XXXI

My stiff-spread arms
Break into sudden gesture;
My feet seize upon the rhythm;
My hands drag it upwards:
Thus I create the dance.

I drink of the red bowl of the sunlight:
I swim through seas of rain:
I dig my toes into earth:
I taste the smack of the wind:
I am myself:
I live.

The temples of the gods are forgotten or in ruins:
Professors are still arguing about the past and the future:
I am sick of reading marginal notes on life,
I am weary of following false banners:
I desire nothing more intensely or completely than this present;
There is nothing about me you are more likely to notice than my being:
Let me therefore rejoice silently,
A golden butterfly glancing against an unflecked wall.

—John Gould Fletcher (1886–1950), Irradiations, 1915

March Night

I shook off the house like a hooded cape,
And came out, free, into the March-blown street…
At a lash of the gale, at a sight of the cloud-tattered skies,
As a coat discarded,
I shook off civilization
And became wild,
And my naked soul raced the clouds,
And the flavor of the Earth was fresh and primitive…

—James Oppenheim (1882–1932), War and Laughter, 1916

Quiet desert

“The desert was quiet. The coyotes were not howling yet. I was my own howling coyote. Outwardly a comfortable-looking man in an arm-chair, smoking a pipe, I was inside a half-starved little coyote, out there on the dark desert, howling to the stars.”

—J. B. Priestley (1894–1984), Midnight on the Desert: A Chapter of Autobiography, 1917

Alarm ringing true

There was time —
I know there was —
saw it spread out
all ahead of me,
a beautiful infinity —
immortal fresh-faced
clock of opportunity —
numberless, handless
no ticks & no tocks
save for the sound
of distant decades
too quiet to really hear —

but at forty-eight years
a sudden gear-grinding
cacophony, the outspread
blanket of eternity
has begun to suffocate,
wrapped around me
limiting my agility
darkening my path —

I’m having trouble
breathing, I no longer
see that clock open
or free, its movements
now deafen me, its hands
tear into my flesh and
grip tight my throat —

I am choking on
second thoughts
at this midlife hour
this day of reckoning

—Terri Guillemets