The Waterfall on Main Street
Prose Poems by Alan Gullette
Hieronymous Bosch, Cutting the Stone (detail), c.1490
I pursue a remnant of spirit
in dark woods where manís machines have never gone...
The school had all crowded into the steeple, rushing against each other in mad flight, and along the corridors of theaters there were people dying by the thousands, caught in this sick parade.
The podium bells rang out against ear, trying to shatter the drum, trying to frighten the crowds, pushing up the tournament tarpaulins like a big top circus tent teaming with screaming children streaming -- smaller than ants -- to behold the spectacular wonders of the age of aging. The principal that rules the boilermaker ruins turn-ups. All days are sad that end on shorter days.
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Although it ultimately means nothing, we can still observe the beauty of the trees in late October. Perhaps next spring will find them dead, etched in acid. Mourners line up in columns and march into the foothills. History may record the events, but Time calls the shots all the time. And though nothing may ever come of it except complete oblivion after all, still let it be said that we have seen the trees flaming on the hillsides, burning in the autumn sky, flaring in the air among the mountains. . .
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The story is simple to tell.
I am walking down a street and hear music coming down from a plane. And it surprises the others who look at me from long ago, an age gone by in eyes of fear and wonder.
I sat on the stone ramparts, before me the show of houses now haunted by the presentation of futurity. How was it so? I could not guess what grand design could promise to come from it all.
I step aside in examination. I sound the bell of im-portents gathered in a circle around my mind. I pursue a remnant of spirit lingering still in the dark woods where man's machines have never gone. But am I now on planet earth at all, or on an orb spun and spinning in a zone of imagination? The signatures of my precedents are cut into stone in a clearing in the woods -- by what authority? Still the inquest of authority. By what hands?
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Chasing Shadow Women Along the Uncertain Edge of Night
Chasing shadow women into the dusk where they dissolved, I laid a corsage of flowering sounds on each aspect of the monument I had built as a memorial. The sounds were the unfolding chorus of angelic voices joining few by few with the voices of Gregorian monks chanting their petitions unto the deific images created by their own echoing words. The multitudes heard these voices and under your administration they erected ornate chapels with towering citadels, monoliths carved with magic symbols, stood up pointing skyward to the lights of the night that promise direction to the fated. While they toiled, they spoke and spoke of your wise protection, of the forces that would reward them -- spare them from the overwhelming darkness they have known in sudden silence, which for them has no reference.
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Following a sudden contusion on the left side of my skull, I found out the truth about my body and its singular relationship to the world: My left leg extends beyond the sole and toes and wanders off into the distant west, filled with shadowy figures. My right eye is really the dark side of the moon, while my left eye is the orbit of Venus. Likewise, the folds of my brain and the folds of my skin are continuous with golf courses and the ocean surface, which is known to cover three-fourths of the earth.
At first this caused some confusion in my daily life. When I stretched first thing in the morning, I saluted the magistrates of the Eastern nations. When I touched my toes, I planted rice in Manchuria and dug potatoes in Idaho. And when I blinked my eyes rapidly, there were repercussions on the stock market.
I have gradually come to understand my relationship to the world at large. I learned to accept the responsibilities my condition implies -- to consider all possible consequences of my actions before performing them. To a definite extent, this involves placing limits on my freedom. However, I realize that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, and today I am content with the puzzling yet exciting nature of things.
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The sun it fell full upon her as I opened the clock. The crushed baseboard encasement yielded only after gentle coaxing. She observed the mechanical process of the clockwork's virgin metabolism. When I touched the delicately spinning wheels with my probing divining rod, it screamed in alarm, shuddering and weeping oil across my fingers.
We surveyed the emotional reactions of the machine. She stood quietly, shining in the sun's olive light, and pierced me deeply with mechanical eyes. Throughout the new season we passed together, walking among spectacles for our hungry observations, probing each other tentatively, her eyes haunting me like screaming oily flywheels.
The next season brought rains that rusted the dance of our lemon-sweet automatonic exploration of this life.
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As a young man bold, I would plunder the riches of the past, breaking into storehouses of traditions older than my own. American by birth -- with a mix of French and English blood, and with the hindsight of a mere few hundred years -- I gazed in awe across six millennia upon the golden images of pharaohs and smelled the sweet burning myrrh of Nineveh. I walked along the terraces of Nebuchadnezzar and caught sight of Nefertiti in her perfumed pool. When I rode in the galley of Jason into the harbor at Rhodes, the Colossus bowed before me. I was welcomed at Alexandria and Athens, at Memphis and Marathon, at Urfa and Ur. I stood beside the priests as they sacrificed at the altars of Sun and Moon and divers gods of earth sea and sky.
And then I led an expedition to the Dead Sea and uncovered tablets written by ancient ones who explained all secrets as the products of human minds, all gods as the creations of human thought, and all afterlives as the escape from earthly life and death. Methusalah may have shaken hands with Moses and lived for many moons; but in those days, years were counted in months and the patriarch died at the ripe old age of 75.
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Requiem No. 1
As I would wander out in fields, among the peoples of the world, to rearrange my name, present my face; so do the warships enter the harbor of thine enemy, thyself, and destroy those wondrous fields. Those fields of green, of flowers colorful, of blue water, clear, blue skies -- there, that is life, that is our body, our blood, that is what we are made of and what we are made for.
The robot marines of the War machine have charged down all streets, all hallways, all alleys, and have killed the men, women, and children of all ages regardless of creed, color, sex, and national origin. The machine does not discriminate.
O, I would cry if it were worth a free moment in this dying world -- but let it pass. Tears will only cloud thine eyes whose unutterable visions are soon to end forever -- Peace. Darkness, peace at last will enter us as we shall enter it -- soon to be over, soon to be over. All the toil and torment, all the grief and anger, suffering, pain, and woe -- all will dissolve and be washed away in torrents of blood, in waters of chemical warfare, in the polluted waters of an angry sea, in shock waves of the mighty bombs -- O wondrous creations, O powerful desecrations of Man!
Let it pass; let us pass, now, into that silent night; let us worry not; let the day be finished, done at last -- no more problems, no more pain; let us go peaceful into that good night, that night of peace, that sweet, sweet night of lasting, eternal peace. . .
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I have settled my accounts with all the time-honored Monarchs: I am free to wander about the countryside, unheeded and unclothed. Unaided and unarmed I stalk the summits of deception.
Myriad banisters offer fences for my playground, but the cycles goes unchanged, rolling 'round the bend into some other district. Who knows what adventures are waiting to befall us -- whether lame or sun-colored, whether tangerine-skinned or sharp-edged?
Thoughts pick up where others left off, never complete but never incomplete, always complimentary. Just as if two triangles could form a circle, each tree falls over streams to lie on other fallen trees. Just up the street there is another street called Rain Drop Circle and yet another one called Fallen Leaves Trail. Thus the unhalting pavement carries us into the unknown; perhaps someone else has been there, perhaps not.
In the case of wilderness, traces are more easily hidden. And yet, just beside the driveway to the mayor's house, there is a new flower that no one else has seen, and three cloves of clover never before touched by human hands. Just below the green stem are many grains of sand, where an ant surveys the region, scouting out the countryside unheeded and unclothed.
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The Waterfall on Main Street
The man of the street walked up on us with a long moustache only on one side of his face, and said:
"This is the crust of bread: cut it off and cast it upstream. Run to the village, ringing a ball and chain upon the paving stones, and sit tight high above the steeple until they find you and persecute you in my name. . . I am not Andrew Solomon. . . Take this letter to the high priest of Carthage and bid him bestow a rainy season over all lands, a motorplane over all cities, a pitch fork in every fire, a ticket for everyone to the Wrestling Match between Gog and Magog. . ."
We drew up in a long hearse and waved goodbye, then hurried about trying to prepare our rapport for the evening.
The other guests arrived early. As the adventure of the cosmopolitan with the sleeping bag had left us winded, we strayed about on the lawn, climbing into thickets along the porch, and lay together on the hammock they have suspended over the waterfall on Main Street.
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Posted: February 22, 1996
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