Vijay Seshadri: Gallery for The Long Meadow
The Painted Things | Aphasia | Very Simple and Like a Song
The Painted Things
Never as slowly as you do now
have I seen you take the painted things off before.
One hour isn't enough for the bangle on your wrist,
one day for your jewel-encrusted breastplate.
One night dies
expecting your velvet garter
A glacial tick in the moraine,
the clock of radium in the stone
can't keep the time it takes for your sky blue blouse
to be slipped from your shoulder.
And as for your sous-vÍtements
the sun will burn out before
I can put my paws on those,
sleeping on my paws at your little desk
as I wait for you,
because I have eyes slow enough for you,
I have the eyes to wait for you.
His signs flick off.
His names of birds
and his beautiful words
eleemosynary, fir, cinerarium, reckless
skip like pearls from a snapped necklace
skittering over linoleum.
His thinking won't
venture out of his mouth.
His grammar heads south.
Pathetic his subjunctives; just as pathetic
his mangling the emphatic enclitic
he once was the master of.
Still, all in all, he has
his inner weather of pure meaning,
thought the wind is keening
through his Alps and his clouds hang low
and the forecast is "Rain mixed with snow,
heavy at times"
Very Simple and Like a Song
That furrow in the hill once must have been
a notch in a sheer cliff.
The land is all changed around here,
due to the work of wind and water,
but not so much that we can't think back
to what it must have been:
on the plateau beyond what must have been the cliff,
endless animal herds mollified in the sun,
kneeling and browsing,
and the lazy embankments descending to the watercourse
strewn with a little yellow flower, now extinct,
which must have resembled the celandine.
We talk in the presumptive,
but we know we can declare this much:
they were afraid,
so they climbed down the notch to this place,
more protected by far then than now.
What were they afraid of? Not
the animals but the fact of the animals,
that the animals existed,
that they themselves existed,
that everything existed when it might as well not have
which was their one and only revelation,
which they would come back to again and again
down the hundred and fifty thousand years
and never get more than an inch farther with it than they
when all they felt was terror.
So they climbed down here and hid.
And, then, they taught themselves to bury their dead.
They felt the pressure of the nothingness around them,
and at this place they began the digging of graves
with their flaked hand axes.
One so took to the pressure and the feeling of it
he would teach himself to manufacture
surplus dead to feed the graves.
One female taught herself to whisper.
They would someday become
Euripides, Heloise, Saladin,
Swendenborg, Nell Gywnn, Mencius,
Gandhi and Mandela,
the Pankhursts, Captain Beefheart, Dr. Dre,
and one Terry Butler,
who shook Joe Turner's hand
in a bar in Kansas City,
and shook the hand of Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
All the while the fear
lived right beside them,
and the sound effects accompanying it were drums drumming,
so insistent, and so convenient that they
convinced themselves that everything was fine
as long as the drums were drumming,
that only when the drums stopped would they be required to
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"The Painted Things," "Aphasia," and "Very Simple and Like a Song" ©
2004 by Vijay Seshadri. Reprinted from The Long Meadow with the permission
of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved.