The History of the World

First, unusual forms of rain: Pliny says when Ascilius and
Procius were consuls it rained milk once, and blood once, and
many times it rained flesh. Or: they vanish away,
the white cities, among the western mountains lives
a very strong thief. Or: a secret devotion come August, and
long disappearance of life comes after, and shade, and rusted
gates, and broken sidewalks with writing
and a cistern where the water keeps something bitter and good
or inside the disallowed and black old used up leathery word
with cotton or cane, a little money, tarpaper lonesome houses
and a few big old ugly suncrazy flowers leaning over
as if to read the dirt. Or: she's on the old way back
with the story of the devil and his ugly dog
and the one where the snake learns to whistle
but trades away his most precious talent in exchange.
She'd be just about visible by now, and she'd
start in right away with the story: hasta ahora, hermano...
brother, up to now you know I been pretty sad
but this I know: we are not boxes of anything
or insects asleep on faded red magazines. There's a witch
asleep inside your eye, each one, and a city asleep
inside her mouth. Inside that city, rainsoaked houses
of sailors and perfumed widows, streets that come back
on themselves, aimless barking of shivering dogs,
a light in a window here or there, someone coming closer
to the last thin moment of breath. There's a train
on its way to that city, a man in the baggage car
recently dead, in his pocket, a seahorse and a papery bird.
We move in the year of our shyness 1889
south of Bridget Falls where the solitary rider is lost
and glad to be lost and the dead man has carried the usual
secret world. Now the images stream from his chest like
butterflies in clouds in Cham or Lhus or Mizra'im.
His trees and his miniature armies in wild plantations
and his talk in wanderings of the fields. He spoke (by their
wings and fluttering) of the equivocal nature of all human
things, of the two directions of the soul, of the seeds of
rocket and mustard, he spoke about the process
and motion of the heart of the world. It's not so easy
to become unbroken. The witch will often back away
from slippery walls of flesh. She prefers the heads, where
it's dry, to be a shadow-lesson there or a kind of nothing.

Robert Gregory | Mudlark No. 17
Contents | Miss Joy's Gone South