Thursday, September 23, 2010
I am posting an old poem that has never appeared in any of my published poetry books--though a version of the poem was published in a literary magazine some years back (though I don't remember exactly where).
A great book, the sky, when I was eight.
Centuries before, someone had connected
all the stars. I walked onto the pages
of the night and looked for worlds
they told me I would find. I read what
I was taught: all there—I could see them, the Big
and Little Dippers, a lion, a bear, a chariot.
Oh, but God! It wasn't near enough
(children are so greedy) —never near enough.
At ten, I began connecting stars
in different ways: a cactus once (no Mexicans
leaning on that one), a roadrunner,
a prairie dog, a family of armadillos.
One night a rosary, my grandmother’s face,
a rain bush, the outline of Texas. And once,
a coyote so real I could hear his howl.
Another time: lovers in hot embrace (that one
took hours but I was sixteen—I had the will
and the time). After years of drawing figures
in the sky, I never thought my efforts were
in vain, never thought it all a waste of time—
even when cynics insisted.
I’d face down unbelievers with a glare.
But then years and wisdom intervened.
Wisdom is important when you're twenty.
The stars held no portraits, did not
tell a story—they shone, nice, I liked them.
(I was adult and reading Emerson).
Ahhh, to be free of drawing
all those lines.
If I write
like stringing separate stars
what does it mean?
Wiser now to stop connecting
words. Shut up and live
in silence. Shut up, shut up—-
last night, I walked outside
my door and looked up at the cold
and blessed night, the sky
on fire with the stars.
I searched and searched until
I found that damned coyote of my youth.
After forty years
He was still angry and wild
He was still lonely and large
He was still howling his name.
from the border Benjamin Alire Saenz