Roses have gone to bulbs for Autumn, abandoning
bright fleshy parts to be plucked by October’s
Hands that pluck at cheeks
with cold fingertips, that push hard
against chests and backs with no caresses,
fondle without love or even lust,
fondle just for fondling.
last spinning is winding down
to Winter’s slow spiral. December
wound tight and tense and clicking
out turns with painful snaps.
As the turning changes the center shifts,
lurching its stars out of orbit
and tracing cold new figures on the sky.
Roses used to other patterns are placeless.
In the space where two plates rub up
upon each other, filling gaps or emptying,
the changing shadows break the light
into fiery letters.
That’s why I’ve come–
to read, to run my finger along the printing
and have my hands turn black
with secret newsprint.
Perhaps I’ll have visions
traced upon the garden wall, see cherubim
in the sun’s halo and hear pipes
among Lazarus roses.
But there are only
gray clouds in the sun’s halo, and the noise
is just the broken rhythm of October’s hands
tapping the gate against its latch.
This green square cut from Spring’s last scraps
is no greener than any other, and the sun
shines no brighter here.
Even Quaker hands
can’t coax life out of the last bits of rose flesh,
or tear larger holes in the clouds for the dripping
sunlight to start pouring cataracts.
No angel hosts, no Gabriel’s trumpet,
no finger pushing me down to my knees
struck in the fields behind my plow.
Only brown leaves, blighted roses,
and a damp and empty bench.
The center spins on, and the garden
has slid out to the spiral arm
to lose its balance with all the rest.
I keep walking against the spin,
looking for the center, listening for the cherubim,
asking for fire from the skies
and voices in the shrubs,
as though that empty bench were not enough.
When I lived in London, I liked to go to Quaker Meeting at Friends House near Euston Station. It was a big meeting, so no one noticed strangers much, and I could settle into the silence in a sunny room and listen for occasional bits of wisdom. I was never moved to speak (this was a traditional unprogrammed meeting, where you wait in silence for a stirring to speak), but I enjoyed hearing those who were.
Outside Friends House is a little garden, and whenever I was in that neighborhood I liked to stop for a few minutes. It’s important that cities have quiet places in them, like the Central Library in St. Paul or Milwaukee Avenue in Minneapolis.