Song of the Very Old Man


I was embryo rippling in the amniotic sea.
A barnacle jarred loose from womb wall,
first fall, tide wanderer, I called
like a lost dolphin to no one in particular.

A fang of sperm tasted my membrane like a grape.
Was that our first share of darkness, double
occupancy? Or the formless foreboding
of a body, where the shadow-mist shape-shifted
its furious sphere from God's sleep?

I fell again into a slumber of fire, reeled into
the old roundness, an eely string of eons
coiled in neutrino, imprisoned in tear.

Look at my wizened thistle blown among the rocks.
I’m toothless and bald, with a beard so long it drifts
among fungi and celia, rooting my downy mildew
in valleys I carved with glaciers of patience.

Now I’m a Cascadian stream, dangerous as a serpent
uncoiling to the Salish Sea.
Blessed fools pour father ashes into me
and vial my sulfurous balm to carry home hot
and belch back for healing and fecundity.

I molder in your lymph node and tear duct.
I swizzle each leukocyte, engulf your HIV.
I blast your nostrils with green bastrika,
then wash up the fetus you indwell
on the shores of the salty mother.

I’ve rehearsed your heartbeat in my death rattle,
tethered its rhythm to a quasar.
When I hold my breath, your soul is suspended
in a song of ancestral memories.
Then I sigh, and it is your name.
You are born.

In my berry garden your ovaries sprawl.
I am the ancestral whale who swims in your milk.
My virescent landscape is truly within you.
Walk on me, each step a faltered healing of
the earth that dangles from your ribcage.

Beat your breastbone with my old heart.
Fall inward like a moth exhausted by its lover, the flame.
Make centuries whirl faster in circles of stillness.
Will my drinking song awaken you again?
Didn't we visit and kiss before we had mouths?

The playmate who chased you to ecstatic exhaustion,
the wizened padre whose knee first dawdled your sex,
your grandmother’s empire bequeathed in a tuft of hair,  
all perish and wind in my body like ciphers
of milkweed in a breeze from the North.
Now breathe me and fill the bellows of your species.

How else should the music of a galaxy move
one proton of your blood?
How else should the wise become fools?