after the Bellingham, WA, oil pipeline
Pink and glistening he rises from the river
of oil and water, fire and boiled fish,
hairless and naked as the day he was born,
tender, almost intact
(I see them again)
his unshod feet, white toes on green grass,
The Jerusalem Syndrome
||... The symptoms generally appeared on the
second day of their
stay in Jerusalem when they began to feel an
and anxiety. Often the patients changed
their clothes, the preferred
dress being white robes, in an effort
to resemble biblical figures...:
women always chose to emulate a
woman from the Bible while men
chose a male figure.
The first sign was nothing:
a slight wind
fluffing the hair on my temples, then a breath
of juniper, evanescent, above the swept
brickwalk and drawn market-shades
bleached under an ever scrutinous sun.
A fountain, unlikely, preposterous,
was sputtering in the middle of a court:
dirty water, scummy, splashed stoneworks
green with algae, yet sparkled despite itself
and what neglect was poisoning it.
the grey-blue of my eyes lay on the pool floor,
while a small sickly fish—a fish!—circled
unsteadily, pale gills fluttering in and out.
How it got there, God knows. Tossed out,
or the last of a once plentiful stock.
I glanced away,
a little nauseated, as my eyes began
to smart in the brilliant glare.
A long-necked man,
about my height, cleanshaven, in a white tunic,
appeared beside me, studying the water
intently, as if unraveling a complicated text,
muttering words I couldn't understand
yet in his cadence familiar, intimate.
enfolded him lightly, a natural fragrance
I couldn't place: cedar and lilac; perhaps rosemary,
tinged with cinnamon; or the clean aftermath
of a rainstorm in early spring.
Then the old dream:
I'm home in a house I don't recognize,
but am certain is my own. A summer rain
mists down, a fine comb being pulled
through tufted trees and hedges. Indoors,
a jigsaw puzzle in pieces on the kitchen table,
while voices whisper on a black screened porch,
now and then punctuated by slaps
of quick palms on necks and forearms. On everything,
a scent mixed of rose and old cologne.
I'm arguing with my father, or his father, or
a man who's somehow both, while walking
down a long hallway. Reproach and betrayal,
hot resentment, his face shrouded
and turned away in the dusky less-than-light.
Then beneath him, the floor gapes open, he falls
and I am tear-struck, bawling,
inconsolable in guilt.
I seemed to be staring up through water
at my face gazing without recognition down:
acne-scarred, grit-flecked, spectacled,
hair short, parted left-center, a visage
wavering in slow ripples, darkened
yet precise, in the way a new acquaintance
can impress from complete unlikeness
or a resemblance so old as to be forgotten;
as if saying here were a new arrangement
of features, an undiscovered variation
of nose, mouth, eye, ear, something
at last different under the sun. As if
a redemption were to be granted, a new
beginning, or one were to know oneself
afresh from the start, like day-lilies
lofting their heads through flattenings of earth
proclaiming again the first gospel of the sun.