Discovery of Beauty
Out of London, we traced the great circle northwestward, and
the pilot told us there were storms parading across the ocean
which would necessitate more of a leap than expected:
so that's how we found ourselves over the Arctic Ocean,
early March crystallizing on the portholes of the dimmed cabin.
Time pulled taut and we double-dutched over it, the daylight
dilated and swollen, unpierced: the afternoon dribbled nowhere
but the horizon. A lame sun hid itself somewhere back there.
And the only finger it allowed to grope up to the earth was
blue, every darkness of blue, blue of the moment before
blindness, ethereal blue, the-first-sprigs-of-hope blue, blue
of breath. A jagged color spread out as far as we could see
(where was Greenland in this ocean of fragments?)
with ink filaments tangling through its cold cathedrals, and
was when it happened. The clear bell of soft music,
the half-sleep of the plane over the half-world of winter,
all of it conspiring to shape an idea of how things should be.
No one could have predicted so much silent grace.
Chasing the sunset that was also (at this time of year)
a sunrise, forgotten by the agitation of temperature, this was
the parabola of what must come Before, and then After,
and no one could rightly say it was courage that made us
look down: but soon spring would explode like a firecracker.
We could say it was over all too soon before we could
drink it in, chalice-eyed, from five miles up. It sticks,
It hums; the deepest parts of us are humming back. We landed
with a smile half conspirator, half orphan, barely there.
It happened in the kitchen while I was
pouring blackstrap molasses into a tablespoon:
she said my names. Not just one,
because at this moment I'd already taken on
more than one. Roll me like a die and see
what comes up; but now she decides instead
she's going to balance me on my edge.
Two faces at once. I was so surprised by it
that the molasses spilled over like
sweet pitch to tar the ingrate counter.
She said it around a mouthful of joint-smoke,
herbal and pregnant with meaning,
wraith of how-do-you-call-me. I don't know:
there was a point there in the hotboxed kitchen
when nothing had ever seemed so significant
as that. Name-calling; appellation. Like I could
lift up a pair of masks and, voila, they became
a shotgun, pointed back at me and my secrecies,
toes on the trigger. She blew smoke-letters,
smoke-fish. Moment of truth, when I had to make
a decision about my selves. Which was:
to keep moving forward, complicated as
watchwork, simple as buckshot. All the I's on
thumb in a pool of sweet ink, licking it all up.
you start by coaxing away our marble helmets,
out our faces, the dreams of geology turn to waking.
and hear better. And being stone, we don't mind
you never extend our tongues to give us the pleasure
tasting chocolate that we can't digest. We feel
everything. We were dripped through aquifer cracks,
the roofs of cavern mouths, tumbled and baked
this block, pale as you are; we're smooth and veined,
million more years of practice when it comes to
talent of touch. But it's a bit cruel when you
end to our sensory deprivation, working from the
down so we can understand every moment of
peculiar imprisonment. Freed from shapeless rock
to agonize over every chip of the chisel, given limbs
won't bend. You slip us into our perfection,
us with your rough hands. The joy at knowing
light that pierces the glass and races along some
facsimile of optic nerves, turns to discomfort when
are hammering out the delicate parts of the throat,
utter shame when you take emery and oiled cloth
polish our naked breasts. Pity the beardless youths
defrocked maidens, who are forever worshipped
their paralyzed nudity, carved into a fierce smile with
that won't cover themselves. What fortune
would be, to have sunk in a shipwreck all those
ago, raised up as a severed torso, unthinking,
of mystery and wet with anonymous delight.
I am here with you at the bottom of the well,
somewhere along Avenida de Mayo in the summer of '62
dappled with shade from the palacios and the branches,
while we take a midday breather, sipping coffee
and feeling the air.
You are here with me behind the gentle glass,
knowing me only by the sound of my voice: and though
those eyes are roaming up-by-left untouched by light,
there is a language painted round the insides of the irises,
in all the colors vision is heir to.
Maybe God put it there; maybe you're the only one
with the patience to find, translate, describe it.
I am here with you concealed by the hedges,
cross-legged before the phantom of your voice, which
comes and goes with an old record's beauty
when it spins round the phonograph.
You are here with me covered in black velvet,
inventing zoology and cryptography and mythology
with one breath; you take a pitcher full of viscous Time
and pour it gracefully into our mugs.
I am here with you in an envelope inside an envelope
wishing that I was born sooner, that I was born
to a time and place where I could've known you
outside the prepositional phrases of What Is Not,
the non-existence of fiction.
You are here with me through the walls of this
prison of breath, reminding me that, concerning fiction,
you are only the inventor of What Is.
Joseph Harker is the nom de plume of a
linguist-poet currently residing in New York, being a knowledge
industry worker bee to pay the bills. His work has appeared in
journals like Assaracus and Qarrtsiluni, he was named the 2011
Poet Laureate of the website Poetic Asides, and he keeps up with
the Joneses at
Most days, he takes his poetry with a bit of cream, bit of