I'm Afraid This Ship is on Fire

i’m afraid this ship is on fire

they do not create the universe, 

they simply find it one day

ripples and waves are coming across the continent 

as the glacier melts, 

and i ask him: 

what do creeks and rivers want to do?

leave your armor on the shore 

and gorge yourself on prickly pears. 

you will find chocolate and birds-of-paradise feathers 

as far as Idaho

sage flowers taste like honey 

and prickly ash will numb your mouth

crush and boil the wasp galls 

to dress your wounds

even the smothering greenbriar 

will give its flesh and roots to you

for the first time in my life i feel

my feet are firmly planted on this earth, 

on this land. i feel like i belong here

where everything must go somewhere: 

beautiful armadillo and yesterday’s camel walk side by side

swift foxes and red wolves trail in their steps 

i cannot revise them to make my own. 

only a past clearly mine feels worth having.

i don’t know what kind of history this town had, 

but I feel certain that it had a history

the road to the church was paved with pure silver, 

while they choked in the mines. 

i hoped to find the pattern that animates the still world 

and harmonize with it. 

forests fell and soil eroded under my feet

my architecture is evidence 

of light and shadow. 

my hands lift a child from a ditch, 

my swift fingers make a rope 

from a lace-leafed yukka, 

I caress an animal, 

I count silver coins, 

they rise and fall

do not say what the spirits are,

but tell me what they are not

i am tired of moist earth.

before i put a lock on the garden gate, 

wind sang me to sleep every night

the darkness comes every night 

before the final earth



impregnated with asphalt, 

hidden under the matrices of prior decisions 

of the great inland sea 

that extended all the way to the Arctic

there, if I tread gently on the swampy ground, 

strangers will hold their flickering lights for me.

they have seen the great Pan, 

but didn’t stake the claim

or the meaning

I have seen evasion, 



and extraction

there are no poets in my republic, 

but here is the anchor

i have seen conspicuous gallantry in action. 

i have seen versions of the past 

that make the present 


my language is in a state of vast humiliation

by things once possessed 

that cannot be done without

it is better to remember than to write down

the elder kin who have seen the glacier retreat whisper 

the drought here, 

in the wilderness of time, 

never ends with a whimper

the smallest monkey of the forest 

gives my soul to a big fish that passes it on

down and under until it reaches the bottom of the ancient sea

do not tell me what is going to happen, 

but rather, 

what is not going to take place

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