Red Bird (Agnes Martin Speaks)
Mesa Portales, New Mexico
A line can’t hold anything, but could be long
or longer than a pulse. Toward breeze
or toward the flash of fish,
wherever it’s going it goes without
weight. Curbs, bridges, halves.
Wood stacked for the winter. A braid, pins
in the hem of partially-wrought
pants, elk prints reduced
to soft dirt. As the feathers
of the eagle. It raises or lowers
deepening hours. The chainsaw prepares
for the next day. Makes audible what muscles
anguish. Someone cuts and someone
looks out a window
at the reversal, at the detached. The path
of a snow shovel. All I knew
later was that I grew up
in a place that demanded I wait.
A line left bare. The border. A road for a truck
through every enticing
slice of the desert. A fracture.
Downshift, brake, tight turn
and thistle. From a dark opening, the sky
organized with mountains and habits
of sunsets. Undeciphered, a line
reassures. Branches bend in the wake of a whole
and each knows a line
scarce as its likeness. A flight. A skeleton
free its founder. First, a bus along the city
then a train south to gaps of memory.
A line with its laws to a top
and an earth, stripped of a grasp
or a flutter. A ghosting
but not a conclusion: a line
that eases its own circulation. To be empty
the Tao says is to be patient.
We stood in the caramel dawn watching the iron earth warm
and tremble there was nothing to do but the wind
hung over and again broke our hearts so we wouldn’t look up
we kneeled down in worship watching the spines
of the cacti and their strategizing elbows of bloom
we were caught between repetition and permission caught
in the praise of those small constellations leaning in
close to each tuck and split we didn’t see the long corridor
of mountains or each other’s faces only the country
of hope rising from gravel not the danger the bitter
the entangled weeds we took as commandment the sun
at our necks and a few inches of color this corner
was our planet that turned round far better than the rest
we might witness what a year when all we saw
could evaporate ravens winged through the sky harassing
the power lines we heard them of course plying
their hunger there was depth in this almost bare place
and peace as we crouched saying little even with breath.
Read two other poems by Lauren Camp appearing in Terrain.org.
Header photo by Simmons B. Buntin. Photo of Lauren Camp by Bob Godwin.