A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving in the lake is not to swim to the other side. It’s to be in the lake. Luxuriate in the sensation of the water. You do not work the lake out. It is an experience beyond throught. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery.
By Doug Anderson
Love won’t behave. I’ve tried
all my life to keep it chained up.
Especially after I gave up pleading.
I don’t mean the woman,
but the love itself. Truth is,
I don’t know where it comes from,
why it comes, or where it goes.
It either leaves me feeling the knife
of my first breath
or hang-dog and sick
at someone else’s unstoppable
and as the blues song says,
can’t sit down, stand up, lay down pain.
Right now I want it.
I’m like a country who can’t remember the last war.
Well, that’s not strictly true.
It’s just been too long.
Too long and my heart is like
a house for sale in a lot full of high weeds.
I want to go down to New Orleans
and find the Santeria woman
who will light a whole table full of candles
and moan things, place a cigar
and a shot of whiskey in front of Chango’s picture
and kiss the blue dead Jesus on the wall.
I want something.
Used to be I’d get a bottle
and drink until the lights went out
but now I carry my pain around everywhere I go
because I’m afraid
I might put it down somewhere and lose it.
I’ve grown tender about my mileage.
My teeth are like stonehenge and my tongue
is like an old druid fallen in a ditch.
A soul is like a shrimper’s net they never haul up
and it’s full of everything:
A tire. A shark. An old harpoon.
A kid’s plastic bucket.
An empty half-pint.
A broken guitar string.
A pair of ballerina’s shoes with the ribbons tangled
in an anchor chain.
And the net gets heavier until the boat
starts to go down with it and you say,
God, what is going on.
In this condition I say love is a good thing.
I’m ready to capsize.
I can’t even see the shoreline.
I haven’t seen a seagull in three days.
I’m ready to drink salt water,
go overboard and start swimming.
Suffice it to say I want to get in the bathtub
with the Santeria woman and steam myself pure again.
The priest that blesses the water may be bored.
Hung over. He may not even bless it,
just tell people he did. It doesn’t matter.
What the Santeria woman puts on it with her mind
makes it like a holy mirror.
You can float a shrimp boat on it.
The spark that jumps between her mind
and the priest’s empty act
is what makes the whole thing light up
like an oilslick on fire against a sunset over Oaxaca.
So if I just step out into it.
If I just step off the high dive over a pool
that may or may not have water in it;
that act is enough
to connect the two poles of something
and make a long blue arc.
I don’t have a clue about any of this.
Come on over here and love me.
I used to say that drunk.
Now I am stark raving sober
and I say, Come on over here and love me.
From THE MOON REFLECTED FIRE (Alice James, 1994)