Long after the sun falls into the sea
and twilight slips off the horizon like a velvet sheet
and the air gets soaked in blackness,
long after clouds hover above like boulders
and stars crawl up and fill the sky,
long after bodies tangle dance and falter
and fatigue blows in and bends them
and sleep unloads its dreams and kneads them
and sleepers give in to the rivers inside them,
a girl unlatches a window,
walks shoeless into a forest,
her dark hair a flag rippling in darkness.
Steps into woods, her feet light-stepping
through puddles, over bone dry earth
through grassy hills, over sticks and pebbles
over still sand soaked in day
over stones sun-sizzled
over lakes and frigid streams
through dim cobbled streets
darkened squares and dusty pastures,
she runs from nothing, runs to nothing
beyond pain, beyond graveyards and clearings.
In the dark the eyes of startled creatures
gleam like a shower of stars, a herd of candles.
They scatter and give night its meaning.
What echo of a bell lulled her
what spirit, what scent of a word
whose storm wrote her
what banks fell to drown her
which blood star
which thread of water
which trickle of light
whose heart being launched
whose floating soul seduced her
which lost comet
what promise did it make her
what memory burned her
whose prayer did she run to answer
whose help, what sorrow clot
what pain dammed inside her
what wall must she rebuild now
whose treasure beckons her
who spread ivy like a veil to blind her?
Daybreak lies chained behind a blue wall,
its sounds muffled by clouds.
A fog rises and rams the sky.
The stars drop and lose all meaning.
She runs past villages that lost their names
roads that lost their destinations
seas that lost their compasses and sailors
rivers that lost their banks and travelers
houses that lost their cupboards and fires
trees that lost their songs
gardens that lost their violets and benches
valleys that lost their worms and farmers
mountains that lost their peaks
temples that lost their incense, minarets, spires
lightning that lost its thunder
angels that lost their wind
chimeras that lost their bridges
minotaurs that lost their fountains.
Crescent moons flutter above her,
ancient white feathers, birdless, wingless
lost to their own meaning.
Music born, rises out of her vision.
It stands, a wall covered with silver mosses.
A clarinet sounds a wounded mare.
Violins are women who lost their children.
Flutes blow their hot dry breezes.
Drums chuckle the earth’s ceaseless laughter.
Pianos are gap-toothed witches
calling spirits and powers.
Cellos chew on the sounds of thunder.
Dulcimers skip about on crutches.
Dance floors flash their knives
beckoning their dancers.
mill about the streets like orphans.
Then a lute begins groaning
until dawn loses its meaning.
Night girl, your book is full.
You have drawn all the pictures.
You have seen many weepers.
Rainbows held your sky in place
and sorrows bloomed about you like flowers.
Moons floated on your lakes and washed them.
Stars lit your river beds.
Songs adorned your chest with garlands.
When a bird sings
when dewed branches tilt sunlight into eyes
when curtains are soaked with light
when mirrors drown in shadows
let dreams drift away like lost kites
let words and sounds fill your waking
let the sun break out of her shell
and let the day give you meaning.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.