Grinning altar of twenty years warbling
variations of thriving light.
Hear that powdery sound of ashes.
Hear that crackling sound of unfired absolution.
Hear the warbling neighbors and grinning
children, nervous and amiable, a clashing
band of flames dancing at the threshold.
Invalid tongues split reason.
The thing is, deep gentle reason shows
nothing called meaning. Dying levels
out. Still, imagine a hummingbird.
Those two wings curving a thousand
breathless cymbals. Imagine tongues split
and hear lungs ring the dying dance.
Sock-footed nothing. Dark matter.
Breathe in the traveling music.
Put on the wheels of bird armor
until the shade of Heaven
confronts your breastbone.
Motionless metal mosaics
feature chariots and dog
faces blinking in the dazzling
eyepiece of rattling man.
Your weight threatens
my limbs. Cobblestones
curve and crown the silenced
mouth ablaze and shooting
cindery fevers to flower
the strange gaunt hand
and the beam of nailed wood.
Huddled deep-rooted in darkness
a cancer steadily speaks its office.
Hear with your eyes! Death changes
flesh to sparkle, bodies to forest.
Changes. Your song yet to drift
beyond its window, yet to turn
grasping secrets into hovering
voices of light waking the sleeping
source of the unclasped world.
Open your palm and the grave.
Mouth and fingers plant the army
of light trees yet alive
in that ultimate told and magical wood
beyond the sun’s Easter choir.
Perceptive enough, the human gaze licks itself
with the fascination of sorrow.
Line and curve glitter, and still
unearthly arms require neither
bird nor bush. Home holds the slack taste
of changing leaves. A son still intently watches
the cold dust drift earthward. Barns and graves
shift and graze, confident the essence of fields
will hold fixed in harmony beside churches
and bejeweled branches. But love shifts in midair,
itself not bitter or uneasy, forgetting
the heart and the body, requiring no farewell.
Peer passed vibrant stalks of rain. Think of his absent face
now uncaught by earth, light among stars. The man
is now stardust. His voice like the riddle of dreams.
Whoever unfailingly loves a cowboy, truly loves him,
meets him hand-to-hand and head-to-head, a connection
like home until falling is the only tangible move. The love
allotted hurtles like raging stars to some tough and poetic parting.
It waits forward unobstructed amongst the stringy sawgrass
somewhere in the dead of winter, somewhere past the speed of light.
Darnell Arnoult is the author of the novel Sufficient Grace and the poetry collections What Travels With Us and Galaxie Wagon. She has received the SIBA Poetry Book of the Year Award, Mary Frances Hobson Medal for Arts and Letters, the Thomas and Lillie D. Chafin Award for Appalachian Writing, and the Weatherford Award. She lives in Mebane, North Carolina, where she continues to write, coach other writers in virtual gatherings, and critique manuscripts.
F. W. Murnau
Images are stills from F.W. Murnau's film "Sunrise" (1927).