To stand, to sit, to step is to be held.
To think is to behold
the facets of the diamond, the allomorphs of earth:
pebble, boulder, bedrock,
podzol and hardpan, lava and sand,
copper, potash, gabbro, feldspar, clay,
obsidian, schist, dust.
A stone is a stone
is a laundered and rock-hard
and graspable piece of what is. Beneath it,
the bones and petroleum – earth
turned into flesh turned
into earth turned into flesh
and back into earth – are just
resting and waiting their turn.
Snow is the blood of the dead. Dew
is the gods’ blood. Creeks, rivers, seas
are the blood of the only one who is living.
But at dark I heard a rusting backhoe say,
Thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother’s milk
nor bury the river under its own water
for kilowatt hours and pleasure boats
nor suck the river dry – unless you wish to;
and in that case, leave your credit card
and passport with the desk clerk;
leave your culture and your language
and your children and your genome in the till.
Burning, yes, but in the long run,
truly, it is nothing: merely a planet
nursing the tit of a dying star.
The forest was not just the first
but the last and the only
To breathe is to be breathed,
to give up the ghost and receive it again, to belong
to the shared and exterior lung – rich in its livery
of rose petals, icicles, willow leaves, waves –
or shrivelled and cringing.
Language is shaped air, a sign
that cannot be seen. What you see on the page
is writing, not language:
the visible sign of a physical gesture,
the tangible sign in confined space
of a sign that cannot be captured –
though it can be tortured, like others.
The gestures of speech
are performed in the darkness
by heart and by throat,
palate and nostril and larynx and lung.
What you see are the ploughmarks
of carbon and lead, tin and antinomy,
tilling the windowbox of the page.
What you hear, when you hear, is the echo
of air against air.
The kidnapped earth, imprisoned water,
cut and packaged fire, say that air,
the invisible element,
was the last one to be free.
Robert Bringhurst, “The Focal Length of Fuel” in Selected Poems (Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 2011)