brianmerrill

November 2011

Last Poem
by Sean Norton

His disciples said to him, ‘When will the new world come?”
He said to them, ‘What you are looking forward to has come,
but you don’t know it.’”

Gospel of Thomas, Verse 51

Every green leaf on C Street lit with the end of the world.
Each leaf in the mind said that the apocalypse
already happened or was happening each moment
but went unnoticed. To be young astounds me now.
I’d forgotten the same fine cord was drawn
through then and now and later, the realization never ended.
The poem, the pen, the lamp, the cup
all slightly more than their forms, already out of their forms,
exposed to sight. The shoddy heft of supposed age
withers away; its withering space provides
ample room. And the joy of mind flows
through the joy of form
and gladness takes the cool, pure air
into its great lungs.
Such great and easy destruction.
I am rolled up within it. 


Past Animals
by Sean Norton

As Valmiki wandered through the forest he saw a hunter shoot
a small singing bird out of a tree. He cursed him. Soon the man
died. He had cursed him with a couplet.

Some songs have staying power. Intonation and vibration, effect
that you or I can not exactly understand or reproduce. We are at
a remove.

The day after Valmiki killed the hunter, or, better, the day after
the hunter died as a result of his own actions transfigured into
song through the lips of the saint, who’d been, until around that
time, meditating for a thousand years under a hill of ants, it was
overcast but mostly sunny. The song was joy. His retreat under
the hill of ants had been joy. The sky was joy. This retelling is joy.
This is joy. Life is not joy, but is shot through with joy as that
bird by the hunter’s arrow.

Brahma came to Valmiki on that day after the bill of the bird
quit the singing earth and departed into song itself and Brahma
said I want you to sing the epic of Rama write the song of Rama.
When Valmiki demurred, the god said, your sympathy for a dead
bird has made you a poet. Or he said, let’s be realistic, who is in
control here? You, my bird, I have pierced with this arrow of my
wish; am I other than that hunter, or he me? And now cupped in
my hands without you knowing I have laid your small body into
the earth smeared with ash. You are now song; can you do other-
wise?

Brahma showed up on the very next day. You, new hunter, he’d
said, who killed that poor bird of a tired woodsman—allowing
him flight into new life—lift your godlike half-bird wings and
rend this world. Be not afraid to illuminate it with destruction.
Quick, Rama is coming, make fast for the bushes and call out in
love.

 

Renunciation
by Sean Norton

If I gave
everything
up for You

 and then I saw
my old self
that I thought I’d relinquished

 on the street—up to little good—
lingering with the objects
I said I’d

 abandoned from my heart
by moving to the mountains,
help me

 to politely walk away
and by doing so
mean at last what I say.

EGRESS

by Sean Norton

That lone egret on the shore is as bright as the astral world
where the ash on the ascetic god turns more bluish white

than Himalayan snow. On the Huron River the light
and air don’t blind or cause difficulty breathing—

edge a little forward, retrograde, an altar on the surface comes clear
where the river weeds tangle, a skein goes overhead,

a loan kayaker stops to ask me the kind of bird.
By our closeness it is impossibly undisturbed,

its neck extended, the shape of a Shiva lingam, unmoving,
abstract in form. Nearly fake, almost artifice. The god.

Half of the human exists outside of this world,
consumed with what’s unmanifest in motion.

20 minutes and counting before the canoe is due back
at the livery though. Couples paddle in behind me.

I’ve lived partway free from every oddity and misfortune
if all of this is true. I’m sober but a little sick,

canoeing has proved too much a day after a night of drinking.
You can have a kayak; it’s not really my style

the conversation went quickly with the teenager.
More absence, the silver seat at the front left open

to set my sights on, squint past for navigation. Alone
out by the bend where the October trees turned

I’d smoked expecting the river to put it out in solitude.
Something waited unmolested by life extinguishing life.

So with the egret I practice unmoving, slowly being taken in.
Weeks become vectors, a trajectory of obligations.

I keep coming and no matter what now I scare the bird,
it’s modular neck tucks and crap streams down on the opaque water.

Nature’s capacity for disappointment. It’s the flipside of beauty
that keeps us at the mechanism of grasping.

The god is in hiding. It disencumbers itself,
disabuses itself of the shore.

You lived your life so far in a disguise, partly sorrowing;
now I come to you in a disguise and I fly away.


Artichoke Heart

by Brian Merrill

Brisk then all the sudden
fall leaves cascading from a tree
drifting to your sunlight gathering my shadow
shaken warm

always have my own heart
something to hold my fist to
when caught along the folds of my t-shirt in the wind
when grieving

now plucking off petals, sharp ideas
sitting immersed in the artichoke heart
joy is the rabbit thump
gone quiet

there’s something to be said
about silence

Talking Light

by Brian Merrill

I’ll loosen the hinge of this machinery
sink my tailbone into the earth
spine erect myself
imperfect

how do I go about this new talking light
the flickering will intensify, the flame will not abate
I will not disappear in your words
or misplace myself at night
we sit beside our self
held like our moon
without veil of cloud

my breath beside me
patiently sunken ripple
to the beating heart
anchored here below the tree

my mouth to the sky so rain can
puddle in my throat
faith sprouts up
it doesn’t fall like rain
it cannot be careless

I’m sinking into sleep
my spine tree still
heartbeat carved in the trunk
mud circled around me
puddles within me
dry roots below me

my feet plant themselves walk away
I sit below the tree
watching, body parts dance apart
clarity by what light

see the rising moon above
breathless nerveless still
blood clot in the sky
heavy essence weighing
longing to fall
unhinged

without veil of cloud

  1. Beautiful poetry. I really enjoyed this. :)

  2. Fantastic to hear, I’m really glad that you did! Thank you for reading.

  3. Wonderful Site layout…. Really loved those drop down tabs.

    • Special thanks to Graham Forrester for all the help in getting this site up and running!
      Those good old drop down tabs

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