The Sequence of the Night.
1. As the night emptied itself onto the heap of dead rabbits a farmer left on the steps of city hall to protest the new water law, one of the rabbits spoke my name, and it used your voice. It wasn't my name, exactly, more like the memory of my name but I knew it to be mine so entered it and hung my coat from a nail in its pantry and moved in the utter darkness of it without bumping the table or creaking the floor. And it wasn't your voice, but whatever it was took me to the cannery emptied of its workers, the night emptying itself onto the dock like fish scales of oblivion as I watched the anchor of my name sink beneath the moon's sour eye as I trailed behind it. 2. The night has awakened to find itself turned into an animal. The tears of the animal turn into buzzards, the sweat of the animal becomes a rotting bear, the blood of the animal is a warm breeze dragging the stench to our town. 3. I've found a good spot by the river. The trees line up along either bank and bend toward the center. I've been trying to get rid of that part of myself that I most despise, but need most to survive--it rises like wood smoke into the night. It's shaped like a brass key, and the hole it looks to enter can be seen through, revealing a banquet hall with one chair and countless silver trays piled with rags. 4. It's finally late enough that all sounds are the sounds of water. If you die tonight I'll wash your feet. I'll remove the batteries from the clocks. And the two moths that drown in the lakes of your eyes will manage the rest. 5. I've seen a group of farm kids hypnotize a rabbit by pinning it on its back then stroking its neck. This is what I think of when I see you in the night--not the trick, but the distress call we manage to send out while we are pinned to our stillness. 6. A pain is climbing into the night by means of the fog bank and the crooked sounds of the stockyard. I'm burning a signpost and some old barn planks. I've dug a trough in the ground the length of my body. When the fire goes down I'll bury the coals and sleep, and it will be like sleeping on a memory or on the memory of the future. In the morning I'll swim through the dream of the field grass, and VII greet the two boys peeling blistered yellow paint from a house tilting to the east, each one telling his version of the invention of loneliness and the creation of the world. 7. Out there, somewhere, you are a variable in the night's equation. I clean an ashtray with my sleeve, fill it with milk, and wait for an animal that doesn't exist to carry you back. I open a window and listen hard to the hands of smoke moving beneath the river, to the abandoned grain elevator dragging its chains through the tender blood of the night. I listen to the hush of your name as it's subtracted from one darkness then added to another. I remember you by what you are not. You are the opposite of a horse. Your hair is not the seven colors of cemetery grass. Your mouth is not a dead moon, nor is it the winter branches preparing their skeletons for the wind. A double thread of darkness winds through me and the course tongue of the night scrapes your name against the trees. 8. The night undresses in the night. Its clothes are strewn in the fields and over the houses-- they begin to pile high where a creek spills into the green gears of the lake. I'll pull this thread until whatever it holds together falls quiet as a gulch of black stars where some buzzards unwind the dead, placing each strand on a stretch of river rocks still warm to the touch. They are ranking the bones. 9. We sit around the kitchen table. I shuffle and you cut. We each take a card. Mine is a piano at the bottom of a lake. Yours is a frozen lake with a piano resting on the new ice. Then the night draws a card-- it's a black box so exquisite in its shine it must have been polished by the terrible little stars of human hands. 10. It's always night inside the whales, even when they heave themselves onto the shore, when they balloon with gas, even when they death-hiss and wheeze, even when we dynamite them back into the night. It's night inside the peacocks whose cries are the handshakes of a secret order. It's inside the way we pass one another at the grocery store, the feed lot, the way we lower our wet ropes into each other. And it's in the way we tend to the little churches of our skulls, where the night swings its smoking chains and arranges its candles. The tractor, of course, is filled with it. It won't start until you summon the lampblack in the river of your blood, where the sturgeon are decimal points moving upstream zero by zero.
MICHAEL MCGRIFF is the author of Dismantling the Hills (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008), winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize.
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|Title Annotation:||two poems|
|Publication:||The American Poetry Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2010|
|Previous Article:||Ecstatic Emigre III.|