A Poem from Carol Burbank

I can hear you.

All of it, you say, is mind.

None of it is real.

Not the hand

or the touch of the hand.

Not the webbed fingers

or the spirals at the heart of touch.

No matter what the measure

it will fail you

just as it fails the machine test

of the ticking space we pace.

It is not in the mitochondria.

It is not in the sperm or the egg.

It is not in the vault of books.

It is not in the savory gust of song.

It is not in the mother’s breast.

It is not in the hem of your coat.

It is not there.

It cannot be held or known.

Yet the mitochondria mark its path with a sigh.

The chromosomes laugh at death and life together.

The bookworm traces its hope on the curve of vowels.

The song marks where it was and may become.

The mother’s milk floods from its white mountains.

The coat drags in the mud of its passing there.

It is not where we can look.

It holds us and knows us.

This does not change the pain in the wrists

as if something bound us to this life

by a rope soaked in salt, a contract of fire.

This does not change the fear in the teeth

as if an animal stalks the world

behind the eyes, in the grip of a white jaw.

This does not change the lift of the heart

when the clouds fractal across the wind

as if it is our birthday forever and ever.

This does not change the drowning wave

remembering the ones and ways we have been

surrendering to the soil, mulch of emotion.

I can hear you.

I can hear you.

It is the way of it.

And I do not feel your hand,

or the touch of your hand.

Not the ancient web,

or the labyrinth in the pointing finger.

The Buddha’s right hand points to the earth,

as if to say, “Here.”

But it is not here.

And it is nowhere to arrive at,

or to photograph, to visit, to eat,

to sew into a lining

to keep from the police

to give to the soldier

to write in a will.

What will you inherit when I am gone,

son of my memory,  father of my questions?

Perhaps we will play together, brothers  in stillness,

grinning with the paradox of love.

Carol Burbank.