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In the night, after the others have gone,
with no light but the fire burning,
you let the lost space inside you build,
kindling that takes the flame. You listen quietly,
like a child, to the cold beyond the mountains.

I’ve lived in your far cabin for years now,
looked down on the aspens and sage,
the winding ice of the river. I’ve seen
the white-tailed deer leap the fence
that separates them from your dreams.

I’ve watched you travel the night.
From the shadows next to you
I’ve watched you rise above your bed,
a mirage of lilacs, frozen branches
like veins filled with snow
the fragile white glass glowing to
a polished point, pure light.

When the empty room comes back
I step forward to touch your things
and tend the fire for your return.
My loneliness hurts for a moment
before I find my little dance
to dance outside the world.

And then, tired of turning and turning
I drop exhausted to a chair.
Once more I am, and laugh,
and I pretend next time
you are to be my guest,
not I yours.

My friend, once more I drink your silence,
drink deep of the dark wine
you’ve left for me on the table.
I shall sleep well tonight
and miss your hand upon the door.

~Dan~

NorthButte.jpg

One night a moth flew into the candle, was caught, burnt dry, and held. I must have been staring at the candle, or maybe I looked up when a shadow crossed my page; at any rate, I saw it all. A golden female moth, a biggish one with a two-inch wingspan, flapped into the fire, dropped her abdomen into the wet wax, stuck, flamed, frazzled and fried in a second. Her moving wings ignited like tissue paper, enlarging the circle of light in the clearing and creating out of the darkness the sudden blue sleeves of my sweater, the green leaves of jewelweed by my side, the ragged red trunk of a pine. At once the light contracted again and the moth’s wings vanished into a fine, foul smoke. At the same time her six legs clawed, curled, blackened, and ceased, disappearing utterly. And her head jerked in spasms, making a spattering noise; her antennae crisped and burned away and her heaving mouth parts crackled like pistol fire. When it was all over, her head was, so far as I could determine, gone, gone the long way of her wings and legs. Had she been new, or old? Had she mated and laid her eggs, had she done her work? All that was left was the glowing horn shell of her abdomen and thorax–a fraying, partially collapsed gold tube jammed upright in the candle’s round light.

And then this moth-essence, this spectacular skeleton, began to act as a wick. She kept burning. The wax rose in the moth’s body from her soaking abdomen to her thorax to the jagged hole where her head should be, and widened into flame, a saffron-yellow flame that robed her to the ground like any immolating monk. The candle had two wicks, two flames of identical height, side by side. The moth’s head was fire. She burned for two hours, until I blew her out.
She burned for two hours wihtout changing, without bending or leaning–only glowing within, like a building fire glimpsed through silhouetted walls, like a hollow saint, like a flame-faced virgin gone to God, while I read by her light, kindled, while Rimbaud in Paris burnt out his brains in a thousand poems, while night pooled wetly at my feet.

And that is why I believe those hollow crisps on the bathroom floor are moths. I think I know moths, and fragments of moths, and chips and tatters of utterly empty moths, in any state. How many of you, I asked the people in my class, which of you want to give your lives and be writers? I was trembling from coffee, or cigarettes, or the closeness of faces all around me. (Is this what we live for? I thought; is this the only final beauty: the color of any skin in any light, and living, human eyes?) All hands rose to the question. (You, Nick? Will you? Margaret? Randy? Why do I want them to mean it?) And then I tried to tell them what the choice must mean: you can’t be anything else. You must go at your life with a broadax….They had no idea what I was saying. (I have two hands, don’t I? And all this energy, for as long as I can remember. I’ll do it in the evenings, after skiing, or on the way home from the bank, or after the children are asleep….) They thought I was raving again. It’s just as well.

~Annie Dillard~

I
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

II
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

III
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

IV
A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

treeandlake.jpg

V
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

VI
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

VII
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

VIII
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

IX
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

treewithbirds.jpg

X
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

XI
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

XII
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

XIII
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

~Wallace Stevens~

birdsintree.jpg

Then and there I invented this rule for myself to be applied to every decision I might have to make in the future. I would sort out all the arguments and see which belonged to fear and which to creativeness, and other things being equal I would make the decision which had the larger number of creative reasons on its side. I think it must be a rule something like this that makes jonquils and crocuses come pushing through the cold mud.

~Katharine Butler Hathaway~

I
Do not
Want to step so quickly
Over a beautiful line on God’s palm
As I move through the earth’s
Marketplace
Today.

I do not want to touch any object in this world
Without my eyes testifying to the truth
That everything is
My Beloved.

Something has happened
To my understanding of existence
That now makes my heart always full of wonder
And kindness.

I do not
Want to step so quickly
Over this sacred place on God’s body
That is right beneath your
Own foot

As I
Dance with
Precious life
Today.

~ Hafiz ~

From The Gift, translated by Daniel Ladinsky

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