Dave Awl: New Poems
The Points of the Star
Hands, feet and head, the points of the star:
the body a trail we leave behind us in time.
Headless the body paces along the shore,
waiting for the soul to come home from the sea.
Without the soul the body doesn’t notice the passing of time.
While the soul is absent the body has no agenda,
doesn’t age, doesn’t fret.
It strolls along the serrated shore littered
with the discarded hulls and casings of soft-bodied crustaceans,
the sand left behind by sea-worn rock,
no more than evidence of rocks that were.
Eventually the soul comes home, by ship-return or shipwreck,
Is coughed up on shore and once again caught on gravity’s hook;
Hands, feet and head, the five points of the star.
In the presence of fuel, oxygen, and sufficient heat,
combustion occurs. The wick plays host to the nimbus of flame;
the glass of the lantern shelters the flicker of fire.
From a distance, through the glass, the flame adopts the shape
of a five-pointed star; head, hands and feet, now host to the flame.
When a wind comes through and gutters the flame,
the hands and feet appear to dance.
And the flame that flickers in the head of the five-pointed star
wavers through its brief life believing
its life is all that is. When it gutters out time ends;
the lantern not empty but rather, no lantern.
At times what it knows crackles through the air
as television signals;
radiation passing from star to star.
Distant suns whispering together in the frozen black;
conversations that take forever to come to the point.
In nightclubs the body dances:
the points of the star swaying and tossing,
caught in a current like the bodies
of starfish under water,
desert trees waving in the African wind.
Sometimes the sea shapes itself into a body
so that it can walk on dry land.
Sometimes the body takes to the sea or the air,
cupping its hands around the flame as it sails or soars,
the world flying past as the flame and the body stay still.
Sometimes the soul slips out the bedroom window
for an evening out, doing its best not to wake the body,
which is tired from its labors and needs its rest.
And sometimes the soul travels far afield, communicates
in sporadic postcards and letters home.
When, after long journeys,
the soul takes the key from under the mat
and re-enters the body, the body heats water,
offers sustenance, makes room in the bed.
Outside the body, there are storms
and the soul hunkers down in the basement with a flashlight
and a radio.
Outside the body, there are storms
and the soul climbs to the attic and stands in the window,
waiting for lightning to enter.
Inside the body, there are storms,
and observers on the street outside
glance up to see flashes of light in the attic window,
hear the crash of glass or an avalanche —
hurry past, wondering if they’ll read about it in the news.
Though it is made of earth,
the body is no less a stranger on the earth
than the five-pointed star sheltered in its lantern.
Because that resident ember makes the body
strange and separate
from the dirt and the rock from which it came.
And just as the flame consumes the wick,
so the soul consumes the body:
makes it aware of time, and so subject to time
and its gradual progress.
Time a lens that bends the truth;
the mind a lens that tries to bend time, till the time runs dry.
And the body a trail we leave behind us in time,
stretching from endpoint to origin in its flickering dance:
head, hands and feet, the points of the star.
Your Unlived Days
One by one all your unlived days fell off the calendar
and settled in a heap on the floor. You couldn’t bear
the sight of them there, so you swept them out the back door
with a broom. There they were eaten by mice and pigeons,
who grew fat on the mountains and seasides
of your lost vacations; became dizzy and enraptured,
their minds racing with the poems and novels
you never coaxed from your keyboard;
and fell asleep at last in the solid, comforting arms
of your undiscovered boyfriend. And he, he woke up suddenly
from a nap on an October afternoon, striped with sunlight,
to find his arms full of mice and pigeons.
Days Under Glass
Stones are falling to earth from outer space
while you sleep. People find them and
put them in glass cases at museums.
Invisible stagehands clear away the evidence
of your dreams at the moment you awake,
so you stare at the blank stage and try to remember
what left this residue of feeling.
Trees are whispering to each other
outside your window while you
pay bills online, email your landlord
about that alarm that’s still beeping in the stairwell.
Microbes are conspiring in your intestines
to control your thoughts and moods.
They want you to eat more chocolate.
People thousands of miles away want you
to update your software again, read your notifications,
open that email and click on the link.
Deep in the pipes, unspeakable things are congealing
in a way that will demand your complete attention
on a Tuesday afternoon in about three weeks.
There’s a drawer in your kitchen that
keeps opening, all by itself. None of the possible
explanations for this seem good.
While you cook dinner, your hair is
imperceptibly growing because it wants you
to visit your stylist. He’s the only man
who runs his fingers through your hair these days.
At 2 am, you listen for the sound
of stones falling to earth again.
You walk through an empty museum after hours
and what you see in the glass cases is only for you.