I have enough retablos of visions, ex-votos of rescues,
for a shrine in a corner of my home
to pray for release from the mind's mad portraitist--
Wendy's sick green angel of the asylum,
William's fisherman curled up
in his own tackle box, Alice's hunched figure outlined
with scraping fingernail through blue gouache.
I've seen how lunacy spells people, hello
in a möbius monologue, a post-tribulationist
vaudeville act of God. One night when I was about
to furl into sleep and fathom some new low
dream of fear (blind cave cricket dream
would do it), not knowing whether by morning
jangles would be re-wound, or backbone built,
I heard a knock at the door, I rose from bed,
and hesitated until the rap said who it was,
then I unlocked all brass latches to the night
and my own flesh and blood.
A long white limousine blinded the street.
But who does she know who owns anything?
They pooled and rented it because
I was the mother her friends wanted to meet.
The door to it stood wide and, inside,
two strange faces phosphoresced--
from some cold arson of the mind?
Even though they could not see me,
they implored me to ride with them.
I left home barefoot, bowed into the limousine.
The driver began to move us swiftly over the ground.
One rider's name was Ronnie. He called the young woman ÕÓOs.
Os is not her real name. Os is her simple name,
oneness, oddness, own-ness.
Os is her owl name, her night name.
She desires O0000OOOO
small circles. Can she feel this large one,
this tire-tread round of miles we begin?
She has a circular face
and pretty, dark corkscrews of curls.
She craves circles drawn in the foundling-skin
palm of her hand--a wispy, sprouted wand
pruned for use in pagan ceremony. She rubs
the round bevel of the watch crystal on my wrist.
A hoop, a loop, a noose, they're all her thing.
Then she slides forward, drops to her knees
in front of me, her arms encircle my waist,
she calls it Mother, she names it Sis.
Ronnie, everyone knows, will speechify
full speed, filibuster all he understands
is missing. Neither he nor Os
can walk. Anymore. They both love wheels
and feel them fasten on like flesh.
They want to take their wheelchairs to
Hawaii and my daughter to fix them.
But we are just circling a dark school,
Ralph Waldo Emerson Junior High,
owl-calls over its empty track, the invisible
percussion of its tennis courts, its uncheering
football fields. We are driving around the dark
estate of public knowledge.
In our mobile asylum
one echolalic delights another, lingers
in the shell of mimic music,
appeals to me to impersonate them both.
The more we say what each other says,
the more we vow we're different.
But aren't we all--or aren't they, at least--
God's creatures? God's creatures know
oo, all the Os that open up the night sky
(in or out of the mind)
and pattern it with awe.
So far I can ask the coachman
to slow to a stop, if I choose; I can open the door
to re-enter the world solid as a consonant.
But God's creatures put their spin
on it. And life by life
God's brood is lifted out where each one rents,
the point on the arc, the warp on the bend.
May each have an oasis. A moat. A moon phasing in.
A mother in mind. Release.
May each have a prayer, even if on waking
they go out to touch their dream's circumference
and find it too mean but at least real,
a wheelbarrow, a roller skate, a shopping cart,
a one-speed bike, on the sidewalk, at the curb,
ready to go forward, idling, a little way. . .