The Long Now 16 (Gathering the Shades)




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          
           been captured.
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—          
           such wrath
                    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
            the poem          
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.