by Duane Locke
THE GULF’S TONGUE
I send my words out over the gulf’s green water,
“Come near, come near, come near.”
I, alone, no one is near, so I talk to a phantom
I talk loudly, louder than the waves’ roar.
I have talked to phantoms before,
Phantoms with red, brown, or white-gold hair,
But when talking to these phantoms,
Someone was close, we touched.
I talked phantom talk to these touched phantoms,
And heard phantom talk returned.
Now I stand on this shore, by a coral rock
With a pool of green algae and pink sea anemones.
I talk to a phantom. I know no one is near.
I stand here, talking to no one
While the gulf tongue licks the thighs of sand.
THE GULL FEATHER
I spent the day with her among dark rocks.
Tides splashed in and changed the rocks’ surfaces.
The kelp no longer flat, but now brown and round.
A gull stopped on the cliff’s ledge above a rock
The gull’s shadow spread a darkness across
The bright glow of the kelp-covered wet rock.
A feather from the gull dropped down towards us.
The feather floated to touch her toes and stick.
The tip of the feather touched me.
We were bound together by a gull feather.
Dead dreams arise without coaxing
Our of the graves in the brain.,
Open their pale eyelids, stare with white eyes.
Each skeleton wears a white crown with pearls.
Each hand of bone holds
A wand with the magic tip broken off.
The other hand of bone holds
A scrap from a wine-stained shirt.
The fingernails of the air
By a woman
Speaking the language of lies.
The fingernails of the air
With the woman
Speaking the fashionable words.
The speaker did not have a profile,
The speaker did not have a shape,
The speaker was the words she spoke.
The scars on the shepherd’s hand
Are wet from his tears.
The porcelain figure was shaped
The tears are round
That drop from his eyes.
His tears are perfect spheres,
But different from my tears
That become flat as they fall--
First flatness, then amorphous
On the uplift of a cheek.
The last embrace:
An orange and a worried coffee maker,
A long freight train with empty box cars,
An orange and the ambush of a barroom,
A snowflake in the shape of spilled gin.
An orange and silent thunderbolts
A gold ring buttons its white collar,
An orange and a Veronese with empty rooms.
Clipped countries from maps,
Each clipped country black,
Burned the black shapes,
Put the ashes in a brown clay jug with a blue stripe,
Set the jug
One apple with yellow hair
Turned the color of human flesh,
GEESE OVER GRAVEYARDS
Trying to leave the path
With its borders of weeds
With small yellow flowers,
The unpainted portrait
In a gilt frame of embossed plaster leaves.
Seeking to leave the path for the road,
Of the wine bottle we dropped
To fall and break
On the sidewalk
Chalked with a game of hopscotch
Forsaking the path of dirt
For the paved road,
We arrive to watch
Geese fly over the cemetery.
I've devoted my life
Trying to find TWO,
The pure TWO,
The TWO itself,
The TWO that does not need embodiment.
I've found two doves,
But not TWO.
I wanted, I desired TWO,
Not two apples,
Not two snowflakes,
Not two stones.
I grow old,
But I won't renounce
The ideal of my youth,
Trying to find TWO.
Cormorants crowd pine branches,
Cormorants become crosses,
Dark crosses across the sky.
The gulf awakens, shakes her azure hair,
Watches us with its billion blue-green eyes.
The gulf with its billion green salt lips kisses us.
The dark crosses sing joyous songs,
The shore sand Duane Locke
2716 Jefferson Street
Tampa, FL 33602-16200
[BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Duane Locke, Doctor of
Philosophy in English Renaissance literature, Professor Emeritus of the
Humanities, was Poet in Residence at the University of Tampa for over
20 years. Has had over 2,000 of his own poems published in over 500
print magazines such as American Poetry Review, Nation, Literary Quarterly,
Black Moon, and Bitter Oleander. Is author of 14 print books of poems,
the latest is WATCHING WISTERIA ( to order write Vida Publishing, P.O. Box
12665, Lake, Park, FL. 33405-0665, or Amazon or Barnes and Noble).
Since September 1999, he became a cyber poet and started submitting on-line,
and since September 1999 he has added to his over 2,000 print acceptances
with 1,584 acceptances by e zines.
He is also a painter. Now has
exhibitions at Thomas Center Galleries (Gainesville, FL) and Tyson Trading
Company (Micanopy, FL) Recently a one-man show at Pyramid Galleries
Also, a photographer, has had 116 of his photos selected for appearance on e
zines. He photographs trash in alleys. Moves in close to find
beauty in what people have thrown away.
He now lives alone in a two-story decaying
house in the sunny Tampa slums. He lives isolated and estranged as an
alien, not understanding the customs, the costumes, the language (some form
of postmodern English) of his neighbors. The egregious ugliness
of his neighborhood has recently been mitigated by the esthetic efforts of
the police force who put bright orange and yellow posters on the posts to
advertise the location is a shopping mall for drugs. His alley is the
dumping ground for stolen cars. One advantage
Of living in this neighborhood, if your car is stolen, you can step
out in the back and pick it up. Also, the burglars are afraid to come
in on account of the muggers.
His recreational activities are drinking
wine, listening to old operas, and reading postmodern philosophy.]
sings a joyous song.
WALK INTO THE COLD
The shiver, the breeze
From the frozen crowded street.
On this hot day
Freezes the shadow.
The body looks down
To its darkness cold.
It is the frigid hour
When the sunlight is a trap door,
The interval when the ancient statue is celebrated,
The stone words blessed as shackles.
It is the time to walk directly into cold,
Find in this cold place, the solitary hearth,
Throw your dreams into its fireplace;
The blaze from burning dreams
Will thaw your shadow to move.
You move with your darkness
Towards the sea foam and a return.
The ancient statue on the shore crumbles.
CHIARRA, I RECALL
I know, you, who are now occupied
With traditional opinions and orisons,
Never recall our moment in Assisi
When we close together leaned on a lichened stone,
Watched swallows kiss with their shadows
The legs of olive trees, leave lip pints on olive leaves.
Do you remember comparing your lips
To the lip prints left by swallows.
Your lips were the same size, the same shape,
Each crevice identically indented and curved,
But the different, the prints on olive leaves,
Clear and coral; your lips, obscure and dark.
THE SHADOW AND ITS SOURCE
In spite of the steel walls
Of popular beliefs and petrified lives,
Walked through the metal.
The shadow looked back, beckoned
For its source to follow,
Step into the promised land,
A landscape of radiance and red roses,
A land never seen by the source of any shadow.
The shadow's source was entangled
In the white vines whose soil
Was the ashes of ancient voices.
The source became paralyzed
Before the steel wall, stayed
Up to his neck
In the piles of cinders on the city sidewalks.
But the source's shadow danced
Among the hips of tulips,
But danced alone.
QUID EST ERGO TEMPUS?
The present, this moment among wisteria in
Is not duration, but all time, the unnumbered moment
Of the sea horse and the sea anemone,
An eternity in a coral cave under water,
Eternity in the embrace of the temporal.
Our future life, a birth cry without a body in the cradle of a cloud.
We in this bathtub together have become Time the unmeasurable.
Now both bells ring and the clock ticks without reason.
The past and its scars is here creating the present;
The future is a scholiast.
Purged, we became poppies.
A NEW ATMOSPHERE
It is neither cold or warm
The glass doom
That covers the city
And its outlying roadhouses and farms.
Not yet named, classified, scrutinized, studied and believed.
Those happy one who fled to be outside the dome
Lived in a climate not yet described in textbooks and unknown to professors.
Inside the dome,
Audience watch in mirrors,
Nails hammered into their hands
And their mouths
Being stuffed with words
Found among worms in graves.
The words are chewed,
But the words with the lower price tags are spit out.