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The Invention of the Eye

 a selection of poetry from a manuscript in process

The Invention of the Eye 


It was dark for so long
one year in the sea that was everything, everywhere
that maybe was like the sky 
(no - there was not yet a sky) or like the space outside 
of whatever was outside if there was an outside

a year in the sea
times a million, times a million, times and times

It wasn't even dark
There was no darkness to see
no sea to see though we were there
Blind, soft-bodied
dividing to reproduce
the blind, soft-bodied
not even invisible
nor visible
as there was no such thing as either

and it happened
it had never been before
an eye grew
it opened
and an eye - the first - saw
first to blink
first to see the sea
first to make the world visible

one supposes color,
water, the dumb, blind soft-bodied
creatures swallowed and swallowed
and so we died over and over 
becoming part of a creature
a creature with an eye

we learned to hide
to look like exactly sand or look exactly like rock
now that sand and rock looked like they did
we learned to agress
see me, see this
i see you too
i am electric 
i am blue, now that there is blue
and the tips of my undulating sides are brilliant orange
and spike with poisonous yellow
now that there is orange
now that there is brilliance
and yellow
there must be poison
and seduction

i move through the water with filagreed parts
with whirring motors
translucent spines and dicing scales 
shells hardening

i will breathe
I will go to the edge and find at the edge
another space to move through - differently
new world
i will move two eyes across its form 
find form, find more

i will change before your very eyes. 
i'll grow fingers and, someday, touch your face
that i see
and see is so beautiful


and now then what if insight
gains sight
the blind, soft-bodied fears
the gentle, self-dividing loves
the strange formless ways of intuition

we might grow a sense to sense it
the medium we have always been swimming in.
you know what i mean.
we just passed each other in our minds, in it.
Soon we will know where we have been 
all this time
all this long, long time of trying. 


The Falconer


They have kept me hungry
so I'd come back.

They took off my hood and I was blinded

Then the air
the olive orchards.

I rose high
There - my falconer,
our glove,
the donkey,

the farm,
the smell of the river,
the shake of the dog.

I circled out farther 
and below me - just then -

the olive orchards turned to stone, went flat, grew houses

the crickets stopped their singing
and the creek had lost its frogs

the houses gathered in circles and moved closer

the houses moved tighter

the children grew taller
the children grew wider
and disappeared inside the houses 
that grew bigger
that grew wider

that stopped their music

and the creek had lost its tadpoles

I was circling

The fog lifted forever.

The oats went dull and bent under pavement. 
The pavement filled with metal.

light from it blinded me
this high up 
and from it rose the sound
of nothing

I circled higher
and could not see
and could not breathe

I navigated by hunger
I navigated by hill shape
I wanted to return

to where the persimmons were
were the peacock was
where the donkey chewed the fence
where the falconer had been waiting for me
his strong arm outstretched.

but I found
no dirt
no hand
no glove
no keeper
no one waiting
no trembling prey and vanishing tail
no sweet barn and board
on which to fold my wings,
tuck my head
and rest

no one who remembered
letting me go. 




When the doctor put up the xray and the clinical
lightbox illuminated the plastic image
I understood why I had been feeling so peculiar.

We both, doctor and I, drew closer,
but that wasn't necessary because the fish
that was caught just under its head
between the bones of my rib cage was not at all

Now, knowing where to feel for it,
I could feel it
press into the soft cavity below my ribs and touch, vaguely
the tail, the points, and bones of the tail,
feel it jerking now and again with a frantic force.

I had sensed it before.
The head for my heart. A need. A fitful muted pull.
I couldn't name it.
Or I did name it. But incorrectly.

The doctor said there wasn't much he could do.
That it would die soon.
That time heals all wounds.
That less and less these days, in fact,
do these beauties actually make it home.
With dams and blocks. Well, it's harder than before.

He tells me I must carry this thing for awhile more.
That it is a good idea not to give it a name
or talk to it, even a little.

The doctor's office is near the river
so I go to the river.
Sit on the river rocks.

I feel the points and the bones of the tail
above my gut and to the right, poking just slightly out.
A deep twitch. A weary tug backward in my chest.

I lie down and take the rain on my face,
make myself, as best as I can, like a still,
familiar from long ago pool
- far from the teaming sea.
a place to rest
a place to lose one's color
to let go, in time,
one's gift for miraculous leaping.



I tell my beginning drawing students there is no such thing as line. 
(though I love line and the week before told them to draw 
every kind of line they could possibly make).

This week, there is no line
A line is just a concept.
There is no such thing as a physical line
- just value next to value.

The birds I love are back again

aligning on the straight length of wire that is not a line, 
as it was also not last year.

- the starlings, their wire, their pause and direction, just deeper blues
in a field of blues 
itself a field, deep field, of black, expanding.

This is how painters see things. 
the space between the nucleus and the path  
of the electron

not a line but a field
probably a color of some kind
probably very hard to get right.

The direction of any gaze
- not a line with beginning or end
but a field in which one can suddenly lift

in a startled movement of living. 



Our job was to separate the clingfish

from the sharp rocks they clung to.

They were visible just in front of us, but they hung on fiercely.

If you could just get your fingernails

under their edges,

it was told, you could detach them

and, if you survived the wave

and for a month said nothing

there would be food, somehow, then for everyone.


The water was only two feet deep and more than perfectly clear:

- it magnified the fins, the veins, the insides of the fish,

the fish inside that fish, and another, still, for later.


When we came to the bay to work, we stepped right on them.

We cut our feet on their fins, on their veins,

on the sharp-toothed stones and we bled into the water for a while.


We settled into the water and floated above them, paddling our feet

for balance in the current.

The saltwater healed our wounds and stopped our bleeding

and the current cleared our vision.

Our eyes were sharp, our nails long, our reflexes - quick.


As the water drew back, if we could just get our fingernails underneath,

then pull back, the sea could give us leverage - the clingfish

would release in our hand

and if we were not greedy but humble in our hunting

there would be food, somehow, then for everyone

and love and life and fish

and love

and fish inside of fish.


The day I died I was punished.

I had my fingernails - of both hands -

well under the sharp, razor edge of a one.

It held on tightly to the black and shiny rock.

The regular current pulled back and me with it.

The fish lifted half away and I heard

one chord of 40,000 years of singing.


I let go and stood and shouted out to anyone who could hear me

"It's music! The fish - it's held by music!"


and the sea sent a wave horizontally - right at me.

faster than any I've ever dreamt or seen or known of

and it obliterated me and so I died - learning then

my work was just to hunt, just to paint of the hunt,

to never stand and proudly shout,

to never holler out the names and secrets

of sacred things.

  (   )


It is a rip tide
The harder you swim
the further out you get

The longer you live
the more you don't know

The finer the telescope
the more innumerable the innumerable

Would it make you feel better to find
once and for all, the deep field
was just a dancing membrame,
- film on some colassal eye


Only animal to sleep on our backs
to gaze into the speckled path of infinity
and in that sure, ridiculous scale of
unquantifiable indifference

note that seeing

breathing and seeing
laying and talking 
or silently seeing and breathing
touched by the wind
we are promised, 

forever and ever,
forever and ever,
forever and ever,

no answer
- ever

and this is hope
- which is also hard to understand

  (   )




At first it is like gauze over my eyes
then a sheet, something, over my face
growing thicker, stickier

Heavy, heavy the white light comes through
more and more yellow
shapes rounded, made indistinct.

wrapped close my ears now
wrapped and my name
if that is what was said 
comes to me muffled
impossible to respond to

i cannot push forward.
i'm enveloped, bound close.
did i make this thing?

my patience twitches
and now, worse, 
with me here 
pressing against me like love
with an urgency flickering like 
love i have these small
and bent-back 



According to the Moon


According to the Moon
one is alone in space
without vision
or weather
or touch to the surface

According to the Moon 
there is nothing
not even to be
not even loneliness

One could be like this
for trillions and trillions
of years

What is a year
to the Moon
that does not know
its tiny crescent side
that does not see its reflection
rise white into the high and glacial lake
that does not know it lights up prey
and hides behind clouds
and for millenia has opened up 
one soul after another
as if we were made of petals
gentlest of celestial keys
perfect companion
of goodbye

and so it is possible
to not know
- not at all- 
how we are
the light we give
who looks for us
in the dark
and, finding us,
- out there, somewhere -
is, in that darkness, 
for that time,


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