a wandering word
they love the tree & hate the fruit,
or they love the fruit & hate its tree.
the found noun become a sovereign,
this beginning born into remembering
figures of syllables & parable
pause between words.
characters of speech traipse
in cups of wine
& loaves of bread.
what you find is not a ghost but a blooded
—now we too have passed thru the place they paused in the book.
each has to tell of their own
birth & death.
—an island that once harbored us before we began.
the general tells a story of a temple’s
burning over 1500 years ago. among deaf trees
a boy squinting
one-eyed, the elders all merging in our vanishing.
the lines on a piece of paper.
(until he eyed her by the circus master’s grave.)
until we meet again, yes.
still, quiet sky, waves, still,
remembering of water as it
not knowing a small wave in the middle of seeing.
i want to learn something from you,
the girl says:
why did you become a monk anyway?
were you just bored?
i am not afraid of your death, she says.
you are now written here.
when you were dead these were fragments
of bird & word left from the sky,
the boy tells her.
small sufi village near where
the mute one lived as a child now
by byzantine ruins & lycian burial grounds.
pointing his nose out behind a rock face,
the circus man begins to talk.
how to live—
all eyes on all things inside messenger fields.
and so the story goes on and leaves you.
i see no one or one thing, she says.
the slow growth & change of rite & religious dogma—
& shade of a homeless
man squatting under bridge over there
surrounded by motorcycles & rickshaws.
these fires burning in rice &
the end of the question of birth & death,
a language of the unspoken,
black water eddies along shore.
that’s manjushri, the girl salutes, hand
over hand over mouth over hand,
an alphabet without desire.
that you are living in a question brought the shadow grass,
my diary & all lost in war,
awaiting a flurry of epistles,
in fishing nets cast over shore.
JOHN HIGH is the author of numerous books. His poems have most recently appeared in Poems by Sunday, Poetry Northwest, Brooklyn Paramount, and New American Writing; his translations of Osip Mandelstam have appeared in The Nation, Denver Quarterly, Pen America, and Poetry, among others. The poems printed here are from a new collection from Talisman House, you are everything you are not (the third book in a trilogy). He teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program at LIU, Brooklyn.