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A poem a day to the Millennium December 24, 1999
 

A SMALL BIRDíS NEST


  A small birdís nest looks dead
  In the hollows of a tree,
  And there is water
  Under the earth
  Forty miles from here.
  Itís Christmas Eve and a dead seal
  Washes up on the beach.
  These are autumn fields
  In the fear and hunger and
  Twilight falls hard into night.

  In the lives of animals
  We see the clearing,
  Going into the distance,
  Cold water feeds the thirsty march,
  And someone knocks on my door!

  Perhaps it is as you say,
  I stammer, are we not just learning
  To speak?
  All forms of life need love,
  So be kind or go to Wales,
  Or take the turnpike to Tuscarora,
  Go anywhere,
  Do anything,
  Our earth, pardon me, this earth,
  Is shattering.
  But of course I am mad,
  I believe in love and peace,
  But Nagasaki has torn my soul,
  Hiroshima has blasted my dreams,
  I am mad, so please,
  Return to your own memory garden.
  Donít you see? We are praying.
  Let us kneel down on our breaking knees,
  Itís always Friday on earth,
  The 13th day is stuck.
  We are all cross-legged here,
  Writing blood letter
  Inside our white skulls.
  Even our dreamers want to be professional.
  The sky is blue and getting bluer,
  As blue as a bruise,
  And we are all strangely silent.

2

  I have a theory,
  For one moment,
  But I ask you,
  What is the business life of ants?
  I must have your report
  In the morning!
  Night at the airport,
  Is the signal given?
  Attention all travelers,
  Be self-employed,
  Make dialogues with your souls,
  Note the many lectures
  On how to forgive yourself
  For anything.

  Against all the evidence
  Your testifier insists
  He is happy,
  He is elegy and ode,
  To his own happy madness,
  In this, his season of the bear.

  In the Book of Nightmares
  It is written that earth can die,
  The hen will die last,
  Among dead flowers,
  At the end of a stony path.
  In this Lastness we are the last hope,
  Just as we were the first to terrify
  All of nature.
  Nature has a very long memory,
  Her ancestry is older
  Than our most ancient ideas!

3

  Sing your cell song now,
  Hard rocks make a prison,
  Hospitals are hard also,
  As are Institutions for the Criminally Insane!

  I see through stones,
  We need more poems,
  One for your arrival, Huey,
  Another for your departure.
  Will you leave me now?
  Or shall we pray?
  Pardon me,
  Forgive me,
  I saw a small birdís nest today,
  Dead in the hollow of a tree,
  They were dead,
  All dead;
  Nagasaki and a tree,
  Hiroshima and a bee,
  Dead,
  All dead together,
  Even while politicians performed,
  All the birds were dying,
  Huey, upon your leave,
  Feel our lives just once,
  And write a poem,
  Write a poem for peace,
  Call it "The Peace That Could Have Been",
  Call it "The Poem of Fifty Ways of Being Free",
  And we took none of them.
  Go weary away from my door,
  Let me be sad in my own art of love,
  Just once,
  To call to Olga in Russia,
  Just once,
  In public, yes,
  Adam, know my happy despair,
  My pleasant complaint,
  And all the malice of my innocence,
  In this advent season, of new tears falling,
  My own kind of acid rain.

4

  In any good dream,
  There is a gulf,
  The only part we remember,
  I pray on the rails
  Of the approaching train,
  My feet facing a remaining bit
  Of natural paradise,
  My hands are folded upon the steel,
  Someone offers me a salami sandwich,
  My last meal on this earth,
  Food for the condemned comes in plastic,
  I know the rules,
  All poets die in autumn.

  Red dust on earth,
  As far as no eye can see,
  How much earth do cobwebs need
  To catch flies that are no more? 
  In the new sun,
  We are Mars,
  Thatís the downside,
  But thereís still hope,
  Thereís Uncle Zadee,
  And God isnít sick,
  Sick of us, maybe,
  But not sick in the spirit,
  Well, maybe.

  So, a new season cometh,
  We hope and pray and work,
  Be as a lion, 
  Roar Peace, Roar Peace, Roar Peace,
  Scare the hell out of evil, for awhile,
  Then take a trip
  To four or five towns,
  Meet your new neighbors,
  In all of them,
  Make human society
  One big neighborhood,
  Government wonít do it,
  We know that now.
  Be a thief,
  Steal wars away,
  When evil is dozing,
  I must get tired, sometimes,
  Violence takes a lot of work,
  It must get sleepy, sometimes,
  Otherwise, get ready for the biggest show on earth,
  Our own extinction!
  A regular Saturday matinee,
  Call it "The Death of We".

  We are all teachers,
  We each initiate the Judgment,
  Know the voice of it!
  For when the black plateau of February
  Is reaching towards the end,
  Know the ballad of snowfalls,
  The never do quite end,
  And the vineyards will not keep us,
  Nor the hunters in their quest,
  So, write a poem, Huey,
  Write it with no end,
  Be a rebel with a cause, an Ave Maria!
  Answer Voznesensky!
  Answer Evtushenoko!
  Salute all the French Negro poets,
  Give a true account
  Of all your hopes and fears!
  Leave nothing out,
  For everything counts today,
  Thatís the way it is
  When little planets die,
  Write five poems then,
  One for every finger,
  And the thumb that holds your pen,
  Gesture from your heart,
  Quote from Vergil!
  Tell us your forms of love,
  A baby on your lap!

5

  Make it a Morality Play,
  Begin it thusly...
  "Their civilization was their disguise,
  They wore it all too well,
  They confused the mask for the face,
  And died,
  And died in winter,
  In The Everlasting Night..."

          OR

  Make it an anniversary poem,
  Begin it thusly...
  "It was not a very good marriage,
  And so it could not last. In the end,
  They were killing all of the whales
  And wolves, so deep was greed in them.
  They loved not the whole spirit of life,
  Knew this not, and so they died,
  By little pieces to the final end...

          OR

  Be translucent,
  Give us the whole taste
  Of a whole earth brimming with wild life!

          OR

  Write The Impossible Poem
  The one thatís hotter than fire,
  So that they hold it with tongs,
  Lest they burn their hands...
  But however you do this, Huey,
  Be sure to praise the living,
  In they is where the hope is,
  Also the despair!
  It is difficult now
  To speak further of poetry.
  What will you do, Huey?
  Join me on the rails?
  Join me on my knees?
            Here.
            Now.
  Or are you going?
  Staying?
  Even if you hate me
  We are in this together!
            Ask Asklepiades,
            Ask Ausonius,
            Ask Leonidas,
            Ask Palladus,
            Ask Sekundos,
  Failing these,
            Ask William Blake!
            Ask Leo Tolstoi!
            Ask Victor Hugo!
  They will tell you
  The signature of all things
  Can be found in the eyes.

6

  These are the bad old days,
  On the eve of death,
  All of life must be questioned.
  In the old old days,
  Long before these bad old days,
  The eyes of fish peddlers and cobblers
  Told enough;
  Now itís the eyes of the whole world
  That looks into our own,
  The eyes of all nature
  Are watching us closely.
  Have you not noticed this yourself,
  Huey?
  The wild animals of the earth
  Are all staring at us!
  Have you not noticed this yourself?
  Or am I mad?
  You be the judge, Huey,
  You always are.
            The fox,
            The raccoon,
            The raven,
            The wolf,
            The elephant,
            The whale,
            The seal,
  They are all staring.

7

  Here is the Mystery,
  We humans have lived together
  On this earth
  For thousands of years,
  But we still donít get along:
            Hiroshima, that is not getting along,
            Auschwitz, that is not getting along,
            Iran, Libya, Iraq, South Africa, Burma,
            Nicaragua, Angola, Palestine, Chile,
            Peru, Poland...
  We are not getting along!
  And, meanwhile,
  The animals of the earth
  Are all staring at us!
           Who would not agree?
           These are the strangest of times,
           Whatever happened to the familiar?
  Are we not making ourselves
  Prisoners on this dying earth?
  Slaves to our own fears,
  Greeds,
  Envies?
  It is no longer August,
  The winter of our spirits
  Must soon descend
  From out of the chaos
  We have made.

  The journey is not over,
  Nor do we lie down in caves to die,
  The rivers do not pour forth black blood,
  But the earth is broken
  And we must attend it!

  We must look at each other,,
  Instead of waiting for Icarus
  To tell us those wings melted
  Under the noon day sun;

  We must return to myth
  Before we are slain by history,
  In every man a boy,
  In every woman a girl,
  Remember how we played?
  The butcher shop
  Looked different then,
  So also the spoon,
  Hunger is in our spirits
  For the pastoral haunts of spring.
  Brooms were curious objects,
  Housework looked like play;
  In the elementary cosmogony of doing nothing,
  We knew the story of life
  Was strictly for posterity!

  Now we can be the morning light,
  The laurel tree abloom,
  And in our bowls of chicken soup,
  No wicked pox to see,
  All of 42nd Street,
  All the streets on earth
  Are praising in their houses
  The miracle of re-birth!

  The tailor is getting married,
  Dvonya is his bride,
  Theyíll spend the night in Odessa,
  Cheered on by the light,
  Isidor will come to call,
  A stranger in the dark,
  He leaves in the early morning,
  A robin oíer his head.
  In the Siuslaw forest,
  Or a spring night in Shokoku-ji,
  Itís what they say and do
  That makes the brighter light.

8

  We look at old pictures,
  And put them away,
  August was foggy,
  We worked hard out west,
  Truth is like the belly,
  What happens when we eat?
  Something gets devoured,
  Something gets slaughtered in our mouths,
  Students of Zen
  Know that the sound
  From the earth,
  Is...
  And there are also lectures
  In the humanities
  That escape the meaning of daylight;
  Letís have the whole story, Huey,
  In the moment, now,
  Late at night,
  Among these strangers
  From their Broken Homes,
  Or we can just walk out
  To the edge of town,
  And kick the leaves of autumn
  All the way to Ohio.

  We all live by the red rivers of the earth,
  Along them you will find many people,
  While some are chanting to Ramakrishna,
  Others just use flashlights when they haul of their nets.

  Willie was that way,
  He called it his Old Age Compensation,
  He died someplace,
  Outside of Fargo,
  North Dakota,
  Not in it
  Anyway;
  That was back before the Muse got condemned,
  Back when all the last small frogs
  Were dying on all the black highways,
  Thatís one way to make a living,
  Huey,
  Write about old dogs in the cemetery,
  Write about Verone,
  Write about Manatova,
            Huey?
            Birds!
                     Redwings!
                                      Redwings!
                                                       Redwings!
                                                                        Redwings!
  Birds!     Huey!     Birds!

  Aw, Huey,
  Why:

  (A small birdís nest looks dead,
  In the hollows of a tree,
  And there is water under the earth
  Forty miles from here,
  Itís Christmas Eve and a dead seal
  Washes up on the beach.
            These are autumn fields in the
                      fear and hunger and twilight falls
                                hard into night.)

- Michael Eliseuson

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