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Dancing With My Daughter

Harold Rhenisch
From:   Dancing With My Daughter, 1993

I have buried myself in the land
that was ours and is lost
and have lived with the cherries
that burst out from the trees
at the nodes of intense pressure
all up and down the limbs.
Now I want to sit among friends.

The body's surface fire
gathers itself into the breast:
dark bruised bursts of flame,
brought into the animal rage
of the body drinking
inhuman time:

but what can we make out of fire?
Fire? I want to sit among friends,
as the year dies in broken weedstalks
and the pine on the sandbar thunders up
taller than the mountain,

and the snow blasts over the dark house.

And for friends I have to look to women
who are wasting away their time,
and men who drink wine
in their gumboots
in the unheated garage,
in celebration of the fire in the shale,
the inexhaustible flame.

We are a people leaving the land,
for the comfort of old songs:
time, strength, soil, light:
old nodes of pressure,
the goddess stepping barefoot
into the god's dance.

I do not know if it was the words
that weakened us,
their community that destroyed
us: beauty, soul, honour, poetry, art,
the old emblems: beauty,
form held in balance, the body
stripped away
from ineffable light, the gulf
of dark; soul,
the mirror of poetry
in the perfect form
of measured time; and honour,
the personal guarantee for death;
that separate poetry from art:

old, banished words,
cheap porcelain down at the junkshop,
old bent tin frames, old dolls
with taped-up arms.

I would like to think the wind is a broom tonight,
cleaning us out, but it is not:
the leaves are sodden and limp,
and empty of light, and will not catch
that cold and leering fire.

In the world without music,
I wanted to sit here tonight to remake this earth
in the image of a balsamroot
burning yellow in the green night fields,
with a soft wind spilling through the grass, warm,
the gentle waste breath of ants
in their opium heavens,
not to repeat the old words again,
the terrible old words
of possession and judgement
and power:

meaning, logic, compassion;

I want to sit here tonight among friends.

In this burning world, this sea of blue stars
smashed across a stone floor,
I have been given a daemon with a lash.
He wants to teach me one thing,
and he wants to teach it to me well:

we have no friends;
we are alone;
there is no shared world;
love, like God, is dead,
pressed flowers between the pages of a book,
Keats' hand caressing our cheeks as we dream,
childhood lilies remembered in old age,
candles, matches of memory,
brief flares in the unending dark. Night
is an idol cast into stone:
there is nothing there.

My five year old daughter
dances with me in the kitchen,
laughing, her eyes bright.
That, I have taught her.

It's all I have.

I would like to say
the lash will not reach her,
that as we dance
the imposter's lash will strike my back
and not her face;
that those welts are mine.

I can say it,
but all I have to say it with are these burning words;

and leaves, plastered against the cold ground,
so flat they have lost dimension and mass,
eternal, that belong to none of us,

won't ever shield her from that.

Harold Rhenisch's works copyright © to the author.

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