Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nobility and Civilization

Two poems concerning civilization and the notion of self-sacrifice, which forest and human communities rely on for their furtherance.

The Nobility of Trees

The nobility of trees
Is something we imagine,
If they were us. We think
Their stillness order and their stands
An army at attention;
Or, in the breeze their costumes
Turn to skirts, or summer dresses;
Or the forelock of a bough
Seems the happiness of gentle play;
Or, if they green through snow, immortal,
Or if they shed their glory unto death’s
Brief sleep, or if they show their limbs
And fingers raising up the sky like host,
Or if they cast a shadow in the heat,
Or loom above as living monuments,
Or hide us in our childhood climbings
As the nesting birds,
Or if they wait for miles along the road,
Boring to us in their endless sloth
Of vegetation milling out the air,
And we forget them long enough:
If this were not enough and they
Some spark of revolution find,
They set the air to burning with their hair
And standing still advance upon our homes
Breathing into one combusted sun
Their stolen joists and timbers,
Plywood, pulp and paper, trim and molding,
Into one consumption with our books
And curling even photographs for fuel
Implode in great cremations
Like a war for oxygen,
Which it inhales
After all its giving out of human breath.
How we, surprised, proceed
Through its charred expanse,
The cinders and the spokes of its nobility
A ruin as magnificent as Rome.
So to this we turn in our great stillness,
In our life, our sweetness and the rage
That settles everything by sacrificing all.
The nobility of trees
Imagines us.

John Sevcik


We, the custodians of nature,
Who weave together parts of her,
Elaborating on her fragile arts
The aquaduct, the cloverleaf,
The spires of St-Michel;

We, who found our natures hers,
Who gardened patterns on the lawn,
Who studied deer and planned our jousts,
Who livened life by costumage and plume,
And heraldry and shield and home;

We, whom the carapace and fort defend
In our most magical prayers
Of love and service and our brotherhood;
We, who entrusted trust,
We road-builders on the errand of trade,

Who met across the oceans on the winds,
Who made our own, our order and our graves;
We who kept to tenderness our own
And fought to raise a temple to the light
Of inspiration, courage and God-dread;

Who feared the acts and rages of blind chance
And on the marbled palace floor
Inlaid our fragmentary and mosaic sense
Of a room fenced off by waves,
A trance of blue, and dolphins

At the center, in the happiness of play;
And from the yards of plenty there returns
A nature so transfigured by our own
That we and nature clearly do embraid
The trellis and wisteria,

The painter and the subject,
The farmer’s arm inside the apple tree,
And the round, sweet fruit
They both know and hold.

John Sevcik

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Eternal Truth

Part I

Lost, as under a heavy sea,
We glide, aware of others in the dark.

The platform to a train is like a reef,
And noise – and noise of steel
Resounds from subways, as if man
Were being mined from darker depths,
Deeper still than oceans. We go down in them;
And up in space we boil ourselves away.

And all these things, transparent and opaque
To eye and ear, to hand, to heart, to sense.

Part II

I was born in Brag, New Jersey.


Held twenty lines of red-eye
To the forehead of a muse.


She had a fever
And she could not speak.


Patience, counseled she,


When I am ready I shall write


Part III

Breath is consonant to voice –
Invisible word.
Breath speaks nothing,
Yet says all.


Before the kiss, the breath.
After one’s first cry.
The breath.


After everything is over
Heaves and falls
The breath.


It is absent.
It is found in spring.


In summer’s breeze
I take the pulse
Of breath.
I lay to rest.
Breath as of ocean
Breath as of lilacs


Wait that you hear me,
Soft on your ear.

Part IV

Longing is like billiards.
A bet rides on it.
Someone bumps into you;
Somewhere you are touching.

Why are they like that – the gods?
They poke at us with sticks;
They know how we reflect
Across the village green.
Chance to us, design to them.
And then dispensed of into dust,
In rattling boards,
In silent pews.

Longing is the bet I have,
Strong enough to bend the world,
To bleed the cow as white of milk,
As I shall be bled white as snow.
And for the bones that wheel and click
Down some long eternal row
I have their promise they shall raise
The whole lot up to live again:
Longing unto, after, death,
Like billiards,
Like an unpaid debt.

The velvet green as though brand new
Waits for children fresh from school.
For what I wait, they wait anew.
Eternal truth eternity renews.

John Sevcik

Monday, February 15, 2010


Snow doesn’t cover it,
Nor water, nor the land masses,
Nor half the world in sunlight, half in night.
It isn’t rumbling by in the great wagon of stars,
Nor singing in the birds’ throats when it’s warm
And they can sing. Nothing ails it
When the world’s a plague,
Nor is it poor, it just doesn’t have money.
It is the thing that chooses what will happen,
Of who with whom will spend the sweetest hours,
And weave a store of memories together,
All the better for their lucky struggle.
Neither news nor poems cover it, nor books,
Nor dancing, or the movies, or a children’s tale.
It isn’t sayable, like joy and gravity,
Like holding together when the world holds apart.
Only it can hold the sweet regard we seek
And satisfy us in the prospect of demise.

John Sevcik

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Neighboring State

Today Vermont came to visit.
Sometime in the morning, when all was dark,
it took over from Maine, which was here
yesterday afternoon. Today I think
of going into the village for a cider or hot soup,
of sitting with friends in flannel coats
who know the woods and when the maple
gives, and have a friendship with the world
around a stove. I would go there today,
if only I had gone before. They do not know me
in the village; I do not know the village.
And yet it visits in the cold its warmth
of cloud, its humid gray of snow.
Tomorrow maybe Maryland will come,
with secret lore of clamming and of crabs.
I will adjust my sail to dream of that.
Wandering is what the weather maps.

John Sevcik

The Found Tool

This pencil
found at Tinicum
does it remember
that warm day
or even earlier
when we saw
an old-timer
following a muskrat
along Darby Creek
remembering his hunting
days? Or does
the soft pencil think
only of its cedar town
and the mill that cleaved
it off, the gray graphite
shot into its spine,
or school-bus yellow paint?
So much to think about
laying on the path:
of someone’s knife whittling
the point, and a
lightly used eraser.

John Sevcik

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Elegy for My Father in a Time of War

They call the blossom nature, which opens in its time
and fades, then dries and falls upon the garden’s loom.

They call the start of life the hope of all, they listen to
the squall of cries and tears, they listen and admire the man.

They watch in admiration as the mother grows. They call
the waiting upon life a goal and joy. They start as bold.

They end in praise of all that merit honor in the fold.
They part as strangers, once again, who once knew kin.

They wend from their father’s white-sheeted deathbed,
as from his cover of leaves, as from the burial in snow of all his years.

Parsimonious and abundant nature, to hide so many
in your folds, then sprinkle them to ground like sparks

of your eternal fire. Every one of them an ember held
against the cold of darkness and the void. Oh breath

which suffocates, oh hiss of that extinguishing
complaint. Oh wisp of smoke that rises from the pyre

of each lost mite of coal, from each of life’s
once heralded new stars. Oh passing of comets,

Oh speeding of meteors. What is the grief
of their purpose? What is the gain of our loss?

There on the farmer’s field goes one who lost a son
when only four. Nothing explains it to him, not the wheat,

nor the cow lolling by the gate. She is mute to her own grief
and eyes him with a regal glance. The moonlight rising

over winter’s ghostly land will not explain to him, nor us,
of what the son lay dying, and why, with language set,

he asked his father and his mother for a bath in snow.
How can the world not grow weary of her loss?

Or of the parents of the soldier gone to war and never found,
how is that to be recorded here? That it is meaningful

for soldiers to be lost? Its meaning is pain,
and the forgetting of his future, and the future of the living.

How can you stars withstand your own longevity,
when here below we near immortals fail to match

such eternities as you revolve around us, keeping your
observances in season, watching us below enact our hopes

and failings. Still you shine, still you burn, still you stand
in constellations we have named, pretending you are like us

constituted into tribes, totemic of some mythic human, or,
in other cases, animal. Swan, bear, wolf, dragon, rabbit,

fish, dolphin, crab, scorpion, hunter, twin, goat, ram,
horse, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Sagittarius, Virgin –

of what do you speak up there? Of what do we imagine
you would speak? And in our spaceships up we’ve gone

as if to listen, and to meet you, someone like you, something
other than the short lives we have known. Up there in heaven

they are living the ambrosial lives of Xanadu. There is Alph
the sacred river, pouring its milk across the sky in summer,

and we too blinded by city and street lights to see any more
that our spectators are dim, if infinite -- though on a clear, dark

night, they blaze down cold and gleaming, near enough to touch.
There they listen to the farmer’s groan, as he drags some iron hitch

behind him for the loam. To him the bull means something, of you
stars, and how it rides into the sky, then ruts the earth on leaving,

followed by the seven sisters in their quilting bee, their gossipy
brittle faintness, their closeness healing them unlike the men,

unlike himself or any sons of his, or fathers, or groups of men
who come to buy the farmer out, when the farm has failed.

Auctions are a death, but not the death of men. Men die of time,
of simple things unchecked, of little money or too much,

of dreams unfashioned, or of dreamers all too much. They have died
after lovers died before them, or after parents, one then two,

Or brother by brother, sister by sister, aunt by aunt, uncle by uncle,
cousin, nephew, classmate. Sometimes a car going fast

along the farm road squeals, hits a tree and breaks apart, and
all one finds are sorrows in the wreckage; one can cry at that

before the relatives show up. Motion is a raging thing. Once gone,
it lapses into shock. As if somewhere the sound of wheels continue

on, and vanish safely in the distance. The going out, the coming in,
are all our mothers care about; fathers, too. The one paces,

worried all the night, the other lies awake in bed, pretending sleep.
In later years the wife berates the husband for his sleeping, while she wept.

He didn’t sleep, either, he answers. And what good it did. They lost the life
they gained that was to have replaced them at the wheel, the till,

the quilt’s corner. They were to thread it all so far, and then retire.
The rows of corn would then arise by solar magic, and the lunar

practice of changeable sons. Man against soil, man against weather,
man against drought, man against pestilence, man against loan,

man against bank, man against tax, man against market, man against
man. Then they would fashion a better thresher, call it war, and send

them. Farmer’s boys, or fishermen to ship them, or city boys to fly
them -- somewhere there would be only eating and vomiting, but no

planting, nor sowing. All the dead would be for purposes of history.
All the dead, all the dead, all the dead, all the dead, all the dead

would weary them of any counting, any feeling, any turning to
the sick fact of death at all. Death would tire of its very name.

They would make it a cliché, they would mass produce it, they
would build a new kind of silo in the fields beyond the farm

and fill them not with wheat, but with missiles set to go off and
incinerate whole cities. They would make it a common thing

not to want to think about death at all any more. It would open
too many graves, too many addresses would have to be looked up.

It would cause too much thinking, or not enough. It would not be
thinking that is even any good, not like the one death in a car too fast,

and the young couple, 16 and 17, found thrown from the front seat
of a car without headlights, racing over country lanes in moonlight,

their hands tight in each other’s, or maybe kissing and then not,
or screaming “I love you,” even as they could not. Darkness

and snow equals light. And the light of the sky. And the light
of the stars. And the light of the moon. And the lowing of the cow.

Ice groans in the creek and snaps. The farmer groans in his tackle.
The barn is dark and warm. Huddled inside are the sacred family,

some of which are painted above on the sky. They bleat and clack
and moo and snort. They are patient in the building made for them,

and patient in their own unhappy lives, surrounded by the endings
of their kind. Pigs to the slaughter, eggs from the chickens, milk

from the cows, wool from the sheep, labor from the horse, slavery
from all, death at the end. Death for credit. Life for debt.

Mortal, I am speaking with you of your span, of the bridge you set
between the two oblivions you know nothing of. I am speaking

for you and your brood, of how it is you fall from the bread you reap.
How do you fall to the floor, and rise up, unconscious at all of the joy

that first conceived you? Years will go by before you will know
any of that secret, and then you will fly to it yourself; a little further on

and you’ll be married, or divorced, or childless, or with family,
or one of those entrusted to remain behind, or mortal as a poet,

or a painter of truths, or a writer, or a preacher who will spin the meaning
out from pulpits for the Sunday best. Oh he will shout against the truth

with his own dead reckoning, his leader behind him executed on the cross
and faith withstanding once that blow of death, he cometh down and walks

for forty days and forty nights, then ascends the air like fictions do and lives
to earn us all eternal life upon our faith in Him. That’s the story one

would have to live by, seeing what we see. That or the unconscious.
That or grief on grief. In the end, we haven’t quite outshone them:

The stars in their processions. The saints in their Lives. They endure,
while we pass on. The graveyards raise their white tongues up.

“I didn’t believe, yet here I am,” cries one. Another, “The Devil took me!”
A third, “I went to Sunday School and slept through it.” “And now look.

“And now look! And now look!” Traveller, pass them by, even those
who prayed their way to heaven. Ask them and they cannot tell

of where they went before they came to earth. Easier to tell
the dreams of last night, or memories of yesterday. Is life one day,

and then another? Are we bound for Nepal? Are we to awaken
as mosquitoes or flies, or great birds in the Amazon, or wiser men

and women? Are we Buddha bound, or Resurrection bound, or bound
to come before the court of Justice that will find us wanting,

and every sentence retroactive death? How comes the sentence
before the trial? Are we rehearsing all our lost cases in our conscience?

What benefit that we shall always fail the test and die?
Who indeed is rising up this morning filled with hope?

What extraordinary man or child, or woman, thinks today
is perfect, and so escapes the sentence of our nature?

I would commune with the ghosts and spirits, if they would.
I would return their hosts to the table at evening. I would ask

them advice, ask them to sit at councils designed for peace,
ask them to lead the misled, bring back the chances they lost,

solve the riddles of our dominions and our envies,
share the world equally for all, keep kindness alive

that it may defeat hatred. I would ask them for a new oratory
capable of raising us from hatred, capable of miracles,

capable of explaining all to all, capable of consoling us
in the face of death. I would ask for the key to life

and open life. I would say to the man in the street, life is opened.
Shut it not away. If it was secreted in arts, and letters,

you are now to open it from your hearts. Its files are here,
and not to be destroyed. Its secrets are to be enjoyed,

not envied, not scorned, not stolen for oneself, but granted all.
And it would tell us money is not life. It would tell us life

is free, not bound. It would tell us not to grieve the past.
There is no past, as there is no future.

The secret of life is in the weaving. The secret of life
is in the harness. The secret of life is in the kissing,

not in the car’s destruction, or the snow. How would I know?
I do not know the place the key is stored. I could not raise

the ghosts. I could not talk for them. I am alone in time.
Time, you river of dry things, you bringer of seasons,

you herald of births, you timer of deaths; what are you doing,
measuring my words as I speak, giving them field,

making them audible as sense and sweetly flowing through
their silences? What are you doing in everything, turning

the petal over, bringing the wasp, flying the bird and its music
up from the south? How are you made the companion of all?

How do you walk with us, like the moon walks with children?
How do you not take mercy, but say, eventually, enough?

Aren’t you God enough? Can you not last? Are you bored by us,
and take instead another brood ahead? Your roads go everywhere

one way. Why not back to childhood? Why only as a memory
are you entertained again? Why not the place and time for real?

Ellision, Ellysium, you have come for us and pulled yourself up
in tatters to depart. Your clothes and raiments fall from you

and yet you gather up the next new things, the fashions yet unmade,
the fames unknown that will eclipse the past. How hasty is your newness

and your squalor. Forgetful creation, you are like the old,
old spinster making fictions up, of all her children grown up and moved

away. How do you spin so many things away, and yet discover more?
How shall we remember all your fine forgettings?

Graveyard of tombstones grinning up to stars. Written, etched with doves,
with hearts and capitals. Graveyards guarding settlements at

their outskirts. What are you conducting in your markets?
Are you another battlement of our struggle? Who visits you

besides poets, and grieving families? Are you the waylayers
of other spirits, good or bad? Do you entreaty with the God

of the North star? Do you parley amongst yourselves on our behalf?
Have you your purposes above and before us? Have you

remembered all the past, before you lived, before we knew your lives?
Have the ghosts the answers we shall one day know ourselves?

What is the kindergarten we call History? Must it resemble
anything more real? Have we all reality under way?

Is there nothing more, or are we only blind to what we have?
Time, time as you run, time as you dry your rivers

and open others. How can we embank your flow? How can we store
the running away of you? How can we trap the present?

Running, running after someone, running after oneself,
are all impossible. We are impossible to still. We would be still

in solemnities, in churches, in the stillings of meditations,
in the Christenings, and the weddings, and the funerals

by which we still delay in time the most inevitable of matters.
Why are we given to still the moment? Why are we given some

control of time, and yet not all? Why are we capable of healing
and coming back from the edge of death and living once again,

but eventually not? Why can we malinger and not choose?
Oh caravans that show no mercy. Oh bodies that lumber onward,

pioneers of the past, seedlings of the future. Onward only,
Onward. I am tired and can only pause. What is the way ahead?

What is coming for this long travail of troubles?
What redemption is ahead for all this woe?

Species which have gone before and folded into death,
or folded into us by some conclusion of their strife,

we have the answer to their question, gone as they are.
The answer is their going out like the candle’s flame.

We have no answer for their passing. We have only them
to know of time. They mark the passing of time, in clocks

of stone. We cannot understand why. We can only count.
All of the friends we lost, all of them strangers; all strangers, friends.

Come with the cowling of thought, come with the brow pursed;
come to a figuring of the way, and the communion of earth.

Come to the promontory of time and it is you on the edge,
the ever spreading star of time innumerably radiant with leads,

each one a living being, each one a thought of self, each extending
to the next tomorrow. How can all send its shoot like leaves spreading,

as unconscious of each other as the earth of the moon’s far side?
Only the thought of all is embracing of the all of us. Only the thought

extensive from the self, portrays the distant grief of enemies, the loss
of tribes, the loss of disease, the passing of languages still untaught in schools.

Only the thought can move the speech of one of us to raise the thoughts
of others. Only the thought of time can make us reckon with its cost.

How did the ten-cornered house appear on the cornerless earth?
How did geometry ruin the circle of return? How are we not in orbit

from our first day to our last? When did the ideal of a round clock break
into the yardstick called Fate? So far and no farther. A bridge without curve.

A life of all purpose, and no reprieve. For that is our solace at night,
the next day’s purpose. That is our trouble, the day’s urgent goad.

Plenty of time is a bore. Plenty of anything is madness. Plenty of this
and time will go running from here looking for music.

Pots on the wheel turn around; they show their beginning and end
in unity of form. We turn on the wheel of days, and show our beginning

and end in a unity of form. I must bring us to an accord with that form,
and yet I rebel. That is not form; it is hollow; it stays only in thought,

like the arc of a flashlight in summer, or the streak of a firefly.
The moving light is gone, a phantom, a spark.

Speak to me only of the endurance of stars. Speak to me of longevity.
Speak to me from the divinity of things permanent, monuments,

lives outliving life. Give me a sense of lastingness. Call me before
the ancestors of my line. Have me interview their earliest member

in the presence of the latest. What have we marshaled? Why have we come?
Was the prettiness of the girl, or the handsomeness of the boy,

not the reason we talk? Was it not only this sublimity,
was it not only this desire, to be close to the other temperament,

to be close to someone, and so companioned, protected from the wind,
and the element of time. So in their circles love completed itself,

and in this way formed round forms, created children, prompted them
along, discovered self, completed self again, recovered love

from thoughts of youth, not old age; life, not death. Oh I have lost
the start of life in losing one I love. The fabric torn asunder,

night howls in with starless oblivion. Pain is the pain of longing
never to be rewarded, the most unrequited love, the most full relation

unrelated, unforgotten, undone, unspent, unspooled, uncreated.
Dogs still loved are missed at the gate’s enclosure. Men still loved

are not remembered by the dog they buried. Or would they be,
if they could from somewhere else than here?

Oh far-away gone father, how have you taken your leave,
and the leaving of others, the leave-takings never accomplished?

Where can the last handshake, the last kiss, ever be found in time?
When can we ever remember well enough the last of our times together?

You who have gone ahead into oblivion, you who have taken your leave,
granting me life and instruction, what is your purpose in passing me,

in setting me on this path, lost in a while? Creating with time
and for purpose of others, travelers on a boat in the dark,

travelers who cling to each other, even the falling off,
even those lost in the wake. How can they howl enough

to live in their stead? How can they not rage
in the shake of their harness, the rattle of chains?

Come say to live, say to live. Yet they on their cares attended well
and spoke often of love, love to each other, love of forgiveness,

after lives of battle and war, lives of contempt and hate.
Love, love to the old man doddering; love to the eater of soup.

Love is the sop of the old, their new mewling, the cry of the babe.
What is to wisdom, if this is to hate opposed? When did they change?

What year of his life did he undo self? When did he turn round the wheel?
What opinion revolved around in him and turned him down to this?

Love, love in the morning, love in the noon of our days, love
in the evening, love in the night of our going. Love is a baby’s howl

for the comforts of life. Love is a young man’s howl for the act;
love is an old man’s howl for forgiveness, love is a howl of fear.

Love, you former of lives, you maker of time; love, you fearful desire
to be hidden in others. Love, you forgetter of thought, you loser of time.

They call the blossom nature, and not the rest. Nature also climbs
into the stem from the root; nature also descends into the dark of dank clay,

into the shale, into the rusty oxide of the earth. Nature is also frozen
under the pretty snow, gripping with sleep and death the spoils of its fruit.

Seed as well as blossom, root as well as husk, the empty and the full,
all these arbitrate the tools of love and proud disdain. So often both

arrive upon the scene and war for it. The farmer with his cold black hitch
extending from a chain he lays in snow, and up into the entrails of the wreck,

betrays his fitful, dark contempt for the boy’s driving, for the wasted trip
those lovers took. The wreckage gnarled against his elm tree and the moonlit pathos

are also mad with blame. The waste of it. The carnage of love’s fools.
They call the blossom nature, which closes in its time.

They call the seasons fair and foul, they ride to work on ships and sea,
they turn the pages of their lives and lose their past to memory.

They and we arrive and then depart, the loss is only half of life.
We seek to live and never live enough. We are and aren’t here.

This and the memory of then, then and the hope of future
balance in a moment just elapsed. Oh if I hold and do not breath

the second out just passed. Oh if I hold and do not breath
the next minute into presence. Oh if I hold the hopes of all on earth,

and yet must let them go, as the grasp of a hand sinking into the sea,
sinking into darkness and the deep. Oh if I hold the sufferings

of all survivors, praying with them for Nature’s blessings
and not for Nature’s sentence of return. Oh if I stay a while

and look through air at stars, and smile in sunlight, and dream
the dream of immortality and beyond. Oh if I am the inheritor

of all time past, and yet rise toward the door to answer future time,
and in that room my future has elapsed, I too must enter

where there is no room, the claustrophobia into which I, too, will turn
and wish for death. Oh busy seasons, and imperturbable stars,

I will become the same as you, a piece of loam, a dust of starlight.
And you will beckon over me, and nod in your settings, and snow

will fall and blanket me with those now frozen out of time.
Oh how will immortality look, from frozen eyes?

Oh how will mortality look from the skein of stars?
They call the blossom Nature. Nature calls us all her blood,

and we must round with her upon the loom of days.
We must go with her and learn her art and stays,

attending to her marvels as they pageant over us.
We are the vegetal and the animal dreams of her will.

We are the blood of her blossom, we are the sap in her stem.
She and ourselves are a larger picture; she and ourselves are bound

to a later turning in time. Once upon a time we were,
and still are in our basin of baptism, returned into soil like wheat,

sprinkled with rain on our foreheads, asked to give food from ourselves.
They call the blossom Nature; we call mankind the bread.

Something to chew on, a thought, a problem to ponder.
Something to rise like hope, or breath in the chest, something

to laugh about, something only human, not perfect, but dearly held.
A hand in a hand, holding. A person at the hearth. A dream

of daylight in the month of night. Roused
from the sleep of grief we forget our sorrows.

Stupidly we turn as the lowing cow to our cud.
I have walked again sunny at times. I have parted.

I have lent myself solitude to attend me. Time diminishes me,
as it did him. My father small and sitting up on his deathbed

smiled a lot, and in his unblinking stare conceived some visions
of which he spoke in shards. A proverb of old times he gave:

“Religion, ‘Rithmetic, and take care with endings.”
He thought this very appropriate of language, that it

advocated how one reaches the end of life with meaning.
First he had commenced to paddling broadly his little canoe

in bed, then wound up to serve in tennis, then he chattered
futile sounds in chimp speak, laughing at himself.

Later, after last rites, his eyes looked disconsolate to the ceiling
and, disappointed, slowly lowered his sights. Oh the staring

and the staring of his unblinking eyes. Days and nights of them,
moist with seeing. How far away he drifted on his own sea of time

and I angry at the end with his labored breathing, the rattling note
of death attached to him, the chains of its shaking hand embracing him.

Oh that I speak at all is my disgrace. The piteous thing that passes
before my eyes and takes a vigorous life down to ruin;

take the minister of death away from him, the drowning of him
by his own heart; take the story away from me, time, into your room

of forgetting. Take its witness into the grave with me. I will attempt
impossible things from my sleep. I will attempt dreaming acquaintance

with the kin I never met. I will attempt the living out of heaven,
foolish as it seems. I will not go like an intellectual, but as a dreamer

who has known spring and summer evenings and the stars.
I will go looking for my father, and his mistakes, and mine.

We shall walk in air, and smile, and wait for you.
I have considered all of this untrue, and yet I dreamt of it,

and in surreal entity I have slept and hoped.
Nothing you offer in consolation, including this, will heal.

There is no healing. There is wound. There is forgetting.
There is forgiving. Continuance alone concludes.

This is the taste of dying by which we prepare. Over the blossom
sets the dying sun of summer. Over it walks the bee.

Rain feeds us all, in a manner of mercy.
Do not forget the rains. They are the children of stars.

Any day is long enough to know infinity. By its measure
we are lived excitedly and once. Time is only boredom.

Life is fun. Life conducts intoxications and nirvanas.
We are music in the passing, we are taste, we are touch.

We are the pleasure returned to often, we are the hungry,
we are the teachings and the untaught. We are the breath

of light in the morning, we are startled awake by the warming
of day, by the chill of the night lingering at the window.

We are the travelers woken by new arrangements, stirred by those
unlike ourselves who show another city, another art, another life.

We are conducting our itineraries into self, into hermitages, into rooms
where reading is the only sense. We are alive and find the way

to spend the gift of this. We are the moments of that time.
We are the epiphenomenon of our own encounters.

We are made of others whose faces meet us and declare our secrets
to ourselves. We are the bearers of a truth no one knows. We are

scarred by the carrying of our worries. We are troubled and released
by the life we think is always going to end unloved, unaccomplished,

unfound, uncertain, unfaithful, unknown, undone, without solace.
We are sleepers preparing for a sleep. We are dreamers,

creating dreams. We are nutrinos, and protons, we are photonic screens
on which play particles of no mass, no charge, free of charge.

We are electronic grids of networked valences, of electrons spinning
across biology, of voltages and amperages and magnetic flux.

We are synthesized like stars, like planetary systems, like coral reefs,
like forests swaying to the beat of weather. We are freezings and meltings,

we are ice ages in bone and spring in the permafrost of brain.
We are shining in the x-ray negative. We are constructed in the layers

of the skin, in the irrigations of the veins, in the windmills of the lungs.
We are blinking open lids to feed our eyes. We are reading and arranging

words. We are lifting selves from chairs and rising. We are rising
to the motions of our wills. We are dreaming in the circuits of our selves.

We are interested in the stars. We are conversant with their distances
and lives. We are waiting for a word from them. We are looking for

the past that writes itself in stone. We are warming over fires from the past.
We are pouring elements together into fires. We are weaving nylon

and acrylic, polyester, unlike the wool of lambs, but studying the imitation
of their living. We are unraveling the egg and sperm of our conception.

We are making necklaces of knowledge, we are wearing mortar boards
with tassels to build a new library of the mind.

We are on the brink of knowing how and why. We are pushed into thought
in this losing race of life. We are listening at oscilloscopes and screens

to understand what touches what to make us think. Where is the soul
that migrates away. Who is the self in the body. What is the mind –

matter or spirit, flesh or experience? Do I exist or only think?
Is thought our life, sensation, sensibility? Do I live because I see

and respond to a painting, to a creature, to others? Am I, or the one
to whom my empathy pours out? Are we? Are we like a movie?

Are we watching in our caves for shadows? Are we aware?
Are we bringing mercy? Are we lost? Are we tomorrow as today?

Are we passionate because the flux of all in all is audible to us?
Are we passionate? Are we listening? Are we feeling light?

Why is heat? Why is gravity? Why is running such elation?
Why is love? Why is solitude? Why is time? Why is order

and complexity? Why is something simple? Why is health
complex? Why is a word the simple thing it is, yet mulled

and milled from such a head of multitudes and parts?
Why can I walk and not fall? Why am I present?

Why am I not forgetting the moment before? Why shall I forget
some day? Why am I coming this way and not that? Why is luck

so favored in the scheme of lives? Why must I cry the cry of birds?
Why is the list of things not their totality? Why can I not dissect

the life of myself, the life of another? How is possible, not why;
but why is given us in word and question. Why recedes,

asking by its sign, the lonely totem left beside the path.
Why appears beside us, in the mirror, in the newspaper,

on the screens of our computers, in the bed so tussled with our love,
in the faces of babies, in the sky, in the blooms of spring.

Why is the word in which we bury all our griefs. The sign in which
we gather disappointments. The word without meaning, the box

of stone which has no key or fossil. The container into which
my life recedes. The casket of my body and of his. The self

and dream of self resides therein; I borrow them a while, and think
and dream. I am possessed from wherebefore and thence.

I will go about my days, escaping from the reckoning in that sign.
That question still unanswered will remain the last examination.

There will be no pencils needed there. This is the only thing.
Awake, I will either have an answer, or asleep, none.

Or there was nothing, only mercy, only love, only the why
of a long performance on a stage. Only the working out of atoms,

which built themselves into a man for odd, inexplicable reasons,
for no reason at all, for the fun of it. For the question why.

John Sevcik


They say to delay gratification
Is a sign of intelligence, and purpose.
Such children do well in school,
Then succeed in life, then have
A mid-life crisis, which is delayed
Unhappiness, or need, or something.

On my street children with long,
Sweet faces have children early.
They, too, delay gratification.
Not for them the wedding feast,
Nor the nice home in the suburbs.
Not for them the diploma, the degree,
The good job and successful life.

Not for them, but maybe
For their children, who will live
To dream, or outlive dreams,
Or set new dreamers on the ground
Of earth, so they can postpone, or get,
Everything that didn’t happen, yet.

John Sevcik

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Germantown Nights

Across the street
Disco lights are spinning
In the second-floor bedroom.

I live in a house as old
As my father would be;
I am in the shell of his departure.
The plaster holds his bones in casts,
The stars recede on his fading words.

Across the street
They do not know their fathers
Are yet to die. Their fathers’ lights
Are dancing in the room
With their mother,
Like moths circling
Something bright
And hot.

John Sevcik