Daily Archives: March 18, 2022

Atlantis

Revised. From 1999.

1.   Prelude

breakfast: approved fruits and grains and decaf

they sit and eat accompanied by radio’s easy news
of celebrity quirks
blood tragedy trivia
ripples over an abyss

there are the usual long silences
between two who’ve been together a long time
who once believed they had known each other
long before this life and are no longer sure

he paced his den last night
trying to recall the flavor of civilization

she lay awake upstairs
listening to other insomniacs’
fever fear of UFOs

if there were ever children here
they are not apparent now
so they will spend the day
as they spend every day

absorbed in paperbacks and gossip
never quite grasping the answering machine
if they were ever friends
those bonds have become invisible
in all this mist
that attends the slow closing of their world
as it slips to one side

and they begin to seek
Atlantis

2.  The Husband’s Library

Come into the
shadow of this red rock…

he read that phrase some years ago
it drives him crazy because he can’t place the source 

all he really knows is that as he read them the first time
the words rose out of his center like islands glimpsed from afar

and they are there still

some nights when he is lying in his den
surrounded by fabulous stories
he sees himself on one of those islands
draped in a fine robe
crouched in the cool shade
of an enormous sandstone ledge
he is adored by millions
who flock from the cities to see him

he stares across the crowd
from under the safety of his
natural pulpit 
is beloved
and is wise
and is haunted
by fiction

he knows his imagined wisdom
is all his own creation
there are plenty of other myths

that would have him crushed
or buried
or drowned

while the red rock loomed in the background
as metaphor
as symbol
some kind of doom
meted out by the earth
to those who dream of perfection
in small family rooms surrounded by fantasy

red rock looms
and looms
and looms

he drops his habit
becomes naked
in the presence of red rock

in a waste land
he never allows himself
to reconsider

3.   The Wife’s Radio

she lies down wide awake
as her clock opens the night with 12:47
it’s a good start she thinks
past midnight but not yet one o’clock
still time to get a good night in
barely AM

unlike

the radio that is always AM
and the man on the radio
who is always suspicious

he says

there are stars
that move

there are whiter
lines outside the yellow lines you can’t cross

there are cigars
over your head

there are scoffers
anywhere you look

anywhere you look
there are fools

there are people up
there

and down here too
but not visible

some are friends
and some are alien gray

blending into elf
tales we grew up with

the clock chimes in at 2:13
now we’re getting serious
now we’re speaking for everyone
who never gets out much
now we are talking olympus

he says

there are people
who are taken by the gods

there are stories
that don’t hold water when you pour it on

there are big heads
that won’t admit opinions

there are men in
the halls of power

there are women
under the sidewalks

there are marriages
that act like Kabuki parody

white faces farce
stereotype almost otherworldly

not ever quite
there

still awake at 3:36
way past dream now

is the rain natural this late, or this early

she thinks someone downstairs is tossing stones against
the windows
does she dare go find out
if facts are facts

he says

there are secrets
that look like commercials for mind loss

there are facts and
then there are facts

there are spotters
holding up the constitution for ridicule in the desert

there are old
stories that make ours seem like sequels

there you go when
you do go

when she falls asleep at last
nothing is stable 
except those huge eyes that shine like definitions

paradise has slipped

4.  The Journey to Atlantis

I will never kill
you, my love,

they are both thinking
as they resume their spots at their
breakfast table

breakfast: approved fruits and grains and decaf

they sit and eat
accompanied by radio’s easy news
of celebrity quirks

the usual long silences
between two who’ve been together a long time
who once believed they had known each other
long before this life and are no longer sure

when the news stops
being about the news
and nothing can be done

when the anchors talk and talk
of what the anchors want to talk about
and nothing can be said

they will think of Atlantis
stop dreaming of a temporary sacrifice

they will think of Atlantis
in the western ocean
or the eastern sea

Atlantis
where sabbaths came with no clouds overhead

Atlantis
where braver tales were told in the councils of power

Atlantis
where the highways were long and straight

Atlantis
I loved you then

Atlantis
when the egg you were hatching

Atlantis
was the thing that would drown you

Atlantis
which was solely red rock on soul blue sea

Atlantis
which was dark against the sky every holy peak of it

Atlantis
which is still a name of dreams

Atlantis
every people has you

Atlantis
every school refers to you

Atlantis
isn’t it nice to be remembered by

a couple
who lives forever in silence
whose children are grown

whose every memory is infected with longing
for something
that has always been

Atlantis
a place of such perfection
they know it must have been real once

hear them whisper

please say that
just now it’s only covered over

for God’s sake say it isn’t gone


Footpath

So little new 
to say
once you realize
that you have stopped
being a person and
transformed into
a footpath
now that you have
reached a certain age,
that people
either follow you
or wear you out
or stray from you;

you are so carved
into your surroundings
that you cannot help 
but stay in your groove, 
ground into the landscape
until the last person
who remembers you 
as a person has passed,
and that will be all,

but still you keep
doing this Work

because there’s always a chance 
of you becoming one path
to that which is still out there,
beyond your view, a destination
everlasting and pure enough
that even if no one ever
says your name again 
you will have helped,
you will have mattered.