Stone Telling

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The Novice Takes Notes For Going South

by JT Stewart

Yes the ducks have gone
south which means it's getting
on to winter which is not
a wholly original observation
and tomorrow or the day after
that you will be getting on
going south like the mallards

Sometimes a light burns behind your
eyes that reminds me of feathers
bright greens and yellows burning
in the night sky over this dark water
Perhaps nothing can hold you in this season
as it drifts away into winter
and you say something like
how are you doing   are you
comfortable   and   do you see the moon
and I say   Yes

Yes we agree
It looked that way last night
this yellow circle of earth's moon that some
one has cut from a kid's coloring book
and pasted on a velvet dark sky
which is not a wholly original observation
yet we know that our feelings come
not from this cool fall evening
as we stand near this dark water
but from a something that ignites
Yes   the moon is on fire

Was it Siva god of brass snakes
who knew we would walk down to this water
to this willow tree you discovered
near the edge of this dark water where
we stand close
closer than one moment
slipping into another
the vocabulary we need to invent

This silence   this inertia
perhaps designed by Siva
master of creation and destruction
all beginnings and endings
the dilemmas of infinity boxes
the need to always invent the velocity
to escape one's mind just as we do now
trap ourselves in our own silences

How much closer will we get to each other
and what face cards does Siva hold that say
we have no chance w/ each other
no matter how strong our desire
Perhaps we are just two continents drifting apart
or galaxies spiraling past each other in
dark seas of space or in some other phrasing
the mind invents when it is the heart
that is faulty

Isn't this such a night where everything
goes south
the ducks in their centennial formations
these dark waters moving away from us
to consummate their rituals elsewhere
and you are going south tomorrow
or the day after that

Yes I could hold you
keep you from going south at least
for a while
I want to say do not go south
I feel my blood running cold
I feel this moment passing
while we turn awkward and clumsy
and yes I see the willow tree
retains its grace

Whose fault is this silence
this failure of courage
This failure is yours
This is what I will tell myself
tomorrow or the day after that

JT Stewart (poet, writer, playwright, editor, teacher) co-founded the Clarion West SF Writers' Workshop. Recently, she participated in POETS FOR CHANGE – an international reading of 100 k poets reading on a single day in 115 countries.

As a woman of African descent, she often writes about cultural collisions and the fortunes/misfortunes of people touched by diasporas – both real and imagined. Readers can sample her work in The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry (Rose Lemberg, Ed.)

Placement of JT's poetry broadsides include: Western Washington University, the Seattle Art Museum, the Washington State Convention Center Galleries, and the Allen Library (University of Washington).

The audio for this poem was recorded at Jack Straw Productions.

Read JT's discussion of this poem over at the Roundtable!

Photography: Headed North | Week 8/52 2012 by Mike Hiatt.