Poetry at Sangam



HELIOTROPE by Michael Kelleher

No clouds, just wind. And bulldozers scraping
the sea. A theme: the space between the words.
The interval. Daubs of water wash out
the sky. The whiteness flattens everything.
Suspended gestures, lost in the blue.

Where the object ends, micro-ambient:
a floppy summer hat, tilted just so.
A picture window by a TV set.
A sound, as of tearing, through or into.
And then release: the trees in silhouette.

The car makes a turn, ends up in Texas.
It’s a big state, but we’ll have to share it.
Tarantulas, cowboys, marionettes.
All those Cadillacs buried in the dirt.
Heroes in miniature shine in their spurs.

A girl in a glass house listens to
Horace Silver, 1976.
Eclipse, full moon, slippery roads outside.
The music full blast. Oranges, yellows, reds.
The fundamentals. A private lesson.

The calm before the room begins to spin.
Each object in proper gravitation:
at rest, unmoved. Attraction has its pulls.
And then the roof gives way to stars,
the moon so close, so cold, I could kiss it.

The light illumines particles. Alive,
they dance. The palette must acidify.
Impossible greens in the powder’s glow.
Between the thought and the arrival of
its purpose. Call it the author’s intent.

Sea-green earrings, a tremor of tulips.
A ladder climbing blindly to the sky.
Why we never speak of seismographs, faults,
shifts in the plates. Wordless, California
exhales, slips silently into the sea.

Time presses on, successive visitors
find a hostess unprepared, out of booze,
gussied up for no one. Little histories
of paper, wrappers, checkbooks, and mirrors.
An object lesson: this, this, this, and this.

This day is for nothing, for atmosphere.
A day to get away from making lists.
To find a rhythm. A day for snow.
A snow day. Quiet blankets everything.
Nothing is sacred. Reading is futile.

Tight-fisted, the war comes rushing back:
those hideous faces beautifully drawn.
Clouds dissolve into cocktails of blather.
To love: the silent ocean, flat and still.
The inner logic of the sea: it’s cold.

The rising water floods the underground
museum. It all piles up, accumulates:
a renaissance of sorts. I wet my brush.
A cold wind seeps through the cracks in the stone.
Her yellow petals swim against the tide.

Towards evening, the rapture of the weld,
of piecing it together: my kingdom
of steel. Palms upward, I dream of a man:
a doctor. He’s standing in a garden,
but there isn’t a garden to stand in.

All the while I’m thinking after a phrase.
Hydrangeas shine beneath the moon: they’d grown
there flowering, nameless, for years until
I named them. From the Greek: water vessel.
At last: no embellishments, no parasols.

The official owl rises at dawn, hoots,
then flies off. The variegated grasses,
the dog hunting backyard prey, ice blue eyes
alert. The voice of struggle whispers on
the wire: I was born this day, born this day.

Throw everything out, start again, design
a form, a shape, imagine it in three
dimensions. Then bring the object to life.
Or did I mean bring it back to life?
Was it always there, waiting to be seen?

The sun bursts in through five translucent panes.
Its rays, or radii, radiant.
The loneliness spreads itself, virus-like,
throughout the house, returns to me: a dream
of nothingness. A miracle of form.

Here the language of description breaks down.
Four syllables, two beats. Then wakefulness.
The passage from sleep to some other state.
Again I’m turning toward the sound, the sun.
An engine grinds. I reach for my idea.