Thursday, June 9, 2016

Three Symbols


Climbing is like lifting a weight, hand over hand, using a pulley. Marathoner in a trance, you ascend rapidly as time slows to near motionlessness.

Trees rustle, rice husks pushing back and forth to dry. Desiccated brush, smallish bundles, tumble downward, roll about. Bamboo thickets, agitated brooms, shiver.

Dislodged by your feet, tiny stones hurtle, soaring arcs increasing in velocity downhill, click-clacking glass marbles knocking together, gradually fading, scattering into silence.

At this height air is rarefied fire. Atop the mountain birds hover overhead, transfixed by the sun more brilliant than a sorcerer’s spell, flanked by clouds, bright balls of electricity.

Strong gusts sand your face roughly, a stone. The wind is cold, the eye of an ascetic just returned from a visit to the dead, fiercely gazing, an eagle clutching a small animal.

The vast plain below mirrors the sky, wet paddies flashing crystal polygons, jewelry turning side to side. Far into the distance, short hills squat, huge emerald droplets, whilst the river, a glittering bracelet, empties into an ocean of light.

Breathless, you are a broken wheel on the wayside. You will climb the mountain again, spellbound by the expenditure of controlled energy, delighted by the sting of sharp gravel underfoot.

Maria Makiling (1947) by Carlos Francisco


Yesterday the river was lapping at my feet like an old man tapping out a message about time flowing downward from hills remote as hawks.
Today he rises slowly, a momentous pulse pushing seaward, fed by faraway pistons.
At the waterside where air is fresh as a pear, a sweet mist glides forward like a perfumed wrist.
Islands of floating plants drift, joining into continents, rearranging in serpentine tattoos.
Beneath the surface glittery like so many exploding firecrackers, fish swirl, shadowy limbs of an athlete smoothly cutting back and forth.
Denizens gather at the riverbanks in spoonfuls, sprinkling laughter farther than droplets shot from spinning umbrellas.
Distantly a lizard pokes its head into the sun, jerking left and right, vainly divining a future obscured by brightness.

The Biglin Brothers Turning the Stake-Boat (1873) by Thomas Eakins


Down the road a short distance the sea is crashing breakers.
I hear the soft rhythmic roar telling of a distant menace.
We live close enough to the beach to feel the breeze and smell it.
On a hot night it cools the house like a ghostly visitor.
Dark beams exude the odor of sand, old wood a salt fragrance.
Fish and shrimp, squid and snails are the gifts of our brooding neighbor.
We toss them in garlic and soy sauce, shaking them inside the pan.
We serve them steaming, feasting until our stomachs smile.
But in the blackness I cannot be safe enough to call the ocean friend.
He harbors in his belly gigantic aliens and swallows sailors alive.
I hold a match to a kerosene lamp to illumine scroll columns and chairs.
I gaze at the flickering yellow flame, warming within myself.
No one can control this behemoth, this restless surging animal.
If only I could capture this water and leash it to a post.

La Mediterranee (c. 1923-27) by Aristide Maillol


  1. Images of works of art are posted on this website according to principles of fair use, specifically, they are posted for the purposes of information, education, and especially, contemplation.


  2. Credits - original publications:

    “The Mountain,” Eastlit (September 1, 2014)

    “The River,” Eastlit (September 1, 2014)

    “The Sea,” Boston Poetry Magazine (September 4, 2014)


  3. La Mediterranee (c. 1923-27) by Aristide Maillol link: