The Animals All Knew, Without Saying
Quiet in a quiet house is a good thing.
Panic at quiet in a quiet house is a
Leaper – to the mouth, hand leaping to the mouth
To stuff the panic back.
Quiet in a quiet house is a heart pounding,
Is the doppelgänger in the mirror, is
The other Tristan, Iseult nowhere where
She should be which is why the house is quiet.
It’s Christmas Eve. Snow outside falls softly.
Negative ions are good things, Science says,
Negative ions are good things. My ears pop
As if I’m in a plane, and I am in the eye
Of quiet. The ear adjusts, like a cowed dog.
So quiet the house, the chair, the heart, the hour,
The world an anvil, I an anvil, waiting for
Christ the Hammerer.
‘And if I die we will go on thinking of each other.’
From ‘To His Wife,’ ca. 100 B.C.,
by General Su Wu,
trans. Arthur Waley, 170 Chinese Poems
Did the General say an unusual thing?
He said in fact a usual thing.
People who do not have the experience
do not understand it.
They should not make a discussion of it.
They are a distraction.
She and I go on thinking of each other.
I can see the moon go on.
I cannot see her go on.
That is the sole difference.
Pools reflect this
They say there may be storms on the moon.
was like us.
What she’s doing there
I look again at a fabulous poem
‘Seagulls’ by Eileen Casey from a
literary event in Clogh Kilkenny
in 2005: in the swirl and suck and uplift
of masses of birds an African man
climbs a hill in Tallaght on a chilly windy day
a shopping centre far below
and the poet wonders
what she’s doing there and what he’s doing there
and thanks to her I wonder what Ireland
the west coast of which came up
from southern Africa
millions of years ago is doing there
and the only here in all these theres
is the Cave of the Winds
which the ancient Greeks
took for granted
as who wouldn’t who lives
pitched provisionally on a small island
and I remember This Island Earth
the title of a kitsch science fiction film
whose three words are as good
as anything in Yeats or Eliot
and my mother not far off
who seemed to know all this
from her birth in Belfast and on and on
through and past her brief life
which she scampered across juggling madly
irresponsibility and responsibility
and so thank you Eileen
and thank you my mother’s genes
and my father’s and Ireland’s
and Africa’s for the helium hilarity
and downward sadness
and how can anyone count
how many years old anything is
or how long it will take the African man
to climb that hill
here I am in a Paris heat wave
in a restaurant on the rue des Carmes
eating a three balls of gelato
with a mint leaf on top
and this is being alive
this is Kubla Khan snapped off
the best thing that ever happened to it.
Copyright © Richard W. Halperin 2016