Poetry

On Water

Beneath my fingers, here
In this forest of moments, alone
Lichen brushes skin, shares
For breath and life the dew
Of its morning, tears
Gathered like treasure—this wetness

Beyond the massive, mute horizon
Sea at dawn, all wave and wonder,
Ripples surface and subsume
Their current passage
Through season, as if it were a dance
Rejoice, oh silent song

Toes tingle, licking tides
With tenuous movement
A venture into graceful ocean
Buoyancy like a god—salty, sublime
Do not hesitate, she whispers
Self and no-self strung taut
A tightrope pause, pregnant
Before the dive

Belief is not the dry and dusty shore
Nor is it this prone meditation—
To be held up by her wet palms,
The unspoken memory of womb—
We practice through the difference,
Knowing shore and sea change,
Form and exchange, as the silt
Of this making—an eternal kiss

In our lives we know making
By this source—
Of love and rhythm and remembrance
Pure medicine, earth strong
And delicate as butterflies

-Sienna Craig (1999)

Tara Tsho, Shishipangma, Tibet, July 23, 2000

Clouds rush in fill valleys
To pick cairn from rain-washed stone
Is to decipher
What need not be cracked open
Or picked apart
Lichen run the longitude,
The cracks and veins of both

Sunspot passed before the flower
In front of me
I could sense difference
In its sustenance
Blythe clutches of natural beauty
Beneath all that is buried
Black mountain face breaks sky
Snow burial, she cries

-Sienna Craig (2000)

Manali, India, July 28, 2001

Small figure
Against a blooming sky
Ready to rain
Mountains cup me
In their palms
Sheer sheets of rock
Spires luminous
In their mad, ancient grace
And choughs tease the wind
Like emissaries
From another time

Lowland horsemen clad
In the cottons
Of their lush familiar
Struggle against foreign
Elements, their faces
Obscured beneath dusty wraps
Horses all the stronger
For the water-rich southern hills
From whence they came
A whole cycle of the moon ago
They bore the weight
Of this season
Luster not lost from their coats
Only the edges of hooves
Mark the labors
Of this working time

This is a land
Of knuckled rock
Into whose folds
The etchings of man are
Subsumed by watermarks
Scoured by wind
As a landscape
Slouch toward birth:

Infinite gestation

-Sienna Craig (2001)

September 11, 2001 Ithaca, NY

Fall tinged the air with burnished crispness
Sucked me in like breath and fantasy
Took me past the promise
Of winter in a heartbeat
While walking home on a day
Beleaguered and broken by pain
Heavy were my feet upon this ground

For all routines, for all
Routenized memory and skillful play,
I could not place the smallness of self
Upon the great potential born with each today
Nor recognize loss
Metamorphosed as vengeance, resting
On a crumbled foundation
Of stone, concrete, and bones

We will not be the same, they say
I challenge: were we ever?
Skin and life are one, ephemeral
Why not the fashions of arrogance
Worn — and this resonates tragedy —
Worn by the innocents, the unprepared

How does one prepare for death by shock,
By petroleum will and fire-fueled desperation?
Where is one lost breath in a city razed?
The artifice we hold so dear
Unmasked as a great Goliath, predisposed
To a tremendous fall

They say freedom with righteous tenor
And all brands of conviction
On which illusion feeds
But bravery met its reflection today
Narcissus in a cracked ocean of mirrors
Too vast in implications

And the world cried:
Terror
And the terror cried:
You are not our world

For all the broken glass
This is the call to remake
Not in our likeness but indivisible
Interconnect as if your life depended
As if, dependent, you reached
And in your reaching were yourself
Held — this is our remaking

Yet the fables of our reconstruction
Hail us to fight an illusive enemy—
The chimera of our complacency—
Demand we silence the simple song
That drowned the scores
Of our exalted symphonies

But how to see a war unimagined?
How to bear witness to the mass,
Forgotten graves that steeled anger
As action in these most pious of men,
These most hopeless of men?

All I can imagine is a child’s sidewalk scrawl
On the eve of broken skylines and shattered bones
My hallucinations of our skeleton cities:
Cracks and borders drawn in
The whites of surrender
The reds of poppies and of blood
Tracing conflict as a game
And games, we’re told, are to be won

Uneven marks across a neighborhood street
Turned mountains of man and god:
Afghan fortress of sky and stone
Matched by a shimmering geography
Of modern achievements
The two play with each other, here

Harmless in chalk at dusk,
These bound aesthetics of a circle game
Become all the more indelible
As they are stripped of inspiration
And simulated until all sense
Of lived terrain is lost
And all that remains are the lines

Where will we be when all that is left
Are strands of thoughts unmoored
From everything sacred
About the blanket of the whole
And we are left to reconstitute
Home and peace and meaning
From the frayed and faded memories
Of our beautiful imperfections?

I return to the moment of creation,
Not primordial but ineluctably made:
The drawing of lines
The shedding of chalk dust like blood
By a child intent on being,
On living for moment eternal
And fashioning a roughly resplendent world

A child unafraid of ugliness
For each mark is beauty
In its rawest form
And the patina, the brilliance,
Is knowing we know little,
That we are beginners with each other
And that we must return to gentle acts:

To say I’m sorry and mean it
To do more than writhe in anger
To remember that vengeance like chalk
Can be wiped clean by grief
Can be cleansed by rain
Can be redrawn
And in the process, transformed

-Sienna Craig (2001)