Clarifying Vision


An alchemist looks at his laboratory and sees
penguins drinking tea

He looks again and sees it’s his beakers bubbling

A king looks out at his courtiers and sees them
hurling stones

He looks again and sees it’s their tongues moving

An aerialist looks down and sees empty space
sliced in two

He looks again and sees it’s his tightrope quivering

If we look out on the world we might see its
bison heaving together in steaming herds

heading perilously near sheer cliffs

But if we look again it may be a summer
fireworks seen in the distance over picnickers
or the soft chiming of bells played solemnly by enrobed
eighth graders raising and lowering their brassy glints

The plot thickens and thins congeals and bubbles up
and then when it seems to get its thorniest and knottiest
dissipates into vapor and we see that the gummy substance of it
was simply its lovely symmetry or the way two abstract
planes of it intersected then pulled away into thin air

I look at this page and I’m at Alamogordo
watching an A-bomb test shielding my eyes as the
universe showers up into nothingness

Gaze at the walls and see giraffes in wallpaper droves
galloping from right to left in a continuous
scissoring screen loping tall yellow against blue sky

See the hearts of us all like precious orchids in jars
at an exhibition tended by a hooded figure
enveloped in halo calling each of our
names by their secret Arabic meanings
under a hushed heaven

And it’s the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him
moving among us
soothing our bruises and strengthening the
delicate but stalwart nature of our stems

Who sees only God

3/17/2007 (from Invention of the Wheel)

Categories: Poems