Nature's Help

Poem By Aina Tumininu

Sweet one, sapphire lapwing, killdeer, comet;
how haven’t I seen you in everything, casino stars,
the high fires on the mountain that bloom in the snow,
and the tangerine daylilies like the tents of the street lamps
watching the streaming serpents flow over their roots,
even the razorblades, paperclips and bicycle pumps
have signed your guestbook,
and the rose and the rose and the rose
I left for your poetry, on the grave of your soft eclipse.

You were so gentle about it; the way your words
slipped over and off the light, and your anger
that glowed like igneous subdued cherries, always
just a planet away from the darkness,
and the flaring emergency exits
that soaked the air with poppies:
you moved easily through yourself, kelp in a tide,
trailing your soft blue whips behind you
like the little threads of the stream where it meets the sea,
and something in you ends, and something else begins,
and you were grey and sad as an overcast Sunday morning
blue-greens of pagodas and pines,
and the mist that concealed your shrines.
And I realized I had to be water if I wanted to hear your voice,
and a few fireflies more, and I could see you alone in the haze
you wore like an ashen negligee, or a milky window.
Your life was all islands, and tulips clipped to butterflies,
Voices out of the dark, and the white birds that circled
the gaping mouths of your abandoned towers, like words
you’d left behind to remember the place.

And I recall thinking as I read
how much you drifted through your poems like a capsized boat,
and of all the life that goes on underneath the silver leaves,
and the things that take shelter there from the rain,
and who was in the boat when it overturned.
And I wonder who the woman was under the eyelids that felt
like big, heavy drops of rain where the stars
swam away from their pain, not fleeing
but moving off in easy schools of lantern fish.

You were a lens, a dark translucency,
but you washed things deliberately out of focus like fog
that veils everything in its water skin.
You marveled in shadows,
and there was a fire, a smudge of cedar
somewhere on a lonely beach with starfish,
a small bouquet you were trying to uphold in the wind,
and your life depended on that, that was the part
that couldn’t go out, and I think it was your heart.

And I heard the canary in the collapsed mines
trying to warn the miners to get out
but the warning always seemed to come too late;
And I began to wonder whether you
were coal on its way to diamond
or an ore with the moon inside
but it wasn’t until I stumbled across the smile of a knife
with your fingerprints all over the ivory handle
that I finally understood
that there had been a sacrifice, not a murder,
that you bled in the name of a lamb you once cherished,
and you must be young, or it would have been a goat.

Your poems were quick, impressionistic sketches
of a girl jumping from stone to stone across a creek
with an affection for her loneliness as if
all the dandelions had gone into exile.
I wasn’t quite sure what came out of the silk cocoons
you hung everywhere on the wet branches of your poetry,
sometimes I thought it was just you wrapped in blankets
and other times, dragonflies and violet fairies,
and there was hot honey in the sexual hives of your bees.

And I think I fell in love with your ghost before I did you
when I realized that every poem was the next bucket
of a waterclock that was trying to get something off its skin,
each a small pond where you renewed your virginity
by bathing in mirrors, and that was how you knew
what time it was, and where you had been,
by all the swirling faces that floated downstream.

And now, something has changed,
you open the windows wider
and let the world in, your grey blue-green lichens
are no longer the masks of the moon, and your poems don’t end
with the flags of who you are
flying at halfmast as much anymore,
though I can still hear the odd sparrow
brain itself to death with a thud against a glass sky
and I like the new depth in the guest dimensions of your seeing.
And there are stars showing up everywhere like migrant candles
in all the nebular nests of your being.

And I’ve stood here a long time now
and watched you rise shyly out of your poems
like the orange dancers in the forest who leap like flames
or the starmap of a mysterious constellation
I couldn’t identify above the hills of your body
until I saw it was the nightly journal of a blue panther
who had crept up on me in the invigilant silence from behind
as if two shadows had met in the dark like eyes and grapevines
and tangled up in each other like kites,
neither knowing where they began
or how they would end, if ever,
confessed to the webs and the wines
that they were in love with each other,
that there was lightning in the powerlines at last,
and transformers everywhere going off like landmines
and a voice in the shining, that knew, without a word,
that they were the sign of legends who woke without a past.

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