The Long Now 16 (Gathering the Shades)
by JAMES MEETZE
Only stepping onto the raft does Dante feel
his own weight water displaced like spirits
damned pushing back against him.
Only in relation to ghostly bodies does he awaken
into himself and see the fires for what they are
private inclinations unveiled outside the soul.
Who are you
come before your time?
Filippo Argenti could have been a filmmaker
of horrors had moving light
O Dante! You’re so defensive seeing how
the other half live.
Burn down the temples of the Sun cut the music
end the poem Phlegyas did to spite his own face
and now he gathers the shades
from the muck—
as wrath wrought.
This must be the place gondoliers go to sing
about love It is the things themselves
from the depths of their silence, that it wishes
to bring to expression.
The first sidelong rain of the driest year
on record is wasted.
There is no one
there to capture it
in his empty cup.
To what Hell then do we go always thirsty
without plight or pleasure
of a faraway face brought near enough
to make moon as nomadic as the thought of it.
O what do you look for in the hopeful sign
the shape in which the stars align.
When the flower is plucked and like Persephone
you wake what then do you imagine?
A voice become cobalt blue the words
and if you were to write
a world what flower might you find
already there in hand?
I see the fool in the tree
she’s the same fool as me.
It is enough to know what forces push back
against you essential clarity dark language.
I could just go on reading the real.
It is enough to chemically bond
with the scent of jasmines
indifferent to the way friends are lost
and others found like most things
in conflict with the personal
take on politics.
It is enough to open my arms and be taken
my dream said by my reflection
in another holy word.
It is never here what we are waiting for will
never come if asked the joy the money
the home the string of days that lead me toward you
Dante knew was always about loss.
It is the condition we are born into
and learn the rules of
and work to undo
and die into again.