ISSN 1545-2859





University Buildings

Cold, muddy field
another day of rain,
slow walking, at my age
short of joy, again.
I keep my dog on a short leash
(it’s bad for her
to socialize with others.)
The sun is a hazy dish,
university buildings
on the horizon— system
I blame for the sunk
feeling I can’t shake.
My dog’s eyes are humble
corridors of experience,
and she pulls hard to play
with the sheepdogs
circling across the fence.
She measures her steps,
after my violent reprimand.
There’s no hope of her
running, or of me
speaking to the dog-owner
about the weather,
or the beauty of her three
wild herders. “They’re dirty,”
I whisper to myself.
She sees me from afar,
gives a smile that hurts.
I think of the knife
my wife brought back
from Alaska (an Eskimo
story-blade, made of walrus
bone and whale baleen)
I picture a tribal elder
bending to smooth
muddy ground, beginning
to draw the form of a hunter
who, out of anger, kills
a raven. The raven
stole his best cuts of seal,
ate all his ripe, freshly
picked salmonberries,
squawked and squawked
while he slept. “But you
shouldn’t try to catch
a raven,” glancing up,
the old Eskimo says;
and I watch my dog’s tail
dance with the others
like the top of a small flame.

Near Dawn

You say it’s my perception: an illusion of a world
on the skin of an aging river, a fantasy that deters
the river from reaching the end of its vast journey.

I took your hand. We entered Monet’s Grand Canal.
You said the color was dawn, I said it was twilight.
You agreed to commit, but I lingered in the process.

On our way back down the foggy hills, we told all
we’ve never had the guts to tell. And in the city,
we dared each other to do something embarrassing.

I’ve known for some time, though never been sure
love thrives only in those who change to carry on.
Now dawn, and all at once, the birds begin their trill.

Small Garden

If I could stay still,
quiet for a few minutes,
a rose hanging in mid-air,
suspended by the living
stem, I would hear
the unforgiving buzz
of the worker bees.

I would starve less,
be fed by their honey,
fruit of their toil,
if I could stop to hear
and believe in their


You know you’ve entered
some kind of experience
when you feel like a beggar
as life intercedes with life,
its matrimonial byways,
its rituals of quotidian labor.

Suspended above the squalor
of past, the bureaucracy
of present, the autocracy
of future, extraordinary
as Satan in the last canto
of Dante’s infernal poem.

Outside providence, and almost alive.

Standing Before What Must Fall

I’m trying hard to be a man
to reach a woman. I can’t breathe
from trying to clear the timberline.
I want my hands to get me there with thoughts,
but my thoughts are not hands.

The evergreen falls, and when it falls
oh that’s the greatest joy!
Conscience turns a blind eye, and the lumberjack returns home
having done what makes the fire smoke
after burning.

Beleaguered, I am that lumberjack
with no other employment but to fight the evergreen.
I will loosen his conscience.
“It might make somebody a good home someday,” I think.
“Is it an emergency to sway?”

It’s an empty thing to stand before what must fall,
ax in hand, swaying, not knowing how, or where
to make the first wound to end the breathing.
But I know it must start with the hands.

Copyright © 2004 Alejandro Escudé.. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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