The Fines of Displacement
Henceforth, only an address for
those travelers condemned to words,
to the miracles of hope and sufficiency,
to Odyssean diriment. tension, gravity--
all the impossible abstractions become
tangible in the early morning hours
after eight years of the same leaping tiger.
In that sudden, angry yawn of eternity:
another pulsing shore to nominate.

Here, finally, is the country of light
rains I should have been born in to
whose lit windows backed under
sheds of evergreen and
sheep silvered to a sheen
slough the days water.
Lambs cry out,
and the rock and clack turn again.
My ticket is streamlined like this:
single passage, classless.
With every parabola the engineer
looks back and nods as he appraises his
order and succession, certain that no
sleeper has been misplaced, sure
the caboose will always be last.
We violently refuse every jerk and rattle.
We will not be disturbed.
We glide on steel perfected to clean polish
forgetful of the dirt-caked grease of the undercarriage,
dimly aware of our brittle trust in
the shady connections below.
We will not be disturbed, yet pause on the
shifting metal plate between cars,
acting surprised and caught off guard,
imagining ourselves to be some sort of
tightrope walker without a net,
unbalanced and in danger.
It is always a cool interstice; and breezy,
like the weightless euphoria of falling.
We come here t exhibit a bleached fiction:
we cross in mock distrust, heady anticipation.
Giddy, giddy! Name that duality, friend.
Or how I used to scare myself into
coincidences that revealed their most
uncanny knots of geometry and skepticism.
Or how my mother's quilt can be read as a prospectus.
Too soon our station and a bittersweet rejection--
suddenly offended by the solid ground we need.

The world must stop: necessarily so.
To the blue!
To the blue! And there is blueness lost--
lost where I sojourn for glass
toward a horizon even the land strains
to complete. The sky
is never without its shocks:
its radical waxing and waning through
substance and suffocation,
between divine clarity and reeling implication
sends us running for some shelter.
We can never run fast enough: the sky drives us into the earth,
deep into the heart of every cavern and cave.
Only here, in our sanctuaries of granite,
do dare display our superstitions
and formulate our gods. In natural dyes and blood,
in swirling constellations of leaping and dancing beasts,
we document our fears.
But always the noxious flame by which
we first learned necessity.
Single colors pass.
A sound.
A sound.
A sound.
And all my wants
ant the parade ground.

Henceforth, I shall question only silence
and bombard it full of questions of desire,
questions goaded by my own desire's failings.
I shall impose upon silence a restlessness
fibrous and gourdy as a coach
filled with the threat of return;
a return where tension attains substance
and gravity becomes a rain of cluttering squares.
And now the stars appear to distraction.
And now it is snowing with morning soon.
What event is this whose damage
congeals into scabby resemblance?
We are all hobbled by our own
question's returning in this way.
Unscathed but chained, our only hope
a new narration whose foundation is labor;
a revitalization whose pallor
can afford to be drenched anew.
All the dances in the world cannot accomplish this.
Of what do you dream, hunched over your
mops and brooms and brushes?
A small, clear voice whose
hollowness only others can hear?
No matter. I, too, dream of a voice,
solitary, strong, resonant.
I desire a voice as vibrant as it is light
and insubstantial; booming and
robust enough to question even silence.
Even silence.
But, here is a revolution gone:
no bird has come down,
no weird, vibrant roc has landed
restless as the desert is tone deaf,
and exemplary.

This wingless event maintains
no gradations of encroachment,
no simple emergence from a cloud's
turning inwards, no essential
gouty ball of expansion to explain
that one place behind me that cannot see.
So many hundreds of years of flight
clot the prehensile clouds colored
all over with the slow death of stability.
Whose raw soul witnesses this intercourse
hidden as an eloquent French leave?
Who else shall hear it, chrysalis of sticky sand?
How the wind rebukes
laconic as a priest
me telling you this.
Found is the precise center of all clouds,
and found is the abomination within
without the sleepless demarcating angel
on whom to refract any second.
All our suffuse excesses resolved
in the well of a clean crematorium.

There nine years of stunning blue
tucked under my foreign belt,
each year shedding its brilliance because
it has no stars to shine,
no stars to discolor its face or
your sextant.
Hatred eats at its own proportion--
demanding, tenacious, bludgeoning.
The metamorphosis is over, done--
specific as the coloration of Arctic sky,
final as the invigorating splash of salt
in a labyrinth of floes, 1912.
How our eulogies papered the sea then,
adhering with finality to the oils and brine
like the leftover streamers and confetti
or gusty sheets of newsprint
stick and grey.
What an odd gravity the sea has.
And how we affix ourselves to the shore,
mesmerized by the original pendular watch:
the crashing waves that pulse and surge.
Blanched to the core, so much strength
just to deny ourselves a little swim.
But we will wade into August cornfields mid-Iowa
and let the bullsnakes coil up our legs
stopping shy of the knee while we
grow sleepy and clutch at the tough, green stalks.
As the plump skin of our calves whitens,
so we try to heal history's amnesia
by reciting their names, by calling them all back:
All the raging red obliqueness of antiquity,
illustrative and lusty;
all the miraculous passages bearing
the mark of our father's calculus;
all the compendious portals of knowledge,
charred by fingertips;
every watery splitting by quick straight razors
and the sweet, rare atmosphere left behind.
The sea is no womb; no kinder the soil.
Even we are prone to forget that
it is the thick humidity pulling off
every waxy leaf that tires us.
So, here we sit by the sea, wary of the momentous.
It is only after the boys have thrown all the driftwood back,
and the girls with their mothers have collected
all and only the pretty shells--only afterwards
do I begin to scoop hot handfuls of sand
over my feet.

Having lost my question, I return.
I am what remains, waiting
for the watershed of release.
They leap and leap, but their
passionate attempts do not touch me.
There are no edges to debate,
no plaster masks whose panegyric
I can easily push aside.
Not in the defilement of this falling time
when souls feather their way earthward
and the stars and the planets
work their ellipses harder,
much harder than before.
Again, I extend to point,
to pronounce the landscape of
a machination begun long ago,
to outline the chalky streaks of morning's
dull-scissored limit.
I time myself, tire of the ritual,
tire of the sky's awkward new frame.
I extend to point--a gesture
measured in winces.

                                                       [J. Daniel Ahlborn]

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