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image for Arms of Simon and Other Poems Arms of Simon and Other Poems
by Deborius

ARMS OF SIMON

The clouds were swollen eyelids

     when they took Him from the stump,
gently wrapped Him in loose, white weave.
Old Simon, strong from labor years,
carried in his arms
      like a baby,
      like a lover,
swaddled Jesus.

No rough wheeled cart for this perfect shell,
no wheels of splintering wood,
or metal-spined bed.
Simon had such carts,
carried value goods in their sturdy frames.
But only arms could carry this cargo,
     still smelling sweet of blood
     and the hard salt of perspiration.

Few men were ever blessed with such a burden.

His legs ached from the longest walk.
In his mind, he saw his wife's soft arms,
his children's sad smiles,
and the stretch of empty streets
     between them and him.

There was dust everywhere. His feet
stirred it into low clouds. And he ambled
like an eye of a hurricane
     grief of women,
     young men
swirling around him.

These were timeless minutes,
moving through a darkened landscape,
as if the earth were momentarily
     holding its breath.
To have such a friend in his arms at last,
to carry one who's love had carried him
     into the immense world,
nothing could be more perfect, more sad.

There'll be a place to rest Him on stone and straw,
another stable no longer used.
Maybe Simon was a midwife, he smiled,
delivering Him to new birth.
For now there was only walk
and legs that grew sturdier,
      and these arms which would be forever gentler.

 

OLD ANGEL'S HOME

She had an incurable wing disease,
        and having been an angel
                       for so long,
had long since forgotten how to walk.

         So here she was
on the backside of a maple leaf
     where angels go to rest.
       There were hundreds
   maybe thousands reclining
    under this particular leaf.

      Since angels never die,
       they pass their time
   changing the color of leaves,
          autumn being a favorite.

   But this was an evergreening
                        day of Spring.

              What to do.
            Not to change
         what mortals only
      are allowed to change.

 And so she turned attention to
                 a chunk of sand
       and made it sparkle
      like a rainbow's wing,

         a drop of mist
   catching on an eyelash,

         the dark river
      in a grain of wood,
        and a dangling cobweb,

then spent the rest of the day
  picking dust off of bobby pins.

 

SKIN PEOPLE

Locked in some strange bitterness.
       Everyone irritates.
The stupid, scratching noise
             of trivial lives.

All the those chattering butterfly tongues,
     meaningless flap of words,
            meander without purpose.

I just want to hear less talk
     and more breathing.

Skin people waddling about                                                                  
tugging along their insides,
           fleshy bags of mute stones.

 

JAGUAR PRIESTS

A bowl of red dust
all that is left
of the jaguar priests.

Their teeth and bones
have long since grown into mountains.

And their dead long hair
still makes the seashore stink.

 

WE LIED

We lied to our friends
        that we were already
        sleeping together,
not socially cool
          given the H.I.V. paranoia.

But then trust was almost immediate,
and neither of us were afraid of fear.

One could call it a deep introduction.

I knew you before I knew your whole name,
     and you knew me before you knew
            the secret of my shoes.

THE CROW KNOWS

The air belongs to crow.

He brings it close to me
       to breathe as he flies by.
I taste the thickness
       that supports his wings.
It unsettles me.
Is death disguised as sunlit sky?
       Tightness continues to coil.

I walk unsteadily in his air.
It's made for flying, and
     my wings are folded
            in my head,
     the only place I fly.

I need the darkness of graves
     on a bright-blue day like this.
I've buried nearly every hope,
mourned the death of dreams,
     and realized intent
     is a cripple that cannot fly
or even walk with certainty
in the air crow brings to me.

What is left?
I am a tangle of bodies
     of those I love:
my arms, your legs,
and the space between our legs
     which male and female
conjoins in mocking laughter.

We are a cosmic humor
     tittering on the edge.
And as we smile and show our teeth,
     it frightens us.

Will we bite
    or will we kiss with our teeth?
Only crow knows.

THE CARE OF BLUE HERON

At night the blue heron
      feeds on small ringling fish
that hang out in the mussel farm
on the far end of the lagoon.

During the day the mussel patch
                            is attended.
So heron visits at night.

He will only feed once tonight.
Fog already starts to roll in,
       thick as my true love's tongue.

I know of this because I met heron
this evening on his return.
Blue heron glided by,
       his twig legs all arabesque,
and squawked to me
as he landed on a nearby tree.
I was surprised at
       his calm recognition
and tried to remember where we had met before.

By this time he had hopped
       to another branch, squawked again
and then to a third branch
              talking as he left.

Yes, by now I heard this as talking.
Kinky, say some of you.

Here am I, a guest on the balcony
       of my own Juliet,
when a blue heron glides by
       and stops to give me
               his subtle opinion.

"Oh, it's you.
      You here to give her fish?"
(A heron expression of care for a mate)
"Guess it's all right."
And off he flies to his own mate
      to disgorge a few bright morsels.

Puzzled but somewhat reassured,
      I'll go back in,
mention her friend the blue heron,
and cook her a fine dinner,
                     not of fish
but of peppered chicken and wild rice.

 

GENTLE KNIVES

You give me a pale, white quartz
        found by the ocean,
and I carry it around like a rosary.

It has your calmness,
        and as you say you have power.

Is there a twelve-step method that handles
        the withdrawal of wholeness
when I'm not near you?

Today I'm avoiding you.
You're a walking vivisection,
        trailing entrails.
Impossible to be around and not hurt.

When we're together,
         we touch on the insides.
What at first is sensitive
          becomes stripped out and eviscerated.

We are a meeting of loving scalpels
          intent on uncovering
the truth in each other,
proudly baring our souls to the process.
And I've never been less fearful
          of something so frightening.

Trust borders on adoration,
and like a belief in God
         is never doubted
                  but always threatened.

So we walk an invisible thread
         and joke about the lack of nets,
so tenuous and so permanent the moment.

Whatever I say I love
         turns out to be a thing of pain.
Whenever you say you love,
        I gawk at the dreadful openness of it,
                  the bottomless giving.

Can there be a climbing without falling?
         We're so human.
I think I must return to the white stone.

Its smooth soothingness
          can only be from a lifetime
of violent, eroding tides.
        This pebble speaks to me of torment ocean
                  the way you question what I love.

For a moment let's put away the knives,
the need to see the truth in each other,
         and triumph in our arms,
         the comfort of holding what we value.
We could fill books
             with what we have already seen.

 

NIGHT, FURIOUS NIGHT

Unfreezes the rage in me,
      the self-feeding fire.
I don't know enough worst words
to free myself no matter
      how often I repeat them.

So rage settles in
     my shoulders and back.
I am petrifying,
     becoming mute
              stone anger,
and my stomach hollows cavernous.

I am reminded of old Wasserman
     the week before he died.
I asked him something about the weather,
and he replied
     "The mind is colored paper."
Just now I can't see the colors.
It seems more a white butterfly,
     erratic in its path,
the least solid of all things.
Easy to name the chunks
     one can do nothing about,
impossible to swallow them.

I need a spitting wall
      to empty my mouth,
              to break and splatter
these weights on my tongue.

The tongue cannot embrace
what the throat refuses to swallow.
If only I could bite them,
      I'd bite them hard,
           very hard.

 

TALK

climbing in a tree. talk.
slipping on the rust. talk.
rising in the rain. talk.
driving in the dust. talk.

lying on a limb. talk.
soaking in a hole. talk
stepping on a nail. talk.
dripping off a pole. talk.

ripping off the top. talk.
laying down a wreath. talk.
spinning on a tongue. talk.
gripping with the teeth...

 

DOGWATCH

the mind is nothing but a weak nose
             at 4 a.m.
the dogwatch before dawn
             this is the moment
             of greatest weakness
when the men armed with politics
             break the door down
             drag you from your slumber
and fry your brain with questions
             til you're brittle with uncertainty
a dry bone between inquisitor teeth
             you chatter, you tremble
you break with the new day
             and ooze the lubricant
             that revolutions run on
the old container is discarded
             into a pile of other minds
             on top of which sits
             the minister of noses
waiting for the next dogwatch

E.C.T.

electro-convulsive-treatment

 

        The electric crowbar is shoved into a forehead,
        and the tip gleams between neatly parted hair
               above the back neck.
        Circle the head.
        A vacant feeling bubbles between the ears.
        The hole becomes a tunnel.
               A train jams through it.
               Smoke crusts the edges.
               The track crumbles beneath the weight.
        and in the hole metal chews itself.
        Circle the body.
        Nothing moves but the jerking twitch of toes.
               Trace the edge of the linen table cloth back up to the head where
               the ear lobes may burst.
        The electric crowbar is pulling out.
        It leaves a simmering hole.
               The emptiness smells of dry frogs and teacups and watermelons
        and egg rot and fresh wood and cinnamon,
        a bloodless burn.
        In the absence of metal
        the head is a hollow burial mound.
               The hair has roots that tangle in the dark,
        and sow bugs lie on their backs and tickle the skull,
        but the blanket remains unwrinkled.
               Float up from the table and see the stiff body there.
               A slight ripple in the shoulders,
               and the white muscles of the stomach tremble.
               The knees crack together, and the wrists hump.
        And invisibly the body cracks open.
        The straps are unloosed.
        Stand it on its feet.
        Is it meat with teeth or just a flower beneath a windmill?

 

Tonight...

Tonight
the air is a field
of dark cornflowers.
You are frightened on the phone
and dizzy with the unfamiliar fragrance.
You speak with the tension of a night stem
unaware of the burdened leaves
or of the weight of your dark flower.
The intoxication of soil is in your feet.
You dance unknowingly, your movements
rich in unsolved pleasure.
There is no concealment in this night,
only the fragrance of uncovering.

 

DARK TRACKS

I touch your back, the most vulnerable part of you.

Strange contours, nublike hills speak individual lives
        in your spine.

I get lost in these hills - the pain
       the unresolved movement,
       the small earthquakes stored there.

The southernmost part of this ridge
       where something went wrong a long time ago,
you've lived with it ever since.

Who is to say something went wrong?
       All I know is the detour this mountain
       took around some unseen obstacle and how
       events conspire to remind you of this unseen.

When with you touching the nakedness of your back,
       I am witness.

I see the past moments each with something
       that never happened, but could have.

The hills store these
       events that never occurred.
       They are the shade that defines hills.

A chill ripples up your back.
It always happens when shade collects,
and a shadow walks the hills.

I am one of the darknesses that chills you.
But my footprints along your spine
       will soon turn to vapor.

And I will join the other memories
       sleeping in your back.

 

SNAKES DANCE

The dogs are crazy tonight
because the snakes are dancing.

You look out on the swamp
      on a night this, to us
       a moonless night and

your eyes feel,
    they cannot see,
they feel the swamp grass
        rising in the wind.

 The reeds rise and curl and sway,
and air bristles through the grass
           a hissing sound.

There's a story in these parts
        about a girl named Sadie
 who was proud and beautiful.
She'd drive the local boys crazy
      with desire to climb her legs.

One night like this, she met and
  ran off with a red-haired boy
 and was never seen again.

But ever since on a new moon night,
              the kind of night
        when you can only trust
           what your eyes feel,
      the swamp comes alive with
               quiet dancing.

They say that every red hair
         grows out of a grave
            becomes a snake.
And those snakes on the darkest nights,
                    just got to dance
       and climb the legs of Sadie.

On nights that snakes will dance
       both dogs and men go crazy.

 

DUSTSTORM

When the dust came,
   Dad sent Jamie and me
   to get the goat and chickens
   and bring them into the house.

But the dust was on us
   before we got twenty feet from the door.
Jamie covered his head, dropped to the ground,
   and started screaming.
At least I think he was screaming.
I couldn't hear nothing but this kind of thunder
   and somewhere in it the clapboards
   flapping on the house.
Then I couldn't even see Jamie,
   though he wasn't more than eight feet away.

I forgot everything, didn't even know
   why I was out there.
I remember dropping to my knees
   and wondering about plants.
I couldn't figure how anything, anything alive,
   could survive in dirt.
I even forgot how to breathe.

Next thing I knew Dad had picked me up
   and threw me at the house.
And I was through the door like tumbleweed.

Jamie never was the same after that.
   He died two years later.
It was like the dust took something from him,
   and he finally give it the rest.

I know that's when I decided
   I wasn't no farmer.
I couldn't talk anything into living in dirt.

 

CROSSING THE JETTY
(Sartre at the Airport)

Ah the jetty, the jetty,
      that concrete promontory between metal birds
at the airport of vagrant dreams.
      It's a bone jutting out of fractured time,
      my jetty, my jetty.

I am here to rescue the present
      from the crackling faces,
      from the whispering fingers,
      from the rats that live in eyes.
Uncork my eyes and drink from them
      the vintage meadows
      and wine-stained bedrooms.
This face will not reflect in water --
      I am too dry.
I am too thirsty to drink from your hippotamus lips.
I am too short, my neck too stubby
      to reach your giraffters.
But I can dream, I think I can,
      of your latte' body that sleeps
      under a snowfall of sheets.

Don't stick that needle into my valley.
I'm all right. I'm dreaming of being awake,
      of plaster bodies and chipped heads,
      of your hair a thatch of haystacks.
I know this would make more sense in French,
but I'm here among the pigeons,
      this museum of beaks and wings,
waiting for the dead to grow under sunlight,
      under the last bleeding sun.

Yes, the eyelids are bandages.
Let me close these ocular wounds
      and dream of living
      while I die.

I will fall and break on concrete,
      and like pieces of eggshell
I'll crackle and scream
      under your feet crossing the jetty.

 

NEVER MOURNED SOCRATES

They called him "the teacher of Athens. Hard to believe.
I knew this guy Socrates.

He used to come down to the harbor and hang around the
fishermen. I guess he liked me. He said he liked my
stories. He'd come find me at the hook-bay and ask to help.

The teacher of Athens! That's a laugh. He couldn't even
mend a fishing net. You shoulda seen him sitting there
ass bare to the world, sweating over the knots, his fingers
bleeding from the hemp. Then in the middle of work he'd stop
and sit there limp like some dead dog. He said sometimes
he got "gray moths" in his head. Figure it out.

I don't know, he kept coming back. After Tireen, that's my
wife, died of boils, he come round looking real expectant
and sad.

I says "You can't hump Tireen, old moth. She's dead and
puffy." I had to laugh the way he looked.


He says "Your wife, your wife of eighteen summers is gone,
my friend."

"Yeah," I says, "one less plate to clean." And he starts
crying. Couldn't figure the guy. I don't cry. Never did.
At nothing.

I had one son left. When he fell on the crab-spikes,
Socrates come round again. Look, I got used to him crying.
Didn't take a lot. I'd tell him a story, and he'd get all
white-eyed again.

Like them girls with indigo skin, they wore seaweed tied to
their ears and ankles tempting the dolphins whenever they
bathed. He liked that one.

Socrates got took off. He swallowed something and died.
Place stunk worse than the fish market on a holiday.

They didn't do him fair, I know that. I knew that fool
more years than worth counting. I guess if I could of
cried, I would of done it.

Even so, them gray moths come vist me a few times since
then.

 

THE SOUNDING MIX

There is a fusion intimacies
into a dense body that lovers refer as "us".
It's similar to that moment when individual images
no longer captivate the inner eye, but
one listens anxiously to the sounds images make.

"We" have become a steel pipe
through which our separate memories pour and mix.
The pictures are no longer discernible,
but the sound of our memories together
make music found nowhere else.
And how do I show another, a stranger,
the music of our intimacy?

Can I copy the sound of snow touching your skin
when you were already cold?
Can I explain how all the winters of your life
infuse into the easy springtime of mine?
Have they heard Spring on a mountain:
fields of wolf-flower popping up
through melting snow?

There is noise, and there is music,
noise being music not understood.

We have a friend who was one day startled
by the noise of a beetle clambering over dry leaves.
We know the music she heard.

I look up and see a white dove
flying in a web of gray pigeons,:
the weave of white through gray,
and I strain my ears for theme
among the caterwaul gray.

It's your voice.
You wing through my discomfort with such unerring truth.

And so a conduit remains:
you're working and hurting right now,
and I'm sitting in the sun.
We mix hardship and leisure.
The echo is painfully sweet.

 

RETURN THE FIRE

Sybil, when you burned me
           with your torrent of fire,
with the truth of future
with the future of truth,

I walked away blackened and scarred.
I am a dead man
           with ashes for tracks.

But I will never be more alive
           than I am now.

I think a cat walks like this
          with cinders for feet,
          certain no one
          knows his real name,
except for you, Sybil.

And you call the cat out.
He hears you in the sibilant leaves
           and in the crash of grasses.
You have a voice of terrifying love.
How can we resist you?

You have opened for me with your fire---
          a grain of sand, a grain of sand
that breaks like a volcano.

You heave the molten light,
the white burning juice of the earth
          into an unsuspecting sky.

The sky blinks
          and in the corner of its eye
white lava turns red,
and red turns to stones.

I have no fear of truth,
          no fear of stones.
I am ashes.

I am walking in the footsteps of your fire.
I am still waking because
          I have something to return to you.
I know rage and passion
          are the same thing.

Your torrent of molten fire
          runs through each of us,
          the passion and the rage.
It is the source of our stones.
We create. We destroy
          with stones.

And then we return to the fire,
          to swim with you, Sybil,
to swim in the fire with you.


Deborius, formerly known as Dennis R. Turner, after his fourth Near Death Experience, now writes under the name of Deborius. He has received prizes in short stories, playwrighting as well as poetry. He is currently self-employed as a Hospice Worker.

Email: deborius@usa.net


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