At night, in the fields, small fires are burning.
Nobody knows who sets them.
People come and go in the darkness but they leave
no trace. The moon enforces its pale cold silence
from horizon to horizon and everything is strange
to everything else. In the soil, small ordinary objects
are buried: a scissors here, a hand mirror there.
Thimbles and gloves without mates and the
occasional molar. The little flames lightly flickering
talk to themselves, keep themselves company,
exist only for themselves.
They leave ash behind but no stories.
Night Diary 9/20/2009
Last night my heart burst open in my sleep.
Streams of red, black, blue,
purple, silver, orange, and gold ants streamed
through my arteries, along with shriveled balloons,
confetti, high school greasepaint, and the sound
of roller skates. A black-and-white photo
of a dimpled sailor on a bicycle
fell off my bedroom wall with a soft crash.
I woke up heartless and transparent
and I could hear the sea echoing through
everything, feel the calm slow turning
of the galaxy’s core. I wish my heart well, it was a good cook
and a better horse thief, but it’s time
we went our separate ways. I can fly
now, and I see through walls. I laugh at the critics
and the day-old doughnuts and the thin glad flat sad rain.
Night Diary 82
How will you ever afford all the snow? You tear open your pillow
and inside it is the world you hid as a child, but you don’t know
what to do with it now. Dinner consists of a roasted taxicab and regret.
The oven door swings open and the witch climbs out,
younger now and better dressed; you kiss her elbow
and the scene dissolves into a chaos of crows.
Back on Earth the days go by, and still you wait:
pregnant with trumpets and hawks that can’t find their way
to the sky. Your head throbs with undelivered meaning,
unexplored countries, lost journeys, undrawn maps.
So the days continue to leak out of the calendar.
There are the rituals of salt and strawberries;
that feeling of pedaling away and you sense the earth turning
beneath you, but the horizon stays where it is.
Behind you the dusk is catching up:
Grey birds pull the curtain of night over your cage
and the stars wink out one by one, leaving you with no choice
but to invent new constellations to decorate the empty space.
Letter: August 1st
Listen, on those August
nights when the tree pressed its shaggy
face so close to the window
you were sure it wanted
to devour you, or something the
tree was part of did, that summer
midnight silence rose right up
to the black sky and the music
of the insects was the thread
that bound it together and the
darkness moved with the indiscernible
shapes that did inhabit it, and the
warm breath of the night in your bed made
promises it never, ever would keep.
But the memory of that breath,
those promises, what the tree whispered
to you in the place between waking and sleeping
are the things of which
your life is truly made, the rest just
wires and pulleys
to make the contraption go —
keep it running just long enough
for you to have glanced out the window
into the dark blue eyes
of that one ripe summer night
at the center of your life.
Withdraw now, from what’s outside the frame —
return to the secret center where what’s true
is still true, regardless of what happens outside.
There is a tiny blinking light that sings in the dark;
there is a true north that is always there,
even on the bad days when the needle can’t find it.
The sad stories are always about time,
the awareness of time, the doom of the future
and the loss of the past crushing the present
under their combined weight. But somehow the true now
survives, moves where it needs to go,
hibernates under the snow or dries itself out
like a tardigrade, dormant for a century or more,
only to awaken into life at the touch
of a single drop of water.
Dave Awl is the author of the book What the Sea Means: Poems, Stories & Monologues, 1987-2002. His poems and fiction have also appeared in After Hours, Milk Magazine, and Blithe House Quarterly. He is the founder of The Kraken, an international network of readers and scholars interested in the work of novelist Russell Hoban. Dave spent the 90s writing and performing in the long-running fringe theater hit Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind with The Neo-Futurists theater company, and many of his short plays are included in the collections 100 Neo-Futurist Plays, 200 More Neo-Futurist Plays, and Neo Solo.
Dave Awl’s book What the Sea Means
Dave Awl’s book What the Sea Means on Facebook
Dave Awl in the Book of Voices on e-poets
Dave Awl will appear in a 25th Anniversary performance with the Neo-Futurists on December 2, 2013, the same night of their very first performance, and in the same building–now a comic book store. To learn more about T.M.L.M.T.B.G.B.–The Baby Returns to the Cradle–go here!
Wonderful selections. Thank you for this introduction to Awl’s work.
Such wonderfully centered poems. Thanks, Kathleen. Most of all, thanks, Mr Awl.