Five Poems
John High

—for Andrea (again)

The two remained anonymous to wind
& eternal without bells the vacant
monastery on an edge of sea where
hermits gathered among caves & tall
grass surrounding potato fields the boy
yearning (this) to copy out words inside
handwoven sheets of books & pages
of stories some burnt others
without beginning or end a girl spying up
from a beach & searching the name
of a brother among the dead washing
her clothes still naked by mountain
river running down steps from monastery
walls humming as three monks & four
crows a scribe crossed by foot over
a wooden bridge swinging & calling down
to gulls bringing more manuscripts
in beaks as the woman finds her own
name printed (there) in an autobiography
beginning good morning worlds without end

The child reading an autobiography
outside the marquee where in another
world she studies foreign films
flickering across a white screen this
movement located outside time & the
sidewalk cold on her legs tonight a
manuscript (the woman had found it for
her) looking back in her eyes a face
missing all but the last pages of a first
kiss the girl recognizing there a
blossoming of her own life & evening
stars as migratory owls appear above
the theatre ants & grasshoppers too
moving south as winter again approaches
the boy walking out of the deserted
storefront now holding a piece of
looted film called Rublev of an icon
painter in the 15th century who he
tells her once saved his life at the movies

The kerchief around her neck & a blind
boy ripening in crisp air           blue stripes her broad
chin vital black birds flying over cliffs
her voice invisible out here in wonder not seeking
or exposed      blown bits of paper & the bell in
her hand the boy studying her from the
other side of rivers & ghosts of fathers
appearing as she turns her thumb up
ward the seagulls yes—why here—in the
hills she says coming closer as the gesture
refuses all refusal but this human kindness
& breathing lightly (again) the boy enters the water
belated wading then swimming toward us as
evening arrives with the sound of a mute
girl in his arms     her mouth ringing the bell
from his shoulders and now he stops &
stares at the wings no longer above

A photograph of the boy in a bow tie on
the day our language found itself in
side a tired face & one eye turned
toward a window where we see a clock
& mistress serving as models in
a story abandoned a landscape this
gratitude and tender hand she places
on his sore ear as words no longer of speech
or coercion launch an avalanche of books
scattering about a broken dining room
table all the illuminations & forlorn
icons & cartoons this love a concentration as
a world contained within discovered a
final source of desire atonement an
alphabet mirroring these days and entry
into pain & awakening of heart

The heat of each lone fire a body
no word no not existent here
burning grasses & finding how
we see an earth a sadness in this
violence of rain and a child leaving
on a boat the mute girl
humming after the man i will heal
you & chestnuts on a beach
where in an older place no
one knew our names the streets
calling with this yes joy
& yes destruction as we fall
and leaves asleep in the fields
beyond a road that goes on without
sight or sound or direction