Author: Paul Nelson

………………-lead him
…………….up close to the garden, give him what outweighs the
…………….of the nights-“
…………………………………………….– Rilke, The Third Elegy
She is waking somewhere toward dawn.

Her breath quickens. Beside her

I have not yet risen from the underworld,

or returned from vast high seas, prolonged

hunkering on desert, dharmic rocks along

the via negativa …from staring at coruscating snow

limning the Hindu Cush


when she thinks to touch me,

over all that distance, sheets of ice, glaciers,

waves of sand in the pink, dreamy dawn

skidding this way.


After all we’ve been through, how could she?

Children all over the world murder each other

in the bony mountains, dog-shagged streets,

in loud cafeterias, at the malls, in my sleep.

Thinking and language turn to methane.


Then pleasure, a neap tide lapping, seeps

like the Nile rising into my cranial wildlife reserve

drowning the movie about rodents and potatoes,

yesteryear, a woman brushing dirt from foetal heads,

or was she burying a dog? Where everything

depended upon the Garden Way cart

heaped with yanked, weedy tresses

from the head of La Belle Dame.


Her hand, rough with grief and soil

works my silly thing …her fingers

knotted with labor …and yet, and yet…

a rising? Amusing her damp, sacred grove?

Again, again, again, nymphs flitter in St. Thomas

and Banyan trees, my archaic body arcing,

loosening, joints rosy with endorphins, brain a reef

bombed with clorox, tabla rasa,

butterfly fish floating into my corneas,

coral stapes, ossicles tuned exquisitely

to her mild sybaritics.Then the two of us, spent, turn away,

wandering, dropping off again like originals

to first dreams: Arts and Entertainment,

hers, “mysteries,” she says, mine lush

with confusion, call it turbid clarity

of amniotic amnesia, abstract expressionism,

gesture and improv, morning and mourning

born again in a myriad slop of washed up stuff

tender as impetuous genes,

minnows of intention in the toxic river,

sea-anemone in apparent passivity, tiny,

deadly duties, pastel pinna waving.


In short, I am afraid,

hauling myself out of the surf,

not born again on a distant shore.

There is no Nausicaa.


Didn’t Penelope, at forty,

sprawled with the immodesty of want,

all over the olive bed, after he’d made his claim,

once, after twenty years, and before

he could open his sonorous mouth,

want to tell him her story?

How solo she had been? Chaste, abused,

weaving no whole fabric, even for her son,

of whom they didn’t speak,

all the while Hero chasing elliptical fate,

as Argus did his tail when he was a pup?

O Calypso, Circe, Penelope,

every woman an island

as no man is.


Bored with such snorkel and wallow,

grateful for this woman beside me,

a welcome death of me, I remain

damp at dawn with melancholy,

fuddled and friendly in the fundament,

no matter what.

With harsh, black coffee, I venture,

death is the mother of beauty.

And vice versa. Fortune cookie.


She is quiet, very beautiful. As I,

as she says, have become “distinguished,”

that doom, that nap, little idol treading softly now, in

over its head, trying to conserve energy,

looking for purchase in rafts of uterine seaweed

weaving and pulled apart in the rinse

like any pliable helix of reason,

a kind of poetry growing like ribbons of kelp

string theory twisted with paradox, floating in soft

rapturous language, wrack

that smells like fermented chum,

buckets of enigma and engrams

dumped by the pail by passing,

laughing, Asian fishermen,

who always seem immortal, my

sleep a demitumescent recreation, vaguest,

smegmatic trace of Big Bang …but


so long as god rose,

inspired by her comic rictus, I will try to quiet

my mind’s tongue, fondle instead the piqued,

rosy breast of day, once more by the Pacific,

before the last flight inland

to plant my what?