Things and Flesh

Things and Flesh

by Linda Gregg


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781555972936
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Publication date: 09/01/1999
Pages: 82
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.22(h) x 0.28(d)

About the Author

Linda Gregg's other books of poetry include Chosen by the Lion, The Sacraments of Desire, Alama, and Too Bright to See. Her honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Whiting Award. Gregg has traveled extensively, and is a bi-coastal resident of Marin County, California, and Northampton, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

    The Precision

There is a modesty in nature. In the small
of it and in the strongest. The leaf moves
just the amount the breeze indicates
and nothing more. In the power of lust, too,
there can be a quiet and clarity, a fusion
of exact moments. There is a silence of it
inside the thundering. And when the body swoons,
it is because the heart knows its truth.
There is directness and equipoise in the fervor,
just as the greatest turmoil has precision.
Like the discretion a tornado has when it tears
down building after building, house by house.
It is enough, Kafka said, that the arrow fit
exactly into the wound that it makes. I think
about my body in love as I look down on these
lavish apple trees and the workers moving
with skill from one to the next, singing.

    Variously Us

Something breaches the ocean of doctrine,
heaving sideways amid the splattering
and squall. Our assumptions harpooned
into the storm of being. The heft and slop
of consciousness beginning inside
what we call our life. And below,
under the roaring dark, is the silver sheen
and scale of silence. The spirit apart.
The whale of us gathering color to itself
all the gradations between black and white
according to what depth and the degree
of transparence. Rising and falling back.
Faith translated into muscle and invisible bone.
We and it joined like the scene painted over
and over on the ancientAthenian vases
of a man struggling with a fierce-jawed lion.
The ship of us battened down in the storm
of mystery. Always refracted. We are lashed
to our body. Swamped in the loving,
the pods of prayer, the seeds of finally.
Hot blood breathing far down, the harpoon
of the mind wedged in us, shaping.

    Alone with the Goddess

The young men ride their horses fast
on the wet sand of Pangaritis.
Back and forth, with the water sliding
up to them and away.
This is the sea where the goddess lives,
angry, her lover taken away.
Don't wear red, don't wear green here,
the people say. Do not swim in the sea.
Give her an offering.
I give a coconut to protect
the man I love. The water pushes it back.
I wade out and throw it farther.
"The goddess does not accept your gift,"
an old woman says.
I say perhaps she likes me
and we are playing a game.
The old woman is silent,
the horses wear blinders of cloth,
the young men exalt in their bodies,
not seeing right or left, pretending
to be brave. Sliding on and off
their beautiful horses
on the wet beach at Pangaritis.

    The Calves Not Chosen

The mind goes caw, caw, caw, caw,
dark and fast. The orphan heart
cries out, "Save me. Purchase me
as the sun makes the fruit ripe.
I am one with them and cannot feed
on winter dawns." The black birds
are wrangling in the fields
and have no kindness, all sinew
and stick bones. Both male and female.
Their eyes are careless of cold and rain,
of both day and night. They love nothing
and are murderous with each other.
All things of the world are bowing
or being taken away. Only a few calves
will be chosen, the rest sold for meat.
The sound of the wind grows bigger
than the tree it's in, lessens only
to increase. Haw, haw the crows call,
awake or asleep, in white, in black.

    Calamities: Another Eden

Out beyond what we imagine.
Out beyond the familiar, leaving home
and being homeless. Breaching the seas,
foundering on a coast in the West,
searching along coastlines in the Far East.
The heart is left and leaves,
stands in each part of the farness
away from the other. Living in each
particular moment of the day,
of present claims and the careless claims
of always. The ocean pushes out,
pushes the heart into the unknown,
toward the middle of a self that yearns
and remembers. The spirit is rejected
and walks slowly out of another Eden.
An Eden that is not the heart,
is homelessness, is isolate. The heart
is gathered into the familiar nothingness
and held. Is held and sent forth.
In the way a seal drops into the water,
sliding like oil in its element.
Turns and rolls. What we call happiness.
The seasons change and change,
west and east, tropical and far
northern. What we call love.
Heaven is deep and deeper. We leave
and leave into the questing.

    The Center of Intent

Is there a lesson in the way this new silence lasts?
Is it like the river's genius for making the water
the same shape constantly as it pours between
these two boulders? Is there some reason
why the bird is always hungry and the body
never gone? What explains the odor
of the sea grass here? Why must we bow down,
yield to the flowering? Maybe love is the Lord's trap.
Maybe He sees us as the tree leaning over the stream.
Perhaps He can't experience the difference between
our pain, our loneliness, and the heron flying
through the special silence at evening.

    Not a Pretty Bird

She was not a nightingale
as the Greek said.
Philomela was a woman.
The sister of the new wife.
Raped, tongue cut out by the husband.
Locked away.
Not a swallow, not the bird of morning
and late evenings that end so swiftly.
Not a myth. She was a girl.
That is the story: the empty mouth,
the bloody breasts. The outrage.
Not the transformation.

She Writes to the Man Who Writes
of Her in His Poems

You tried to hide me in darkness,
tried to live half of your time with me
in the dark. You invented me.
Finally went back to your people.
Were obedient. Were received
with praise. But in the supermarket
you suddenly needed to know
where I was. Turned to face
each direction of the universe
there in the aisle. But nowhere
did anything return to you.
I am here in this morning
with your picture on the table,
leaning against a vase of flowers.
(One of them has fallen in my sleep.)
A bird is singing, repeating
itself over and over. And over.

    The Spirit Neither Sorts nor Separates

There is a flower. We call it God.
It closes and opens and dies.
We still call it God. There is a stone
that does nothing and is still God.
Everything is of Heaven. There is mud
around the edge of the pond.
There are reeds, water lilies
and a few dragonflies. The pond is light
and dark and warm because of the sun.
Hidden fish. The air itself.
The bush outside is full of three and four
kinds of birds. Winter birds instead
of leaves. The snow over ground is enough.
The birds hopping and feeding
and departing are flowers,
a mouth singing, your heart the way it was.

Table of Contents

The Precision3
Variously Us4
Alone with the Goddess5
The Calves Not Chosen6
Calamities: Another Eden7
The Center of Intent8
Not a Pretty Bird9
She Writes to the Man Who Writes of Her in His Poems10
The Spirit Neither Sorts nor Separates11
As Being Is Eternal12
Gypsy Kings13
The Heart Flowing Out14
The Empty Bowl15
More than New16
She Had Expected Something Else17
So Different from Heaven20
The Soul Ripening21
Fish Tea Rice22
Another Day in Paradise23
Lovers in the Size of God'sHand24
Heavy with Things and Flesh25
A Thirst Against26
The Limits of Desire27
Always Mistaken28
They Tell Me It's Over29
The Passion30
Arkansas Afternoons31
Hard Season32
How It Works33
Io: Shape-Shifted34
"Why does this city still retain / its ancient rights over my
thoughts and feelings?"36
Everyday Rice37
The Unknowing39
Trying to Tack40
George Oppen42
The Universe on Its Own44
In the Half-Light45
It Was Important47
Paul on the Road to Damascus48
The Old Songs49
Old Pictures in a New Land51
Like Lot's Wife52
A Mountain Facing a Mountain53
Music at a Distance54
The Part Left Over56
Hephaestus Alone57
The Right People58
Waking Up Happy59
The Secrets of Poetry60
The Tree Falling in a Vacant Forest61
Deeper in the Jungle, the River Divides62
At Risk64
Lost in the Heart65
Ariadne Writes to Theseus at Random66
Paying the Price67
17399 Edgewood Road, Fayetteville, Arkansas68
Finding the Way69
The Muchness71
Wrapping Stones72
A Kind of Victory73

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