The Gods Among Us
no longer live on cloud-wreathed mountains,
but invade fleet and sub-atomic
to thistle our blood, sing ball lightning,
racket in gale wind. They don’t wish to domineer
and are smaller than your jealousies,
brighter than your far-flung ambitions.
They beam from eyes after a breakup
like lonely streetlights.
Their mosquito-bite epiphanies
leave clarity’s flaming welts.
They spin airy nets to gather us.
Growing round and red, they impassion
your ear in coloratura guitar.
They had some hits in the eighties.
They enlighten and odden,
summarize and sympatico.
They fend off despair of cold patio nights.
They follow you like burbling tots,
unchecking off your errand lists,
unraveling your routines. They madden
the linear trees and staccato your pulse
when you sit down to contemplate.
They despise order and carouse
in midnight moons, wake you
into someone else’s brain to acquiesce.
They go nocturnal berrying
in your dream-webs, spark
your grand plans, but then ambush them
in the next morning’s news.
Their grand largesse cannot be disowned.
Their torn tights and blowsy crowns
take center stage in your life
while you’re still in the wings,
ecstatically mesmerized by a love
that becomes your lean faith,
to their great delight.
Pure delight was lost
somewhere about the time
we learn to screamlaugh
and cryhigh about age two
and a half when the world is pure
and clear as sunny rain
running along the curb
and we poke its swirls and glee
runs off the body
learning to release.
Last night it began with a single giraffe,—
and then the herd trotted through my living room
early the next morning, when the sun’s honey stripes
shine through plantation shutters onto the pink wall.
Sunlight rippled over their muscular, slow-moving shoulders.
Their dark-lashed eyes glanced over shyly,
waiting to see what I’d do. The air warmed.
They wanted to see what I would do
with the dead plants on my deck,
when would I clear out the soil for fresh planting.
The giraffes were very curious.
A garden crew was blasting dead leaves
into corners, not really cleaning up,
just making a simulacrum of a well-tended garden,
blowing winter under hedges, blowing dust and twigs into heaps.
The giraffes didn’t like it. They are the whales
I swam with in one phase of my dream life—
flexible, intelligent creatures so large
they could lift me out of my presumptions
onto swells and currents made by their shifting bulk.
With giraffes, it’s soft air blowing you around
while they thunder by, their big breathing
a lambent pummel. Silent thunder,
they were a billowing breeze I caught
as my new life current.
On my deck I picked up every dead leaf
with cold, bare fingers, even the rose leaves
that pricked and tore my skin.
I had to handle with focused attention
every skeleton of a previous spring.
Dreams are so porous, they let real life thin,
like the diaphanous muslin dresses
I wore in Berkeley those summers in the sixties,
flowers you could see through so far you’d swear
you were in a field in France, you could see through
to my dreams of being among giraffes and whales,
of whirling among things that matter
because thoughts are matter
and around giraffes you must pay attention
if you want to survive the passing herd.
Rachel Dacus’ recent book of poems and essays is Gods of Water and Air. Her poetry collections are Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau. Her writing has been in Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Drunken Boat, and Prairie Schooner. She is completing a time-travel novel involving the great Baroque sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini.