At Burt Lake
By Tom Andrews
To disappear into the right words
and to be their meanings. . .
Pink scraps of clouds, a plum-colored sky.
The sycamore tree spills a few leaves.
The cold focuses like a lens. . .
Now night falls, its hair
caught in the lake's eye.
Such clarity of things. Already
I've said too much. . .
language must happen to you
the way this black pane of water,
chipped and blistered with stars,
happens to me.
From: "The Hemophiliac's Motorcycle" by Tom Andrews, page 13. (Winner of 'The Iowa Poetry Prize')
Mistaking Opiates for the Clear Light
By Suzanne Paola
There's always been this confusion with white things---
hospitals, cold, moonlight.
They seemed to embody the will
paralyzed into peaceful acceptance.
Blank paper consecrate
to the end of words: I love that,
secretly, more than this.
Quaaludes in my palm, rowers, eucharistic form.
Clear bag of heroin.
Stuff, we called it. Too foundational to define.
In a clear bowl, a pear & a pomegranate wizen
into color. Almost
alive, skins rucking
in on themselves. Cheeks
& carmine, seeming
almost to care about this...
Each a countenance
too private for a face, collapsing
in the hard gravity of color.
I was their opposite, pale girl, not living
or dying. They were
what I feared.
I trust in the bardo wisdom: how the gods,
with their soft white light, draw us in, convince us
their stuporous world is all there is.
I've seen them, slumping
forward, burning themselves with cigarettes.
How grand they were for a while: their leathers, their etched
bodies, a stalled
writhing eagle on each arm.
And their nectars, their secret foods, that gave
an easy kind of sensate order.
Though a god's world finally
suffers itself away from him, braille of the tracks
of a thousand needles, transgressions of red
under the skin---
From: "Bardo" by Suzanne Paola, pages 6, 7 (Winner of "The Brittingham Prize in Poetry")
Bardo (from Wikipedia): "Used loosely, the term "bardo" refers to the state of existence intermediate between two lives on earth. According to Tibetan tradition, after death and before one's next birth, when one's consciousness is not connected with a physical body, one experiences a variety of phenomena. These usually follow a particular sequence of degeneration from, just after death, the clearest experiences of reality of which one is spiritually capable, and then proceeding to terrifying hallucinations that arise from the impulses of one's previous unskillful actions.
For the prepared and appropriately trained individuals the bardo offers a state of great opportunity for liberation, since transcendental insight may arise with the direct experience of reality, while for others it can become a place of danger as the karmically created hallucinations can impel one into a less than desirable rebirth."