I’m not going to say this twice (but if I do I’m going to add more birds)

Be sure in your art.
By all means be tapped out, hard up,
on-your-beam-ends poor if you are,
but when you dance,
dance mansions, parks, chestnut trees
with pale pyramid flowers.
Flex an arm: banknotes
flutter from your fingers
like swallows. Mint motion.

Even your journals grant
principalities to princes.
The huge coffered door of your hall
bends and groans with the press
of secretaries and goatherds
clutching spice boxes,
ranch hands with gold watches,
bluebird navies, teak-timbered ships.
Go out to the harbor this morning
and swing your ideas against
their sides. Send them on their way.

Be nervous if you must,
flop-sweat stopped
like a drowned bottle,
but your hands when they draw,
draw water from rock —
white pelicans,
the most self-absorbed things in the sky,
wheel and rest at your feet,
canyons open,
the horizon duplicates itself
infinitely,
dark for the pearls of stars.

Lack faith if you do,
but your voice, when you sing along,
peals from Spanish mission towers,
beams creak with the weight of bells,
dun valleys fill and green,
dwarf pines whistle and whisper.
Keep your head down:
vesper sparrows have made a nest
in your faithless hair.

It has always been that way.
The monks have gathered for Matins
and the abbot is on the stair.
He has your arms and eyes, your hands.
And the old voice —
the one we put together
from sewn leather, trail dust,
sage, salt, wind whipped,
like a prayer —
lifts, hums, moves
the whole goddamn building
from the rafters to the crypt.

Copyright © 2019 Lilibug Publishing.

Poetics, Advice

You will learn that words
will survive nuclear winter
by eating cockroaches
but that your best idea is frost
on a warm finger:
it never loved you.

From Patrick Lane
you learn to raise words
like sticks and bright embers,
from Maya Angelou you learn
cadence.
You learn humility and rage
from Mary Oliver and Adrienne Rich,
balls-out bold from Whitman and Ginsberg.

You will learn that you have cataracts
where Annie Dillard has eyes,
that you come to speak poem
the way you found your physical voice:
imitate, emulate, absorb,

until your pores sweat words like garlic,
until your head hums a chorus
of sanskrit crickets,
leaf-blade swords, chariot whispers,
parrots the color of pomegranates
and lime.

You will learn
that syllables eat like cats:
rarely when you want them to
and never what you have.

They want to eat doubt
and wild moss pink from your hands;
when you have fresh mangoes
they will want the salt and dead skin
from the corners of your mouth,

and when you have given up,
drained and dry,
they will run their
sandpaper tongues along the edges
of your sleeping thoughts.