Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Two poems by John Alter

Old man you offer me the gift
Old man you offer me the gift of
recurrence the way the wind through the
curtains brings with it tonight the fragrance
of kites as if in some library a
blind poet is moving the pages of 
a beloved book     that is you      we watched
your eyes turn away from us at the end
of your days with us     you were bored already
with that nonsense about a king and
a one-eyed man     with all the nonsense of
moderation     and sometimes only we 
heard you speak to us from where you are now 
Prayer Flag, Deodar
The first pale light of a new day
at the windows like water-color.  I
understand why these trees insisted that
we associate them with the gods.
began as
a tree, on a morning like this
the first pale light at the windows
like water-color,
on the edge of a mountain
where, swaddled in mist, the gods
are born
and prayer thrusting itself
up out of the muddled mind.
Before and beyond words
the mind is a mountain where
gods are born.
A small breeze moves
in the branches.  Somebody has hung
a prayer flag there, the words obliterated
by mist.
A prayer flag begins
with legible words from
the sutra
a man can read,
each syllable clear.  He
knows the words by heart.
And the words
flutter then in the morning
alone for the first time.  Mist
enters the
household of syllables.  Slowly
the walls will dissolve,
the furniture of meaning.
The prayer flag
remembers a man reading
the words by heart and the man is
like a dream, he
dissolves in the mist, and the prayer flag
turns now
to the wind… 

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