After vespers, I watch the widening sun
Descend her western staircase well-endowed
As if sashaying down with rounded hips
In heavy red-gold pleats of crinoline
To turn the world of men upon its head.
Before such beauty, I’m always upside down.
I’ve never been a handsome man and now
The long, bearded shuffling silences
Have driven me out across the inland sea
Of tree, vine and hollow, equally old
As the first slipping of a fish through salt,
Or the flicked tail-feathers of a bird
That pranced its bold, robotic dance of love
Among the voyeuristic underbrush,
Or when the only breath blew belching steam
That breached the rock into a boiling wind.
I climb past crown vetch and shady outcrops
Till when I look back, all the down valleys
With red shadows fold in like pits of blood
Where one might conjure up the keening shades
Of one’s past lovers. I’ve no such history.
While others wheeled into the grave of love,
I carried on my long and killing way.
And yet I’ve had this ancient friend with me,
Who walks in forms that only I can see.
Lead me, I say, I want to follow you,
And yet he watches me, a step away.
I’d be a pilgrim if I had a teacher,
I’d wear my old shoes low as souls can be.
I’d kiss the bare rock face, I’d dance and whirl
And eat black earth like Ezekiel ate dung.
Tell me what I have and haven’t done.
Tell me what to eat and think and dream.
Lead me, my God, I want to follow you.
And yet he follows me throughout my days.
—from Rattle #11, Summer 1999
Brad Bostian: “Janet Sylvester, the poet, wrote, ‘The one organ of contact with existence is love.’ Sometimes I think my one organ of contact with love is poetry, especially poetry that sings about those things which can never be completely understood. After all, life is often so mundane.”