"Written on Dream Skins," "Through the Cells," and "Schoenberg in the Pin-Dark Drop"

Written on Dream Skins


The root of consciousness, a man says
in a chamber with a string quartet,
was created with matter in solar forges.
Current uncertainty glows in golden reeds
by the great lake where dragonflies are
flying iridescent flutes of their spines.
In the morning, in a future that survives us,
everyone in town will be rushing for trains,
as beautiful and quick as the people will be.



A shaman studying his bundle of reindeer
and musk ox skins in Northern Europe
might find what a night’s dreaming had done.
Around paradoxical intensities of not being
what you think others think of your being
in the present, one person differs from another.
A pike at the bottom of the lake will be leaving
behind the presence of uncaught pike
in your chest by the concept of solidness.
Consciousness is a tree in the forest we’d want
to avoid clear-cutting
, an old tree announces
to the closest giant galaxy wheeling out of view.



Through the Cells

The state of the cells is they’re alert, forever engaged
with flora in tinctures that arrived on trade routes
from which we’ve come not knowing which ancestors
may be influencing us now or what phantom old-world
whisperings may have come from a Byzantine ritual
incense stick bundler down the harbor from candles
of Pythagoras burning in the sanctuary of theorems.


Who were the forgotten first to be kind or to recognize
mindfulness in eyes? When forests guarded the fine-tune
fingertip touch, they promoted overflow communications
between disparate species with mint conditions operating
in the back-roar, in breath without trying, in the classical
days before medical birth.

                                         Sooty keepers of irregular hours
must have had a keen sense of unexpected ways to fall in love
with vastness of night. Forebears who co-created what’s seen
of the spectrum around cries for warm shelter of the mother,

cries invented out of urgency or shock over the emergence
of consciousness arriving from way back as well as ahead,
may have may have practiced their medicines when scouting
or hunting, and when sitting still in one another’s presence. 

Did the old ancestors walk as if they were entering a garden
that grows them out of much more than the mind takes in,
when hunting and gathering tribes of a few dozen must have
driven a hard past into palatial longings of mist, into Clovis
sharpening on blockages at the bar, with balked hamperings
or extravagant unity at conscious borders of the work day,

with preclusions and unrestrained hazarding, the cul-de-sac
impedimenta within arrested hitches or strict unhappenings,
before flagging moratoria or knaggier interdiction led on
to inducible renunciations arguing for chance surrender?

And yet we still receive word from the Mediterranean mother
of great great grandfathers who knew their long tree-trunk
boats on the waters, and mother of road-building warriors
who planted tons of stone markers with Roman numerals

when complying with rank pressures from the top meant
distributing them to virile weight-bearing micro-organisms
and heavier cornerstones known to the Swiss mechanic
or disciplined pianist good at math, the great grand aunts

who visited Parisian sidewalk cafes where intellectuals sat
sipping elixir, abreast with the news in heart-beat oneness,
in the encompassing of Henri Bergson expanding debates
of intuition.

                     So Gauguin paintings could fill with emphasis,
dusk swept in where forebears followed footpaths long before
words and collected what they needed to give shape to hope,

since the human foot learned to swing out on its cantilever
and place itself down, the way it does now, nearly without
effort, without violating the first or last principles of residence

when prophecy wailed offshore in breakers where the soul is
contemplation resounding in spikes of gravitational Existenz,

when the young and laboring poor, the curious or banished
would have served as confidential witnesses of blood pledges,
in keeping with natural law, and managed to survive the heat
of extemporaneous rigors grave as the lyred angels in Majorca,

in gravitational gusts sibyl-smoked fast forward for generations
until finding us through the inherited fluke of all this is yours.



Schoenberg in the Pin-Dark Drop

Early on in remote architecture, our ancestors parked
their fundamental rigs on underlying Freudian fuels
they never guessed weren’t mammoth invisible beings
more volatile than Uncle Russ on another four-day binge
guzzling fermented fungal mash from an auroch bladder
in mackerel pulls of inexplicable extremism dog-dug down
and floodlit in innocence gesturing at the galaxies going off
with shaman-drummed neural acuity that first kicked in
then plunged into yearning at the fluid root of deciding cells
to swiften with unlit emerald likes of anyone’s upbespoken
million billions that make metropolitan avenues of forgetting
persona non grata for the card-carrying weight of the future
while the body takes form in the womb of archaic exposures
in deference to young me-maw moon spreading her mists
while she rocks the newborn babes in her soft silver wing
of future mists sinking silver seeds in sacramental quickening
through underfoot grounds that humble assemblies of voices
so no one confuses vitality in the body with the call to arms
or takes credit for contemplative petitions of the wild grasses
or disrespects generosity which has kept our species alive
where endurance relies on forgiveness, on being able to try.



James Grabill’s poems have appeared in numerous periodicals and online at CalibanonlineTerrainonline, The Decadent Review, and others. He wrote four books from Lynx House Press including Poem Rising Out of the Earth (Oregon Book Award, 1995), as well as Sea-Level Nerve: I & II (2014 & 2015 – Wordcraft of Oregon), Branches Shaken by Light, Reverberations of the Genome, & Schoenberg in the Troposphere (2020, 2021, & 2023 – Cyberwit, India), Eye of the Spiral (2022 – Uncollected Press), Stray Dogs & Irreversible Cars (2023 – Atmosphere Press) & others. He taught writing and global issues relative to sustainability.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 - 22:14