Contagions of the Visible
In the optics of the dark ages, the eye
was the window to the world’s infections
and light the host, the carrier of nightmares
across all barricades, real or imagined.
Misery was airborne, less in the spirit
of some stray cough or invisible flea
than as image whose arrows of empathy
and contagion pierced the target eye.
A body knows, or imagines it knows,
the world as hostile, long before we love it,
and turns from fear or the homeless addict,
one of the many who multiply down
the parks and open markets of Berlin.
The gallop of the physical heart stung
by light, it keeps pounding at something
like a point half justified or clear,
half a reason to look or look away.
The logic of boundaries and their downfall
is half no logic at all. Sight is fast.
What I look at when I look away,
it reveals me. Long before I know as much.
It spreads an epidemic of horror and prayer
that bind the many, as tragedies do,
and then, as nights continue, not so much.
But what did I expect. In the optics
of loss and exhaustion, things are closer
than they appear. Or is it farther. Cut
into small and smaller pieces. The real.
The imagined. They wander opposite paths
among the black gowns in the churchyard,
among the living in whom the trees walk.
And are walking still. Any wonder
eyes tremble in their sleep, or the grave
digger’s cart goes chirping through the parish.
The boy in this dream refuses to see
the dream is over. The coughing in a near room
gone silent now. The living and the lived:
they wander opposite paths at daybreak,
and for a time he lies there in the space
between them. Like a battlefield in bloom.
The only sound the sound of leaves. Turned.
Brought down in waves on the unseen shore.