Bundles of Bronze Sticks
    Thomas Bolt  

I have nothing to say.

The medieval moon
Looms through a wrestle of branches.

I must have plunged into this thicket looking
For a woman, but her name

Escaped me, harsh limbs
Were sticking stiffly, sharply everywhere,

And the smooth curve I saw
Is only moon on a stone.

I must be dreaming
During the long, dull day,

For this is real. Or else the light
Has dusted these tangles with unwetted plaster:

I cannot stand upright among low limbs,
A dime slips through a hole in my pocket

And shivers down my leg
To fall unseen, somewhere wet.

On the forest floor are limbs I cannot sort
From their shadows, but

Farther on, deeper in the tangled black,
The lazy moon sits naked, astraddle a log,

Washing herself in a battered silver basin.
Battered! Bright!

There is no path forward. Barbed wire. I am lost.

· · · · ·

Dawn clears the scattered silverware away
Unwashed. A few birds peck at dust.

The moon turns toward our planet,
Then away. Day climbs. A dream?

I have almost estranged the difference
Between doing and dreaming, until,

Enlightening all with ponderous inquiry, noon
From the full height of day

Narrows and seals each thing
With its hot pressure of light;

Secrets are not unclothed
But driven inward.

· · · · ·

(Strangely, her hair was altogether white,
Yet she was young and lightly pockmarked....)

We work hard. Are paid in sense.
No one mistakes a penny for the sun.

Then dusk, unclasping the squat
Bronze box of a hut’s shadow, lifts

Out of the sweat-stained wall
A stick of fresh straw

Afire: climbing;

Nude trees wade out into a liquid dark.
Look at the moon!

Its air invades this house. I fall asleep.
(The Woman-in-the-Moon once came to me,

Bearing on her thigh a liquid mark—
But now she sits up, moves to the end of the bed,

And slowly turns away, her left breast
Cycling through shadows;

Then leaves the room,
Forgetting on a passing windowsill

Her luminous hairclasp.)
Dawn’s ice. Cold floorboards. Need to pee.

Clouds of all shapes have passed in front of her
But now she is nude and white as an open eye:

From outside in the frost, unthinkingly,
She stares in at the empty stage of the bed.

· · · · ·

The Night Encyclopædia entry MOON

Says our oldest rituals celebrate this curve

Turning toward us and away from us, carrying
The ocean’s luggage (unpacked on a sandy bed).

One midnight I saw written
In shadows’ inks across a page of glass

The moon’s poem,
Legible only briefly. I think it said

Our shared desires stride us differently
In moonlight, at the plainest height of day;

Yet our routine needs include a circular breathing
And beating that swallow the shallowness

Of most concerns. Night breathes. Dusk trembles. Day
Is no still sculpture. Nothing at all is still.

When the silverware drawer is flung into the woods
Things tarnish overnight; no monument

Is made. I turn to you: these once-bundled sticks
Have fallen in a puzzle on the floor.

They are the meaning of these waking moods,
Barked alphabet, snagged sense: in the moving moon

They lie entangled, and will stay that way
Tonight, tomorrow, when the sun comes up.


"Bundles of Bronze Sticks" first appeared in Epiphany.

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"Bundles of Bronze Sticks" copyright (c) by Thomas Bolt. All rights reserved.