from Emissaries

…And the trees, too, in the municipal park
Are flickering among the lamps, it is midnight
In front of churches where families are out and about,
And then, because, as you remember now,
It is a time of variance, an anniversary
For everyone, the fireworks crackle
Over the armory gymnasium,
A dizzying potter’s wheel of fire,
Of sweet water, of geraniums: of summer.

But you are just reading a little Jane Austen
With a green cloth thrown over the lamp.
And it is a beautiful night. It is the ghostliest myth.
And you might find it hard to believe a flourishing city
Was here, fierce with men and women,

With volunteer militia, gambling halls, processions, bandshells,
Fire companies, rough-bearded men of every nation;
Incinerators, boats on narrow estuaries
Or river park canals with blue arch bridges set at intervals,
And airborne barium and strontium salts;
Among the subdivision trees the paths
Are permeated with an earthy summer fragrance.
Branches of bamboo curve slightly under the weight
Of glossy sparrows, and swallows swoop down
Toward the water, nest in the undersides of bridges.

It appears we can be two places at once.

It appears we can be everywhere at once. We see
Ourselves over there on the far riverside.

But if then we can bear up underneath
A strong hand…both can,
and clear as chrysalis glass in milk-weed
Your face appears, swirling in the gold leaves
Of the alder or the spruce, and even if not,
Even then you can astonish yourself
By merely looking at them (if properly prepared).
That is, having apologized and dealt with
The germinations of insomnia,
All regrets, all misgivings, the bursting
Stars signaling your way into the night,
Cool water splashes up against the lip
Of the fountain—water is cool when it breaks
Like that, it drones like a zither or an oud,
And it should take you by surprise, take you backward…

As the well-arranged kite is able to glide
Gracefully up—the house kite or the Malay kite,
The box, the dragon, or the one called Lilac
Of Persia—up to its steady position
Owing to its symmetry, its leaves turned up
Like a hat brim, the variable stars

Fluctuate in brightness.
On Linden Terrace people are sharing the ritual.
It’s name? Still to come. Fall begins,
The sun crosses the equator, the hours
Of day and night are approximately equal lengths
All over the earth. On the last Sunday
In October, we fall back. The nights are longer now,
We have passed the month of sapphire and lapis
Lazuli—the months of resolve—and we are in
The tourmaline and Opal month, ashine
With hope, and truth. Topaz November lies
Ahead. But so does the Amethyst month,
Then thirty-one days of Jasper, Bloodstone,
Quartzite beveled by rain. Then,
The Diamond Month, April, when we are faceted,
There is a gentle acceleration. But for now,
The constellations of autumn appear,
We are fixated on all the questions
That are implied but seem to demand
Unequivocal answers, until, to our relief,
The scattering of leaves seems to be a response
That is sufficient, and we are released
From obligation that made us shrink
With withering apprehension. The tide turns,
And just as things were looking bad for all,
The unexpected guests arrive, we are amidst
Food and wine, friendship, and as you allow them in,
Through the open door you can see the emergence
Of a 19th century crystal palace, emerging
From behind the cliffs. The children
Are coaxed to sleep by the mother
who tells them, “Dolls need a rest too,
need peace to grow into grownups.
And don’t you worry, children,
For all sleeping dolls come back from the dead.”

Geoffrey Nutter

Geoffrey Nutter is the author of six poetry collections, including Christopher Sunset and Giant Moth Perishes. He runs the Wallson Glass Poetry Seminars in New York City.