First the dogs go missing. Then the days.
It was an aftershock in the first week,
a sudden scum of movement
alive with stunned mosquitoes
over all the swimming pools
east of the great alkali deserts.
Just that least observable movement—
a breath of chlorine—
with the loud dark wings of flies
lifting in a cloud to eye level. Then, again,
the long coastal land becoming
a rope bridge over an unlikely void
with a meridian best described by the blind.
The phantom pendulum that arouses
an average value— the line
from groin to the morphine heaps of the mind.
The halved illustrated doll houses
with sleepwalkers standing in the archways,
mostly naked; so fixed
that the plumber on the third floor
looks a victim of crucifixion.
I believe William James dreamt
of the San Francisco quake
and yet arrived in time to experience it
because of a long-standing
that he could not, in all honor, abdicate.
We have not yet guessed
at a 21st-century gentleman, author or mystic,
with his manners and engagements,
no burden of harmonics or imagination, just screaming—
running mad across some draining lake
way beyond the city limits:
He’s kneeling now in a rose excitement of wings,
of blond fleas, and James would have noted
in his journal that they
would eat him clear to the bone, with the sinew snapping
like violin strings.
"Out of the Mouth of Cygnus" posted with permission of Norman Dubie. Copyright © 2004 Norman Dubie.