ORPHEUS BY THE SEA, or THE UNDERBELLY OF LOVE

THE UNDERBELLY OF LOVE
Mark Savage

 

I left the House in the rain that erased me.

That’s why you can’t see me anymore. Why you gaze at the curvature of earth to catch a longed-for sight of the gray ship you dreamed you glimpsed– that took and left me bereft at this shore—where perhaps I may be saved. I don’t know.

The shipwreck, I shall tell you in confidence, delivered me back to the waves and the salt that would dry my skin in the burnishing sun.

I am so very sad and so very sorry that you miss me so much. But you no longer have to witness how I carry my disfigured heart, my raging heart pumping outside of me, a broken fist from a violent fight [with myself] again– in my rough, cut-up, calloused hands across the galaxy.

No one told me any of this.

No one wrote these words in the parchment pages of a sage tome to place on the classical column as offering for banished gods [that still weep for us and all that we have regrettably done [to them and to each other]]–

somewhere we are sure as the dust of my travels, the dust in my bleary eyes, my hanging mouth, my large lungs/ribcage; my broken lips, parched.

 

The ship’s pilot’s sextant and charts had been destroyed by the fire of which I cannot speak. Its dragon flames, hi-lighter and goldfish orange, brilliant—pulled language inside out from me. The pilot mumbled about fractured stars while he looked past the night. His fear palpable to me though he hid his face when he gently covered me, like my father would, with a velvet purple blanket. I felt like royalty. I can’t explain properly, but I am intensely [unfathomably] grateful.

I slept in softness in the calm before my birth before anyone knew me, asked of me. Except the shattered gods [because they would not help us when we called them to intervene, lessen the unbearable pain] that had thrown me down on the floor of the ship to smash my ________________; tear at my fatigue, my dress of cashmere [a gift before I was poor].

 

 

When I woke, the sun was climbing the sea’s horizon. There was sand in my mouth and pale turquoise sea glass. I don’t recall how any of it happened or how you should attempt to bring me back, find me.

It was deathly quiet on the island [and I couldn’t help but think of my death]–where the ghost ship brought me while I wept on the bow:

dreaming of my lost father; lost from my mother, brother, and me; lost from his lungs, lost from ________________;

and fallen emerald trees filtering late autumn light with my dog [with broken hips and strong heart] put down under the mammoth red maple tree–where the needles, one at a time [while I looked away] found the appropriate veins.

 

Yes, it is very quiet here. The quiet of one gone deaf after one could hear. An emptiness without music or resounding church bells, another’s voice soothing the pumping heart, dilapidated– extracted for a funeral pyre.

It is too hard to keep it, to feed it, to leave it alone outside my bruised sternum — thumping like a semi-crushed bird before it surrenders its feathers, over and over [echoes]–nothing real.

Days have shrunk into themselves, folded, laid down their awkward cards. The hours have become very small.

Night is now a dress I wear; its sleeves stitched through my skin and its secrets.

 

Yes, I had awakened from my underwater-maelstrom-tango with chaos’ sharpened whalebone teeth set at my own piano-wired jawline [the gods had done this to me]. Slimy seaweed on a spectrum from black to moss green knotted my wild hair–

and still-sharp sea-glass slicing my ever-moving, muscular hands that longed to sculpt tangible things that would sing the Sirens’ haunting atonal/melody riffs and shattered human narratives back to me–

that would pull me into the underbelly of love where I would no longer recognize myself– just a swirl of murky ink in the sea, lost from the other [beloved]–-

Orpheus, Orpheus. I cannot hear your glass lyre in the storm of the sea where bruised humans play shipwreck bumper cars—to act out, do something, hurt someone, feel something, know something, sing something, play something —

I am here now on this shore of softest pulverized pearl sands, prostrate with my face up to opening clouds of sky– waiting for Thee. Come. The hours before sunrise stretch out and swallow me. They are long, and I wait for the emptiness to resurrect itself, spin me once again, sublime.

Play the notes of my ribs broken in the shipwreck, O my Orpheus—my whalebone corset splintered into my torso where I bleed out — in Time– in your music that unfolds me into sea into sky into the lies I had to tell to keep my fragile sanity while those around me schemed to sell the country, drown my poetic lines that never end into a sea that never ends into a love that never ends with any certainty though with certain certainty will surely die.

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THE FEAST, or I ATE THE HOUSE AGAIN

I was ravenous. Insatiably so. So I ate the House again. The cedar shakes, warped shutters. Then the window and screens—spitting out glass.

The doors gave me piercing cramps, but I soldiered on. Eating the sandpaper roof shingles. Smiling with bits of chimney bricks in my cracked teeth—when the neighbors sauntered in; their mouths agape with shock or panic.

I devoured the living room next. The white sofa was especially delicious. I would no longer have to brush it clean with Woolite this weekend.

Then I attacked the kitchen. Greedily consumed the Fiesta ware that does not chip. Its saffron orange, peacock blue, eggshell white–and aubergine of particular note.

I ate the master bedroom furniture next. The antique poster frame bequeathed to me. All the Pollocks, a Klimt, a Cornell wooden box with straw, a doll and a globe; a light green and eggshell Rothko. The staring Mona Lisa. So there.

I sat in the rubble almost satiated—patting my burgeoning stomach. There was more work to do outside.

I ate the trees–starting with the dark maple, then the oaks, then poplar, hemlock, chestnut, hickory–and started weeping—not just for myself but for the plump robins, the annoying catbird even, yellow finches, woodpecker, pair of cardinals [male and female, of course], the nasty blue jays that swoop and take more than their share at the feeder [the bullies of the bird world that send the usually-fearless squirrels away]–

and my owl who seems to be writing a poem every night, just a few short-lined stanzas really, in hours of darkness, never at the same time [like the neighbor’s rooster that sleeps in ’til lunch or when the kids skip down the hill from the school bus or right before dinner time [eliciting chuckles at the table where the children have forgone their gadgets reluctantly–forced to speak, answer questions that pry, interrupt their magical adult-free world of friends and such].

My owl at the periphery of the property in the tallest pine that sways a bit in the wind  enough to make me more nervous than usual [its sister had fallen in its arms during torrential rains and wind gusts that August. I heard echoing gunshots, I thought, that paralyzed me into night’s heavy arms, cradled back somehow into dream–only to discover the next day when I drew enough courage to find, behind the row of wildly-overgrown forsythia, her thick arms snapped down].

Hawks alighted to the next-door neighbor’s tallest pines and witnessed the continuation of my feast–the crunching of the patio furniture that had rusted underneath three feet of winter snow. Half-heartedly, I ate the dog’s fence while he and the cat watched in disbelief.

I overcame my cruel impulse to devour the said menagerie of jumpy birds–their sanctuaries of wooden feeders, their new terracotta bath, their weathered houses, some with intricate, abandoned beehives; the triad of pink plastic flamingos that I’m sure the neighbors found tacky, a perhaps-true-fact, which I secretly enjoyed.

I knew that tomorrow I would wake very early from troubling dream patterns of avalanche and hurricane, I am sure, because of severe indigestion–my roiling viscera

to collect the sharpest sea glass in shades of lightest blues and greens, frosted white–that I had stolen from shores of sleepwalking–and string them on a necklace to keep the ghosts of the property at bay.

I would wait all through the morning hours, afternoon, and night–with the utmost patience this time–for my owl to starts singing his poem before removing the odd necklace–and bury it in the woods far from me.

I would make a pilgrimage to the priest, remove my shoes, and tell him everything. Of the sorrow tangled in my sea hair, my desire, at times, for unification.

When I return, I shall rewrite other possible endings that will begin.

 

All of this confuses me.

 

 

 

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PAINTING THE RAIN

PAINTING THE RAIN
Mark Savage
digital art
©2017

 

I left my assortment of pens and markers in the rain again. Now everything I write and touch is softer, more fluid, more beautiful, less defined.

 

The things I painstakingly named of late have already become something else—defying porous borders: the wrought iron fences, brick and stone ones in the garden, the chain-linked fence the dog dug himself out under during the fireworks.

 

No, the things and objects and ideas in arrangement set to wind and bird music—will not still as I try to paint them this morning—fill all the gaping holes that stretched and grew in the night with ink, fastidious name-defying colors I mixed before my coffee, before both feet landed back in this world.

 

I could cry in my coffee, but what would that do? Merely dilute it with water and salt from which we crystallized.

 

When I am better and my body aches less excruciatingly, when I am better at everything—a better painter, a better cellist, a better citizen, a better daughter, a better gardener, a better friend, a better human—I shall pilgrimage to the sea

 

and sing of all my wanderings—free the instruments of my destruction in the dustbin nearest the dunes and their sharpest blades of silver-green, silver-blue, blue-green.

 

If you happen to see me there in the earliest morning hours of magical sunlight, be very very quiet. I have become quite skittish like the dog as if I, too, have been left outside in the rain too long.

 

 

 

 

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LIFELINE[S]

The oak leaves have relinquished to wind—into piles of odd, crinkled hands of some creature that has multiplied our paths. We walk through them, crunching the brown ones to know we are here. After all that has happened. What no one should speak of. Maybe quietly. Maybe when all the dust has fallen out of your hair.

Your hair in the wind, a silver mane of wild horses that crowd the plains, invite ammunition, a thinning out. Look away, but it will still happen.

If you don’t brace for the cold, the wind can push you through new doorway frames. A perpendicular grounding, upright—a passageway. Hold your breath before you see it. The cold in our faces, in all we have become.

It happens to everyone. The proliferation of line items, to-do lists, paperwork, email, scheduling, bottom lines, rides to school, misplaced bills, food rotting in the frig, layers and layers of hurry, worry, grief, guilt, avalanche, quicksand, dread. Unnerving? Yes.

You should know that the ropes were tied intricately, reef knots I studied in a book nervously, before they were lowered into that chasm where you slipped from the rungs of your thinking–while wishing for less wind-throb heartache–that certain unpredictables would go away–the next day, day after, or next week. Worst case scenario, the pain would stop next year. Death, it undoes many.

The anchor didn’t stay lodged under the wall of stone sprouting milkweed and little bunnies.

Nor could anyone hear what anyone was saying, cooing, climb up, here near the sun-slant, sit behind the defunct train tracks, wash your hair, make those animal sounds you were making down there. It’s okay. We could all use a reminder.

Sideline coaching back to the plateau, specific directions to the stage where we all wait, often hiding, for things to grow again, soften nerve-rattled cores, quell the sparrows’ nervous jumpy shadows, cut ourselves some slack before we find our way out of the darkening forest of thinning trees. No, none of it is higher math. Well, maybe.

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from HOURGLASS STUDIES

VI

1. Nasturtium trumpets, faded goldfish, tumble down and chaos becomes a favorite word in the house where entropy refracts company.

2. Autumn crumpled into a paper ball unfolded in candlelight impatiently: The gardeners are tired and dream of winter.

3. The forearm tied with russet [silk] gives in to grammar, the porch of lighthouse-gather.

4. Poetic words: trees to hide between: changing time: chopped down: not timing the future, upcoming bend.

5. The watch buried in the sewer, forgetting the way to go there to say. Car horns pierce Thursday with hurry. The outline of the [human] [subject] can’t be excised.

6. Experiment in poetry means. . .

7. To rhyme would give credence, an echo to resound through time; the stone skipped back through the river.

8. Disappearing but moving, the train receding, haunts afternoons with a crash. The sleeper in slow motion approaching [the] sublime.

9. The puppeteer’s drunk fingers [undoing _________], too heavy with fright.

10. The other turn led through the abandoned garden because of no one’s fault. The drought caused those tired to move on because the gardener loved bones.

11. Abstract persona [anonymous] eating ennui.

12. Wrists ache for a paintbrush to supersede the photograph. Neck falls to confound interval, whispers to the knees to straighten and heal, forget the long winter up ahead.

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AUGUST VILLANELLE – VARIABLES

I wake to sleep

and sleep to wake

waking thus

seizing that

ceasing night’s film      cascade —

micro bits        orchestrated

without sound    —  [Why is there no sound

in sleep, no over-arching score –

in the façade of being

there

here, I mean?

Everything fallen

everything still

awake?]

 

The small birds no longer sleeping

keeping watch

for hawk

in the improvised bird bath

before night’s rain is tipped over

or evaporates     in    summer   heat

 

The thin coyote sick

the sick clutching sleep’s microfiche

of distillations

the finest hours —

and then to wake

awkward

when to let

go

drop

the now-heavy objects

break the plane of knowing

anything

with eloquence

 

Object the verdict

to the unarticulated

crimes

 

Climbing the back      of sky

sky-ing the waking

into an abstract

focus

on the plane

of being

transitive —

a new verb

for survival

for making

joy

 

How joyous    the tern    at the shore

in the microfilm

or so it seems

in seams of sentences

of waking

all the wounds       of waking

and     sleeping     sewn

quilted with staple   and gossamer

silver mercury    fish swim   underwater  light-dream

thus

the Book   –  a heavy cloak

a House   collapsed

by prayer —

offered

on     a

pillar

a pyre

 

High-er

sky-ing the why-s of departure

of wingspan’s

ache

 

The shoulders – a and z

e – the sin curve     of energy      dissipating

x – the noumena —  an unknown omnipresent    variable

y – the syllables the syllables   alas

 

I could go on

but I wake to sleep

and drink    z – zymosis

some unknown    poetry

the cloud-shrouded

sun

—-

sum.

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AUGUST TAKES THE SUN

inch by inch backwards

still inchworm green potato vine
spilling the patina-ed urn

cracked by last winter
perfunctorily glued.

The lilac and white butterfly spears
beckon the pair of yellow finches and sleepy queen bee
taken down by torrential rainfall.

Tomorrow I shall wake surprised
and be better at everything—myself, my doorways of paper folded carefully
into sailboats and morning doves, eyes alert searching daybreak

for worthy questions
of travel micro-behaviors grandiose thoughts
the flamingos perched at some other shore contemplating herring.

But tonight I will allow myself lazy wanderings
lie back in the hammock study the dead ancient pine
cradled in another pine’s arms before
tomorrow’s $1,200 removal.

Yes, tomorrow I shall do and think everything
Better, more clearly.
I shall sit in my elaborate garden of petal flow and flowing tall grasses
Graced by the subtle summer wind.

I shall sit and tell you
everything.

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IMPERATIVE[S]

Proclaim WARRIOR Status.

Pluck the dead day lilies. The goldfish orange ones, crumpled, and still wet with death.

Press down hard when you sign the document for the multiple-color copies. [No. We’re sorry. No e-sign–and extra postage will be required.]

[Please note: you will also need the original manuscript certified by a licensed notary in your town. In person. Please bring five forms of picture ID. [See Appendix J for list of acceptable proof of identity.]]

Count the days until winter with as much bravado as humanly possible. Well, someone like you.

Winterize your favorite bench now as you will miss living outside on the garden patio.

Bench more weights for upper-body strength. Yes, you are deteriorating. Don’t whine.

Wait for T.S. Eliot to talk again.

Talk to the chipmunk who lives in your living room garage. Tell it to be very wary of the beautiful apricot fox sighted with a gyrating squirrel in its mouth as it trotted through the width of the property.

Outfox your demons that conspire against you while you are hardly sleeping.

Demonize your fears that gather at your footfall when you stand.

Fall back into early morning sunlight.

Light the paper lanterns at dusk with the proper batteries. Return the LED strings of lights that do not work.

Dust your work station. Carefully clean out the food crumbs in the keyboard and the cat vomit.

Partition individual strains of your disease and their attendant crescendoing thoughts.

Hold your arms out like a colossal bird. For at least sixty solid seconds.

Don’t second guess any scavenged plenitude.

Locate your favorite pen. The remote control, the only key to the joint safety deposit box, your only non-broken pair of sunglasses, the prescription bottle to see if there is a refill, the contact name for the removal of secret things.

Find your misfiled dreams on the broken hard drive.

Rearrange the unhappy flowers. Pluck the weak ones out and replace with cascading tiny petunia bells, peach color and that of coral.

Free the root-bound ones. Add nutrients to your own dirt.

Speak vociferously to the looming villages of dragons. Single each out for a good talking to if your armor does fail.

Mix more blue with the green, add white, and then yellow.

Repeat.

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CHINESE BOXES

I am time boxing–slating the hour, unit, segments, arcs, triangles, angles, parallelograms, fractals, Mobius strips, spheres.

There is just so much to do. You know.

Infinite syntaxes–Chinese boxes.

The intricate novel-quilt, Jacob’s magical cloak invented and upended to lead a lost people.

Box of coneflower, double-blossom daisy-frill, lavender butterfly spears of tiniest florets.

Box of necessary sunlight (thankfully muted for photophobic retinas)–layered with opal cloud-light that ruffle the cornflower blues–these last days of summer.

Box of travel–empty. For now.

Suitcase of Diaphanous text, asemic pictures from a point on the diagram-map across treacherous waters.

Document boxes—the appeal, the passport renewal, grant application, the dog license, insurance claim for the termites eating at the House–the dying, falling, ancient pine—that shan’t be covered.

Boxes of opening sky paintings—uncategorical color, dimensions in the distance one cannot touch.

Box of voices—the ghosts in the House, the dead inside—pleading “don’t forget me.”

Random buttons in a broken box of opaque glass—the latch rusted from being forgotten in the rain.

Box of plans—free-floating bucket lists.

Closets of notebooks—hidden behaviors–and the most personal of rituals.

Last night—I journeyed to the edges of time–and offered a humble sacrifice for all of us.

Yes, I confess—to the weeping and lying in the rain-slobbered grass the dog had frolicked in on his back earlier in the day as if to say, “Touch me. Stay.”

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SWEEPING AGAIN

Lost, this.
Lost, thus.

Goddess of sleep
descends.
Stream-of-consciousness

wages a feeble war

to defy
her armor.

Her edges pull down
A tent for the now-superior
stupor.

The brain—an organ
of electro-chemical
relationships,
toxic or devoid.

Transactions
missing
syn-
apses,
useless
syntax.

The final lime green flickers
of fireflies, a sad excuse
to peel the eyes
for awareness.

I am sweeping, this.
Sweeping, thus.

The broken china
and depression glass
lemon lime pink amber
shards to scoop up into
tomorrow’s dustbin
or the garden bed’s
cheerful mosaic (music).

Wearing the sweater-shawl
my father darned
or the flannel jacket of blues and grays
like his stormy eyes—
the jacket from too-many days
in the hospital, too few of hospice.

I am sweeping, thus.
To stay busy, distracted
from too many storms
on the encroaching
horizon
beckoning
their chaos.

I have seen you, too,
at the dangerous peripheries
of imagination. An outlaw
to tell the future.
Tempting the impossible.

Don’t look so afraid.

I am reaping, this.
Weeding the meaningless
and riffraff, flotsam
and jetsam after the ship
crash
into the pillar-stones.

Tomorrow I shall plant new
ideas and things
I’ll dream tonight
when sleep comes
with her white-down
wings
comforting the lost,
the downtrodden,
the petrified.

Tomorrow I shall awake
like you
and forget

all I need.

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