still.
Come perch upon the branches of my dreams,
Allowing me to listen as you sing
While building nests beside my window sill.
BELOW AND ABOVE
From the light we observe the Steel sheet
That covered our enriched body
In the light we exceed its speed
while dancing with each photon
everywhere when wave
limited to now and here when particle
The hurricane on earth becomes fresh breeze in the light
The trees are quiet, vibrate and sing
Ferocious animals are not hungry and shine
Gazelles don´t fear and don´t flee....
the sky is above or below
stained with every color
each lie has a load of truth on it
trying to explain the world
while traveling divinity
in the limitless extension of Consciousness.
Class 1 – 1941
Miss Wheeler took a new stick of chalk
and with a long ruler
drew neat precise lines
on the blackboard,
bars between which she created
and released a flock of white letters
whose beautiful cursive wings
undulated gently as they soared,
wings that lifted me
as I began copying them
into my notebook,
A a, B b, C c ….
We grazed our knees,
and boxed-in, squared-off
the clustered girls
dug ribs and kicked
for scrummied ball.
The walls were gray
and high and parried words,
or let them trickle
in flat swathes
to puddle on cement.
Sometimes, those concrete words escaped;
skipped out from textbooks,
skidded over parquet floors,
flew out through windows,
spun in freedom
rising from the city’s grimy air
to float above the clouds.
While still the boxed-in lawn
subdued the weed-words,
masking inky roots
bursting out in wildness
from cracks in the asphalt.
TO PRIMO LEVI
I received the letter coded in your book.
Incomprehensible words expanded my pupil.
The gap between us diminished.
Your life pained all my limbs.
In India I was once burned by my love
So our souls could continue together.
Now if I were to walk straight, like you,
From the balcony to the air -
Too late. You are already dead these ten years.
“Il mio primo autore”
Tsippora - my name - was the most beautiful in your eyes.
If only I could be your bird,
If only you could call me “my wing” * -
My wolves would be sated with oats.
In determined sadness I would spray you with smiles
Sailing entropically among love salts,
Waiting for a solidifying shock.
Like a chemist I would have administered my love to you:
In precise, clean stages,
So that a minute difference would not set off an explosion.
Blood full of ancient ferments of mistresses and geishas
Would have flooded in my veins.
My hands, delicate clay wandering in circles
Calming the festering boils.
As Avishag, chosen, I would have stayed
Between you and the cold
Opening my store of love for you.
—Tsippy Levin Byron
* Tsipora in Hebrew means bird
(yet another homage to Paul Celan
also to Cesar Vallejo whom I was reading at the moment)
Voice in the wings of the thorax, voice in the wings of the clenched cerebrum, prisoner within the wings, voice of my voice—
Tendon of pain, limbs scattering out of that one direction—
It overturns all synonyms like a wind among walls that have died standing up
I give it your name to play with
it flings the name away and goes loudly searching for it in the trees made from its calling
my name it has taken and denies this
yet it has promised me battle and I live by this:
All the ungiven glances like darts in a box
all the points of silence sharpened
towards the day when I fall
vanishing and they
fall past me flaring at equinox
over the dark sowing-time
of an alien earth.
—Esther Cameron February 1970
FROM A SEQUENCE BASED ON PSALMS—FOR PSALM 18
Already confident in its distress,
I found a cry inside my ears,
A cry that took my lines and nets
To cast all night along its floods of tears:
Earth shook and moved,
Foundations shook and were removed,
I might discover out at sea.
A wind picked up along its ancient sayings
Like thoughts or something looked upon
Immediately heard in the songs they’re playing
On air this morning: a thick pavilion
Like stanzas broken
On high, a cherub ridden out
Like messages acrostically spoken.
I wondered, should I pull a line from out
Each stanza, mend it, make another,
When at your word, and still in doubt,
My nets were broken by a force discovered
Below the straits:
That’s brought into a larger place
And gasps at its infinitude.
Imagination kindles in its room,
The cry’s old voice inside its ear:
The sky behind the afternoon
Is loosed in thunder it takes me years to hear,
There’s nothing but a word whose root
Is ‘drop’, a sky made up of sea.
He that flies upon the wings of the wind
Becomes a storm of ocean squalls
Deposited on streets through which I wind
My way to work, a line recalled
Glanced at, ignored,
Which once had soared,
A branch of leaves against the wall.
The street is strewn with famous phrases torn
By skies from freshly heavy trees,
My awe becomes compassionate, transformed
By sights a fallen rider sees:
Clouds, which once ranged,
Now beg for change,
Recumbent under crowds new born.
His sight shall light my candle, make me light,
And make my feet like chamois feet
To set me scraping to a rugged height,
A steep horizon’s stones my street.
Enlarge my steps,
I cannot slip:
The world shall fall under my feet.
His hand teaches on high my hand to write,
My arms archaically to break
An anecdotal style that’s put to flight,
To tread its neck to dust wind takes.
In him I’ve slept
And words have leapt
Over the words that made us great.
Voices akin to a crow, revisited
I love to hear the squawking of the crow
that welcomes the rising sun each morning
He hops from branch to branch at his pleasure
The cypress tree is our shared safe haven
The crow ignores street cats’ plaintive meows,
and my morning yawns and sighs, completely
He does not lie to me nor flatter me
He does not meddle with my thoughts or prayers
He does not mock my attempts to write poetry
He doesn’t say, “Hey, that poem doesn’t even rhyme!”
Free verse is free, or at least it should be
Like a crow squawking in the wind is free