3018

 

Between Then and Now

 

By Danny Smitherman

 

 

The lush, sweet and green

            Air of summer

Is certainly gone now

            From this bare and cool green of fall

 

When morning is only

            A small orange fire

On the western fringe

            Of the low and heavy grey clouds

 

Where, on a hill

            To the northwest,

A few hundred feet above Missoula

            I am breathing

 

I am drinking in a wet kiss

            A wind from

Sleeping Woman Peak

            Her rocky breast

 

And to my left,

            The south, toward the light,

A hill’s dry, gold grass

            Stands in my view

Of Lolo Peak,

            But I know what I’d see:

 

Her head, down to her shoulder

            Bathed in a silver grey

Shower of rain

            And snow her sparkling veil

 

I also know that behind me

            Down the hillside

Is a doe, a whitetail

            Almost invisible in camouflage

And brown grass

 

From here –

            From where I am now

I can see these things

 

And in between then and now

            Lies a city

Sleeping in a concrete sleep

 

Lights like dreams

            Blinking, winking

Off glass and dark dawn

            Winking like the eye

Of a troubled mind

 

A mind with eyes open

            All the way

But still twitching with instinct

            Like a cat

Blind to color and light

 

Coming awake like a Greek

            (Or must it be a Spartan?)

A bright blade blooming

            In his scarlet chest

In his dying on a rocky dry isthmus

 

Where one tear alone

            Can flood the dust

Like a river

            Or opened vein

___________________

 

For My Father*

 

“My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori

 

“I woke to black flak and the nightmare

fighters”

 

Or another, Father,

One that tells it for you,

Clearly,

Like yesterday and the

Cold, the small

Cold cockpit at bare,

Numb fingertips, young wife on

Hot heart tip, young

Children, quiet and small

Birds, blown

With warlike urgency and rudeness in a

Bombs-bursting

Sky of thoughts?

 

* Bombardier and pilot in WWII and Korea

_____________________

 

       Participation

 

The mists,

            White-robed virgins

            Run out to meet the Sun, bright Groom,

            Shimmering spirits, dancing light

Or rising, curling steams alone?

 

The mists, white-robed virgins

Run out to meet the sun, bright groom.

Shimmering spirits, dancing lights!

Then rising, curling steams so soon.

_________________________

 

 

God’s Mask

 

Nature is a mask

And god hides

 

Like a mist across the sun

And god burns

 

The moon eclipsing

And god flares

 

A dark thundercloud

And god blazes white and sharp

 

Like a soft deep snow

And god thrusts tall jagged blue

 

Like a bunker hides blazing guns

Tall grasses disguise the beast king’s roar

 

Like a sleeping gown makes mystery

Of a wife’s body

 

god’s mask falls

And nature burns

_________________

 

 

     Participation II

 

A planet, hung in darkest space,

A pearl set in a necklace,

A goddess bathed in golden rays,

Or Logos and Anthropos in transforming embrace?

 

Balls of distant but earthy fire,

Heroes, lifted from our mire,

Punctured dark vault, uninspired

Or phenomena at our hire?

 

Voice from the bush in its burning,

A message in the stars’ turning,

My own throat rich with groaning,

Or the chorus for which we ache with yearning?

 

What of the crushed grape to wine,

The wheat, the same, if it rise,

And the seed, if the oak be prized,

Flesh to spirit, rationalized?

 

O, thin body, must you shrink,

O, skin, bruised, to living drink,

Thought freed from brain’s coat to think,

Thought freed on spirit’s brink?

 

And me, from before time began,

Me on earth, again and again,

Me on earth, my self defending,

Me on earth, myself remembering.


 December City

 

Grey sighing sky

            Droop down, wet and heavy,

            On high,

            Onto sliding, slick buggies

                        Rumble carts,

            Flashing liquid bright,

            And splashing,

                        Sighing back at the sky

                        Whisper ash,

                        Murmur acid,

            Sulfur yellow hush between

_________________________

 

 

Little Bighorn

 

Billings, Bozeman,

Casper, Buffalo

South from high grasslands

Where the blood flows

 

Cleared the mists of myth

At Little Bighorn

Small white stones

Alloy of dreaming and bone

 

Acid neutralized

Quenched in its complement

Bloody precipitation

Dark coagulate

 

Conscious and dream

Bow lost in bursting flame

The grass’s green

Dulled silently

 

A soul is lost

A cloud forms

Rain wets the air

Thunder groans

________________

 

© Danny Smitherman's first published poem appeared in a high school collection, and began: "When will it end / This state of utter confusion". He has continued mostly in that spirit to this day. He's had poetry and other written work published in The Austin Chronicle, Missoula Magazine, and The Journal of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association. He is the author of Philosophy and the Evolution of Consciousness: Owen Barfield's Saving the Appearances, and is currently working on a collection of essays tentatively titled A Phenomenology of Wilderness. The last half of his life has been shared with his wife - scientist and green thumb - and his daughter - artist, cellist, and high level WOW mage.
Contact