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Poets of the Monterey Bay

Four Poems from Invented by the Night by Len Anderson


Parents are magicians
who don’t realize
what they’re conjuring.
As a child I grew
in the spell
of my father’s silence,
never knowing
what to say.

I would go out after rain,
find a puddle
in the hard clay,
set afloat a twig
and guide it
by the steady breeze
of my breath
to the other shore.


At St. William Elementary School I learn of the Christian martyrs crucified,
beheaded, or stoned to death.  Fifteen years later in Berkeley I read about
Giordano Bruno tied to the stake and burned by the Inquisition after he wrote
that the universe described by Copernicus is infinite, we are not at the
center, and God might never find us, never save us.

That Sunday in Mass at Newman Hall I wonder how, if God is everywhere,
even inside us, we fail to see Him.  I look up at the crucifix and see Jesus
hanging there.  Then I see Caravaggio’s aged St. Peter on the cross being
raised upside down, then Saints Andrew and Bartholomew.  I see Bruno in
the flames, then Jesus again.  Each dying—dying for me.  Now, the bread
and wine have been transformed into their body and blood.  I rise with
the others and approach the priest.  He hands me the thin white wafer.
I bow and place it on my moistened tongue.  Slowly the host softens.
I swallow and take it deep inside me.

A Certain Swaying of the Body
        for Felix de Lola, cantaor Flamenco

The singer holds his cupped hand over his heart.
The deeper his grief, the greater my consolation.

He too was betrayed by the turning of the earth,
which only remains true to its turning.

I envy the clarity of his voice,
the purity of his weeping.

This certain swaying of the body we call song
was taken up long ago by the ocean.

His loss of control is born of discipline
from years of singing in a small boat on the sea.

Now he tells us he is dying in prison.
I can see we are in the same room.

He holds on as long as he can to this note,
but it must pass to make room for another.

Where did I lay my wings when I came in the door?
I may want them on the way out.

I am grateful for this swaying of the body,
that the song will go on after I leave the room.

In My Forty-Ninth Lifetime

At the playgrounds we had slides
with antigravity machines,
so we could go up and down as long as we liked.

Dreams no longer came from factories
but sprang out of the ground unannounced
or were sung by birds as they built nests in our hair.

A permanent rose hung in the sky
and doors were shaped like lips.
When we came home from a hard day,
a giant tongue licked us clean.

All the theorems for God were found to contain
tiny flaws in their springs, wound so tight
they snapped on cold days.

The cage built around God collapsed
and was disassembled and carried off by ants
to the wilds of Madagascar.

God uncurled, this must have taken centuries,
kept on uncurling, stretching and waking.

I invented a trombone played by the wind.
The wind took a liking to it and ordered so many,
the cops came and shut the factory down.

When I was a hundred and four, I went to the playground,
started sliding upward,
and it seemed like I just kept on going.


Copyright 2011