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Psalm for the Summer Solstice

ISSUE:  Autumn 1993
If this life’s the only text we have
               and each day’s a page
of longhand, a rough draft of transubstantiating clouds

               that change from odalisque
to sine curve to pineapple to popcorn kernel
               to kinks of uncarded wool

and then to nothing but the blank blue
               of mindless heaven
without ever finding the one exact

               monosyllable to describe
what our anonymous millionth millennium B. C.
               author originally intended,

then I’d like to bequeath this poem as one more
               endnote to infinity.
Let it be a variorum of all the voluminous

               pages of new leaves
printed with light. Let me annotate the scrolls
               of surf unrolling

on the beach where my wife and I walk, eating raspberry
               Italian ices
in paper cones, our tongues lolling along the sheer

               delicious deliquescence
of this the longest day before it all dissolves
               to the spittle’s

tingle in the pink dark of our throats. Dull tongue stained
               a telltale indelible
flamingo, let me whistle off-key and watch for hours

               the ocean
dash its signature of foam and flotsam
               along the high-tide line.

Tangled twine, driftwood, tarred dolls, and condoms
               swollen with saltwater seed
all spell desire and the burgeon of oblivion.

               Nine months pregnant,
my wife must stop for breath. She puts my hand
               on her belly taut

as a spinnaker ballooning with the first gust of wind
               so I may feel
again the kicks and shadow punches of our child snorkeling

               in the warm saltwater
of the womb’s horseshoe harbor. We tell time differently
               in the ninth month.

Our clock is the child knocking on the door of her cervix.
               Her blood moves
to the tide’s timetable—rip, neap, flood, and ebb. She has passed

               through the phases
of the moon from first quarter to full, and still to come
               birth’s partial

eclipse. We are at zero’s zenith. Everyone
               is celebrating
the long hours of sunlight by flying kites,

               letting the string
slip through their fingers as the wind takes their lures
               and lofts them,

parti-colored constructions of paper thinner than skin
               with pine sticks
for bones, some in the shape of snakes or dragons

               or pterodactyls,
competing with the screaming gulls. They strut the air and pantomime
               in peacock feathers,

gliding and bowing to the pavane of wind that thrums
               through the umbilical
of light-weight twine down to the hands of children who feel

               each trill
and tremolo travel along their arms. Cut the lines loose. Let the kites
               hover forever

on the updraft of this poem, I want to say. No words can salvage
               the day in all its dazzle,
the rhinestones that the surf throws at our feet, the ocean

               like crumpled tinfoil
spread out flat on a table. The children will reel their kites in
               with nothing on the line

but their bright bait. Are words no more than kites whose long tails
               troll the sky
for invisible bluefish with scales like tarnished silver,

               which we will never
land, though we feel their pull? Twenty thousand feet
               above sea level,

the jets leave their vapor trails, chalk marks the wind erases
               with one slow hand.
Here, on the beach, sunbathers cast in bronze

               doze or listen to the latest
crooner’s love song, the extended weather forecast, a news update
               on more terrrorist bombings

in Beirut, while a one-prop plane flying low along the surf
               pulls a streamer of huge cut-out letters

               Fifteen minutes later,
it returns flying the opposite way with its sign now backwards,
               IRUOH YPPAH,

and TNARUATSER, words in a lost language that I repeat
               to savor their re wed-up R’s
and roll of gutturals, which make me think of the Aramaic

               Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.
This is the day that the Lord our God hath made
               and numbered

in all its contradictory glory, where a man and a woman
               stand on the fulcrum
of the year and are not yet weighed in the balance that finds the world

               wanting. In her womb
our child waits to come kicking feet first forth
               into the blinding

searchlight of sunlight, to add its own wails to the sum
               of all the other
cries, which are the only praise there is.


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