Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Poem: I Identify "I" (maybe retitled at a later date)

the only thing that links these things
is time, and the times in which
i identify "i"
this whole concept of "i"
like why i write, what my eye
sees, and the trainwreck of mixed metaphors
and past participles that form the collective whole
of "i."

walk around Bonsack.
i can tell you where the sweetest water
flows into a cattail swamp,
where a naiad lives in a waterfall
with bloodroots around her feet,
where Solomon's-seal, black nightshade,
water hemlock, St. Jonhswart, and jimsonweed grow,
where the red barn once stood in a suburb,
one road named "Red Barn Road" after they tore it down.
this is where myth and reality walked hand-in-hand
as i walked, learning the lay of the land,
finding places that seemed like dreaming legends
and the made-up names i gave them in my heart.

walk around Union Square, NYC.
i can take you to the circle where the park-rats sit,
where street intellectuals and sidewalk philosophers talk.
i can introduce you to people with legendary names:
Smoke, Spider, Conscience, Old School, Papo, Shadow, King Twice.
i know where to find: street artisans that would make Salvador
weep with joy, nag champa incense, chess games, sparring, and cannabis.
there's a map in my soul that i could follow blindfolded
to restaurants, poetry dives, coffeehouses, and bookstores.
this is where i wed myth to reality, becoming mythical myself,
an outsider looking in and an insider looking out,
finding a hunger, and learning what hunger was all about,
and growing a few streetwise hairs in my ragged, thinning pelt.

walk around Hinton, WV.
i can point to the land that my great-great-grandfather owned,
and sold when they came to build the dam.
i can take you to the place where the water sounds like thunder,
and where a single misstep can pull you under.
i can show you the Cave Ridge, the Old Rail-Yards, the point
where Greenbrier and New River's join in their flow.
i can show you the building that held the store
where my great-grandfather worked when i was a boy.
this is where i merged bitter with sweet,
just like the Greenbrier and New River meet,
and flow together like nostalgia and nightmares join
and from troubled waters dive for darker pearls.

the only common element is this insignificant particle
that i identify "i," and the thread that binds
them all together
is time.
at any point along that line, i could have turned
another way, made
another choice, or breathed
my last breath. this mortal thread
is finite. i keep the cords
wrapped tightly as i can,
binding them with words, binding
words into poetry, and trying to make sense
of senseless things,
and when people tell me these things aren't connected,
i tell them, "yes, they are.
you're looking at the common element,
the rare earth that has tied the knot."

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