Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson
Denis Johnson 1949-2017

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

If This Is Paradise

The true mystery of the world is the visible. . .
                                                   -- Oscar Wilde

If this is paradise:  trees, beehives,
boulders.  And this:  bald moon, shooting
stars, a little sun.  If in your hands
this is paradise:  sensate flesh,
hidden bone,  your own eyes
opening, then why should we speak?
Why not lift into each day like the animals
that we are and go silently
about our true business:  the hunt
for water, fat berries, the mushroom's
pale meat, tumble through waist-high grasses
without reason, find shade and rest there,
our limbs spread beneath the meaningless sky,
find the scent of the lover
and mate wildly.  If this is paradise
and all we have to do is be born and live
and die, why pick up the stick at all?
Why see the wheel in the rock?
Why bring back from the burning fields
a bowl full of fire and pretend that it's magic?

Dorianne Laux

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Emily D!

Love - is anterior to Life -
Posterior - to Death -
Initial of Creation, and  
The Exponent of Earth -

Emily Dickinson

******************************************

Of all the Souls that stand create -
I have elected - One -
When Sense from Spirit - files away -
And Subterfuge - is done -

When that which is - and that which was -
Apart -intrinsic - stand -
And this brief Drama in the flesh -
Is shifted - like a Sand -

When Figures show their royal Front -
And Mists - are carved away,          
Behold the Atom - I preferred -

To all the lists of Clay!

Emily Dickinson

********************************************

Ample make this Bed -
Make this Bed with Awe -
In it wait till Judgment break   
Excellent and Fair.   
 
Be its Mattress straight -           5
Be its Pillow round -
Let no Sunrise’ yellow noise   
Interrupt this Ground -

Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Week to Mary Oliver!

The Ponds

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them --

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided --
and that one wears an orange blight --
and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away --
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled --
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing --
that the light is everything -- that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading.  And I do.

~ Mary Oliver ~

(House of Light)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mesquite


“The mesquite’s root system is the deepest documented; a live root was discovered in a copper mine over 160 feet below the surface. Like all known trees, however, 90% of mesquite roots are in the upper 3 feet of soil. This is where most of the water and oxygen are. The deep roots presumably enable a mesquite to survive severe droughts, but they are not its main life support”

– from A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert (ASDM Press, eds. Phillips & Comus, 2000)


Down here
the layers of earth
are comforting
like blankets.

The soil I think of
as time. Below the caliche
I sift through sediment
from thousands of years.

Though the sharp desert light above
is another world, its pulse
courses through me.

When the mastodons
and ground sloths roamed,
its pulse coursed through me.

When the Hohokam
in the canyon
ground my pods
in the stone
its pulse coursed through me.

When the new gatherers
of the desert
learn again how to live here,
its pulse will course through me.
 

And I say, I will be ready
if the drought comes.

And I say, go deep
into the Earth.

And I say, go deep
into yourself, go deep

and be ready.


Eric Magrane


in the first years of the twenty-first century

it is more than
                        language
makes us human
what is it that I hear
what is it that I want
a poetry of geologic time
outside everything we know
when we are out
                        on the edges
today’s gods
in our own understanding
            a new arrangement
underneath the surface
            today’s structure
                        swirling light—


& shining history

weighs less than

a spider

Eric Magrane 

Originally published in Tygerburning Literary Journal, Spring 2010.